Police say Locklear's ex-boyfriend has confessed to killing the teen and dumping her body in the South River.
Danielle's grandmother, Darline Heegel, said her granddaughter would always be under her, offering to help with anything around the house or run an errand with her.
"Dannie," as Danielle Locklear was affectionately called, moved in with her grandparents last summer. The 15-year-old would meet her boyfriend around the same time, but would rarely talk about their relationship.
On March 11, Locklear left her grandparents' home in Hope Mills. Heegel could not reach her by cell phone. She would never hear her baby's voice again.
"I just can't hardly stand it," Heegel said through tears. "Because, you know, as a grandmother, you want to protect your children, and protect all the babies.
"I feel like I failed her," Heegel continued. "I talk to her sometimes and say 'I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry that I couldn't....that I wasn't there."
The same evening Locklear went missing, her 17-year-old boyfriend Je'Michael Malloy would choke her to death. That's the admission he made to authorities three weeks later, after an off-duty deputy found Locklear's body floating in the South River. The confession also followed a search of Malloy's Autryville home, and another Fayetteville home. Malloy also told authorities his 18-year-old friend and Cape Fear High School classmate Dominic Lock helped him dispose of Locklear's body.
On April 8, Malloy and Lock would be charged with second-degree murder. Lock immediately posted bond. Malloy's attorney, Fayetteville-based D.W. Bray, encouraged Malloy to remain in jail for the time being. When the full story comes out, Bray said, people will understand the crime, and realize Malloy is no monster.
Locklear's family said it will never make sense.
Today, a makeshift memorial lines the yard of Heegel's home. As the family awaits the release of Locklear's body from the medical examiner, they warn the community to learn from Danielle's story, and to take teen domestic violence seriously.
"This is a wake-up call for a lot of people, even myself," said Heegel. "You don't take life for granted anymore.
"You know, keep your eye on your children...no matter what."
Locklear and Malloy had been connected for a long time, but only met last summer, the family said.
Malloy was adopted by Locklear's distant maternal cousin, and the two would meet as volunteers at a youth center in Autryville. The town is native to Locklear's maternal family.
Locklear didn't share much about her relationship with her family, but relatives knew Malloy and sensed tension between the two after church sometimes.
But nothing could prepare them for how the relationship ended. Malloy, who they described as a loner, reached out to them in the wake of Locklear's disappearance.
"He'd seen us going through this, actually communicated with us, 'Have you looked this place? Have you looked that place?'" said Locklear's aunt, Chena Papa.
"So I felt like he really deceived us," she said.
"Everybody's talking about, 'Oh, he's 17 years old? No, he did an adult thing," said another one of Locklear's aunts, Arailla Heegel. "And he did an adult thing. I think he should be locked away for a long time."
A petition through change.org is encouraging the Cumberland County District Attorney to seek first-degree murder charges in the case.
On Sunday, a memorial ride benefit for Danielle will take off from Hellas Restaurant on North Main Street in Hope Mills. It starts at 2 p.m.
The charity ride will be the first of many fundraisers to ensure a proper burial and memorial service for the teen. Accounts in Locklear's name are also set up through Wells Fargo, and the public can donate to "The Dannie Fund."
Locklear's family said once they receive her body, they will bury her on a Sampson County plot designated for the family.
It's not clear yet because they didn't expect to need it this soon.
"We don't feel alone," said Papa, noting the nationwide support for the family.
The one thing Locklear's family does want people to take away from the ordeal is the importance of talking to your children.
"We think about 'Oh, I wish I could have asked her this, or known that,'" said Papa. "Or maybe she would have told me if he had done anything previous to this.' Ask your children questions."
Heegel said she thinks of that every time she sees a grandparent out with their grandchildren.
"Please keep your eye on your children no matter what," she said.