“If you see something, say something, you know, because we didn’t know, we didn’t see any signs, we never thought to ask a teenager, ‘is someone hurting you?’”
-Chena Papa, Danielle's aunt
It was the 11th of March 2014. A Tuesday. Fifteen year old Danielle Locklear had moved two hours away from her home in Myrtle Beach to Hope Mills in North Carolina, United States to live with her grandparents and aunt while she attended school there. She had spent the Summer of 2013 at her grandparent's house and loved it so much that she asked if she could return for school.
Danielle was in freshman year and part of the reason that she wanted to stay with her grandparents was based on the friends she made during Summer camp and her boyfriend. Danielle's boyfriend, Je'Michael Malloy, was a senior at school and at seventeen years old, he was a bit older than her. They met when they both volunteered at a youth center in Autryville. Danielle's family knew Je'Michael's family as they were part of the same Church. He seemed like a nice boy and was respectful and quiet around them. They noticed that there seemed to be tension between them after Church one day and not long after, their relationship ended but then they got back together. That happened a couple of times, they would break up and get back together again. Danielle didn't talk to her family much about their relationship.
That night, the 11th of March, Danielle asked her grandfather if she could drop some homework to a neighbor down the street. It was around 10pm. He said yes and told her not to be long. At that time, he was playing video games and did not realize how late it was. Danielle didn't return home that night and when her grandmother called her on her cellphone, there was no answer.
The next day, Danielle's grandfather told her aunt, Chena Papa, that Danielle went out the night before and still had not returned home. She rang Danielle's mother Rowna Fowler. She was in Myrtle Beach and her sister called her to say that they couldn't find Danielle. Danielle was reported missing later that day to the police.
Danielle's family did not believe she ran away as she seemed happy and loved living in Hope Mills. They began searching for her and set up Facebook groups to notify people that she was missing. Chena contacted Je'Michael and he told her that he hadn't seen her in days. He told Chena that they had broken up a few days before. But he offered to help look for her. He asked them if they had checked certain places and suggested places where she might be.
A day after Danielle went missing, Danielle's aunt found a sock by the creek and the word Help scrawled in mud and that was when police believed that Danielle's disappearance may be as a result of something more sinister than her simply running away. The creek was a spot where teenagers from the area spent a lot of time hanging out at.
Police spoke to Je'Michael. He told them that he didn't see Danielle that day, the 11th of March, and that he was at home studying. His family and one of his friends confirmed he was at home. Police checked his cell phone records and they also confirmed that his phone was at home that night. A number of text messages were sent to girls from his phone.
Je'Michael told police that Danielle was depressed and had tried to kill herself twice. When asked why, he said that she didn't want to be here anymore. He also told Chena that when they broke up, Danielle threatened to drown herself in cold water.
Police checked Danielle's cell phone records. On the 11th of March, at 10.40pm, her phone pinged from a tower near the highway. That led them to focus on a certain area.
Twenty three days after Danielle was reported missing, on the 2nd of April, a detective from the Montgomery Sheriff's Department saw something down by the creek at South River as he drove home across the bridge. He didn't know what it was but it troubled him enough to park his car and investigate. When he went down to the creek, he discovered that it was Danielle's body, floating in the brown water. Her body was bound by nylon rope tied to cinderblocks. The cinderblocks were tied around her waist and ankles.
The Court heard that Dominic helped Je'Michael move Danielle's body but did not participate in her murder.
At the sentencing hearing , Je'Michael's lawyer,D.W. Bray, told the Court that they were dealing with children who were dealing with adult situations and operating with juvenile minds. He said:
"All we ask is for the public to remember is that you're talking about a 15-year-old victim and a 17-year-old defendant. And we know 15-year-old kids don't make wise decisions, and neither do 17-year-old boys, and that what he is-a boy."
His lawyer went on to describe Je'Michael as a well mannered teenager who enjoyed fishing and hunting. He told the Court that prior to Danielle's death, Je'Michael never had a violent history or a juvenile record. He said:
"We're not talking about a cold-hearted monster. We're talking about a very decent young man."
He urged the Court to take into account that Je'Michael confessed. When asked why it took him three weeks to do so, while pretending to help Danielle's family look for her, his lawyer put it down to him being young. He told the Court that due to his age, it was not unreasonable that he was quiet for that period of time.
Rowna, Danielle's mother, addressed Je'Michael at the sentencing hearing:
"She didn't have no mercy that night.I have not been able to sleep. And then you had the audacity to write me a letter and ask me for an obituary from my daughter's funeral, and you are the one that put her there."
Je'Michael addressed Danielle's family in Court:
"I know there is nothing I can do or say that is going to bring her back. But, I do want to apologize for the actions I made. I know sorry does not cut it, but I want to say I am truly sorry."
Je'Michael Malloy was sentenced to 25 to 31 years in prison. Dominic Lock was sentenced to 6 to 8 years.
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