Two years later: Questions remain with investigation of Jaren Lockhart murder

Jaren Lockhart (Source: New Orleans Police Department)
Jaren Lockhart (Source: New Orleans Police Department)
Margaret Sanchez (Source: Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office)
Margaret Sanchez (Source: Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office)
Terry Speaks and Margaret Sanches (Source: Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office)
Terry Speaks and Margaret Sanches (Source: Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office)

KENNER, LA (WAFB) - When the family of Jaren Lockhart filed a missing person report with the New Orleans Police Department, they had no idea the gruesome story that would unfold. It's a case that has had investigators from multiple jurisdictions working double-time for two years.

"The complex issues with this case make it difficult," Chief Steve Caraway, Kenner Police Chief, said in a press conference held on May 8, 2014.

Lockhart was 22-years-old when she went missing. On June 6, 2012, her boyfriend told Police he had not seen her since the day prior.

The following day, the dismembered torso of a woman washed ashore in Bay St. Louis, Miss, which is located in Hancock County. There were several stab wounds to the chest area. Investigators began searching the missing person's database to try and identify a possible victim.

"We started out with about five missing person cases of who it could be," Glenn Grannan, Chief Investigator Hancock County Sheriff's Office, said in a prior interview. "We had cases out of Gulf Port, Mobile, Lafayette, and one out of New Orleans."

Over the next several days, other body parts were found in the nearby area. They were able to identify Lockhart as the victim due to distinguishing tattoos and piercings. With the victim's identity established, investigators quickly turned their attention to identifying suspects.

"This was not some random shooting," Grannan said in the day's following the discovery. "Whoever did this is capable of some pretty heinous things."

Around the same time, New Orleans Police located surveillance camera footage showing Lockhart leaving from a local nightclub with two individuals. The individuals she left with were later identified as Margaret Sanchez, 30, and Terry Speaks, 41.

Evidence was mounting, but key pieces of information were missing.

"We've had our gut feelings about what happened, but we haven't had enough evidence to support it," Grannan said.

Everything changed in May of this year.

"We presented new evidence to the Jefferson Parish District Attorney several weeks ago," Glenn Grannan, lead investigator for the Hancock County Sheriff's Office, explained in a past interview. "The new information, from a circumstantial point, indicates a higher probability that the killing happened in Kenner. The evidence was strong enough to convince the District Attorney, which is huge."

With the Kenner Police Department taking the lead, the investigation gained new momentum. It was enough to secure a warrant for the arrest of Sanchez. She is charged with second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.

"What we were able to do is locate people who were not located before and obviously it was beneficial to the investigation because it resulted in the arrest of Ms. Sanchez," Chief Caraway said. "We do have evidence to show them coming to Kenner shortly after leaving New Orleans with the victim. We do have evidence to show them going to Mississippi and returning to New Orleans and Kenner shortly before the body parts were discovered."

So far, they have not established the exact location where the murder occurred.

"We believe [Lockhart] was killed here, [in Kenner]," Chief Caraway explained. "Whether or not that was in the house, that's still ongoing."

Terry Speaks remains a suspect in the case, Chief Caraway noted. He is currently being held in a Federal Prison for a charge of failing to register as a sex offender in relation to a prior conviction.

"He's not going anywhere. He is still a suspect in this and that will be addressed later," Chief Caraway said. "At this point he hasn't been charged," he said.

Sanchez made a court appearance on May 27, 2014. During that hearing, additional details regarding the new evidence were revealed. Detectives noted an email sent from Speaks to Sanchez after he was questioned by the Kenner Police Department. In that email, Speaks reportedly wrote to Sanchez, "I did everything to clean up the mess you made."

Although the case against Sanchez is making its way through the legal system, Chief Caraway says his investigators are far from closing the book on this complicated murder.

"The case is still ongoing," he said. "It is by no means over or done with. We still have a lot of work to do that hasn't been done in the past."

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