Police believe Locklear's ex-boyfriend, 17-year-old Je'Michael Malloy, killed her in the heat of the moment in a crime of passion. Because of that, he is only charged with second-degree murder because the murder was not premeditated.
Police say Malloy confessed to strangling Locklear on March 11 during an argument, then dumping her body in the South River near the Cumberland/Sampson County line.
It was an emotional scene outside the courtroom Wednesday. Danielle Locklear's family left in tears. Many of them were too distraught to talk, but others were too outraged to hold it in.
Some held signs, reading "Justice for Danielle."
The Locklear family was extremely close to Malloy, who even participated in those community-wide searches for the girl. Now, Malloy is accused of her murder, and Locklear's family feels betrayed.
"It's been a month-long nightmare and I feel like they've been around us. They've been in our home. He's walked with us on searches. We're disgusted," said Locklear's aunt, Chena Simmons. "And to find out that the perpetrator, or the person who took her life allegedly is her own boyfriend, is a lot to take. It's a lot. We can't deal with it."
Malloy faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Malloy's friend, 18-year-old Dominic Lock, is also charged with second-degree murder. He's accused of being an accomplice in the disposal of Locklear's body.
Prosecutors told the judge that Lock's second-degree murder charge is likely to be downgraded to aiding and abetting the murder.
Both Lock and Malloy are due back in court on April 29.
So far, there are no funeral plans for Locklear.
Locklear's loss is hard for a lot of people to talk about, especially her fellow classmates.
"We had an announcement this morning from our principal, Mr. Edkins, explaining what happened to Danielle, that we lost her from our school," said South View High Student Carly Inman. "Hearing about it kind of sickens me."
Students at South View say there were a lot tears in school where a crisis team is in place helping students cope.
"They told me it is a sad time, but they also have hope," said student Christopher Hale, who is among those planning a vigil for Locklear.
"We're going to come together as a family and take a step forward in faith and in hope," said Hale.
That prayer vigil is at 8 a.m. Thursday at South View High.