LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – The Smiths Station man who kidnapped, robbed then murdered an 18-year-old Auburn freshman more than 10 years ago will be back in a Lee County courtroom later this month hoping for a new trial.
More than 10 years ago on March 4th, 2008, Lauren Burk was brutally murdered after being kidnapped from Auburn University’s campus. Lauren’s father, Jim Burk, tells News 3 the family lives with the pain of her murder every single day, and now salt is being poured in their wound once again as his daughters killer fights for a new trial.
The kidnapping and murder of Lauren Burk remain one of the darkest times in Auburn history. Back in March of 2008, The beautiful Auburn freshman from Georgia was walking to her car in a dorm parking lot when Courtney Lockhart approached her with a gun, shoved her into her own vehicle, and forced her to undress while driving her off campus.
In a confession to police, Lockhart stated he shot Lauren. He claimed the gun just went off as she was trying to escape the moving vehicle. Then, Lockhart left Lauren in the middle of Highway 147 near Farmville Baptist Church to die. He drove Lauren’s car back to campus where he set her car on fire and left the scene.
“I don’t want people to suffer, but what he did to my daughter, I don’t want to discuss it. I just want him to suffer every day up until the end and be as scared as she was before she died. I want him to have that same fear,” said Jim Burk.
Lauren’s father says his family’s persistent pain over Lauren’s murder will be intensified yet again as Courtney Lockhart walks into a Lee County Courtroom on December 17th as his new defense team is expected to ask for a new trial.
“What he is claiming is he did not have an adequate defense, with the initial trial that concluded about 10 years ago, resulting in a death penalty. I think he is grasping at straws – its really all he has,” said Lauren’s father.
At the time of the trial Lockhart had confessed to investigators he shot and killed the Auburn freshman. The jury found him guilty of capital murder and unanimously sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
At Lockhart’s sentencing hearing, Judge Jacob Walker used judicial override to overturn the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Lockhart to the death penalty. Judge Walker referenced a series robberies, and an attempted car-jacking Lockhart was accused of committing before and after Burk’s murder. The jury was not told of those alleged crimes. Judge Walker reasoned the jury’s recommendation may have been different if they had known.
“I hope the judge maintains his original death penalty conviction. I also hope Courtney Lockhart suffers every day in jail until he faces the death penalty. It seems as though the court system, even though I respect it and abide by it, has given all the rights to him that he possibly can have. Lauren has lost her rights, and it just doesn’t make sense to us. We will do whatever we can in honor of Lauren to make sure her memory is alive,” said Burk.
Lockhart was represented at trial by well known Phenix City criminal defense attorney Jeremy Armstrong. Armstrong tells News 3 he expects to testify for a long time during the December 17th hearing. Lockhart is being represented for free by a Boston law firm. Armstrong believes he did provide an adequate defense. However, Armstrong always questioned Judge Jacob Walker’s judicial override when sentencing Lockhart to death. Armstrong says he sees the Lockhart case going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.
The December 17th hearing is expected to last a few days. Lauren Burk’s family will travel to Lee County and be inside the courtroom once again with Courtney Lockhart. They say the Holiday’s are always tough because Lauren loved celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah with her family. This year will be especially hard on her family. However, they believe Lauren is always looking over them from Heaven. They will continue fighting for justice here on Earth as long as they need to.