Friday night was a homecoming no one wanted. It was a reunion of sadness and shock.
"I still kinda feel like she is still here, but I am waiting for her to come back," said Locklear's friend Caroline Nuzzo. "She is one of my best friends. She was always there for me."
The 15-year-old Hope Mills teenager disappeared March 11 from her grandparents' home. Her disappearance set off a huge search effort that included billboards, volunteers searching areas around her home, and a 50 person task force of local, state and federal officers.
On April 2, Locklear's body was found in a river along the Sampson/Cumberland County line. Police say Locklear was killed the night she disappeared by her ex-boyfriend, 17-year-old Je'Michael Malloy. Police say he confessed to choking Locklear during an argument, and then getting a friend, Dominic Lock, to help dispose of her body.
Friends and family came together to grieve and support, each other.
"I think they need to hear words of comfort," said Chris Hale, of Manna Church. "Most times people leave after the hype is gone down, and I think they need to hear that their church is still there."
Behind closed doors, they shared tears, hugs, and memories.
"She was one of the happiest persons I knew," said Nuzzo. "Even when she was upset, she put a smile on everybody else."
They also remembered a young vibrant life that ended way too soon.
"It's been very difficult, very hurtful, very stressful," said Locklear's aunt, Hester Fisher. "But you know now we're ready to put her to rest and then get some relief, and the healing begins."
Locklear's funeral is Saturday at 2 p.m. at Manna Church. The service is open to the public.
A private burial will follow at the family cemetery in Sampson County.