LUMBERTON — A man will serve at least 15 and a half years in prison for the 2006 murder of a Maxton woman.
John Darren Bullard, also known as “Blue-eyed John”, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the Oct. 15, 2006, shooting death of 26-year-old Crystal Locklear. Bullard was also found guilty of shooting into occupied property, which carries a sentence of two to three-and-a-half years.
Bullard, now 29 years old, will serve the sentences consecutively, and will receive credit for time served. He has been in jail since Nov. 3, 2006.
The charge of second-degree murder was included as a lesser offense for the jury to consider on Thursday, after Bullard’s court-appointed attorneys Mike Ramos and Harold “Butch” Pope said evidence concerning Locklear’s murder showed “absolutely no evidence of intent to kill.”
“It’s far less than what he would have received for first-degree murder,” Johnson Britt, Robeson County district attorney, said. “For lack of a better word for it, he dodged a big bullet. The community is a safer place with John Darren Bullard behind bars.”
The 12-member jury deliberated four and a half hours before finding him guilty; Superior Court Judge Robert Floyd handed out the sentence of between 15 years, six months, and 19 years, eight months.
“I appreciate the work that the jury did,” Britt said. “We cannot function as a court system without people who are willing to serve as jurors. They returned the verdict based on what they thought the evidence supported, and I’m not going to argue with that.”
Locklear was shot in the chest with a high-powered pistol while riding with her boyfriend, Tommy Lloyd, and Christopher Locklear in an SUV driven by Billy Hammonds. Police said at the time that the bullets were intended for Christopher Locklear, who had a dispute with Bullard in the weeks before the shooting.
The jury was sent to deliberate on Monday afternoon after hearing closing arguments. The defense attempted to undermine the credibility of the testimony against Bullard by bringing up the criminal history of the state’s witnesses, and arguing that they had all been under the influence of alcohol or drugs on the night of the shooting.
“The state called a group of witnesses who were drinking beer, drinking liquor … and smoking marijuana and popping pills and you’re supposed to take that to convict John Bullard of first-degree murder?” Pope said to the jury.
“Mr. Pope asked can you believe them if they’re doped up, liquored up, pilled up … but who testified as well? His running buddies,” Britt said, speaking of the passengers in Bullard’s vehicle.
Pope called the matter a “gommed-up mess”, saying that shots were fired from both Locklear’s and Bullard’s vehicles, and citing conflicting testimonies as to who shot first. In his closing argument, Ramos said that the location of the shell casings from Christopher Locklear’s gun were not clearly marked on the scene, which he said would have helped to verify whether Christopher Locklear fired before or after Bullard began shooting.
‘We can’t trust where these things were found … you look at these things and they’ve been kicked around like so many rocks,” he said.
According to Britt, every witness testified that the bullets that killed Locklear had come from the driver’s side of the car Bullard was driving. He said the motive was payback from a Sept. 17 incident, during which Bullard’s vehicle was shot by Christopher Locklear when the two met at a service station.
“The evidence says he is a cold-blooded killer. He shot and killed a girl … all because he wanted revenge,” he said.
Bullard is the last person to be sentenced in Locklear’s death. Joshua Locklear, of Rowland, and Cashley Scott, of Maxton, passengers in Bullard’s vehicle, were each charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and discharging a firearm into occupied property in 2006. In 2011, the men pled guilty to accessory after the fact in discharging a firearm into an occupied property in exchange for testifying against Bullard.
Locklear is on probation for the above charge and for two unrelated charges. Scott is currently in prison for unrelated drug charges.
Lakisha Locklear, Karen Johnson, Jacinta Locklear, and Phyllis Chavis were each charged with being an accessory after the fact but pled guilty to obstructing and delaying an investigation, a misdemeanor offense, Britt said. All four women have completed probation.
Britt said he hoped Bullard’s sentencing would bring some closure to the victim’s family.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.
Bullard has previously faced charges of voluntary manslaughter and discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle from separate incidents in 1999. He was found not guilty of both charges in 2002.