By Ashli Sims, News On 6
UNDATED -- Steven Lockler Jr. will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing his 4-year-old step-son.
Lockler agreed to a plea deal that will send him to prison for the rest of his life, but spare him the death penalty.
The family says Wednesday's deal is a bittersweet, early Christmas present. They're happy Lockler will never be able to hurt anyone else's child.
His family says the loss of 4-year-old Christopher Barnard has left a hole in their hearts that can't be mended.
"It's a life that will always be missed," said Floyd Moore, Barnard's father.
The boy was killed last spring at the hands of a man who was charged with protecting him, his step-father.
Lockler originally told police the 4-year-old fell in the bathtub. But police say he later admitted punching the boy twice in the stomach and spanking him, because he soiled his pants.
In a deal backed by the Christopher's family, Lockler pled guilty to first degree murder.
"I've known him for so many years and to turnaround and end in the murder of my son it just blows my mind," said Moore.
Moore took the stand to share with the court the impact of his son's murder.
Lockler had no visible reaction.
According to the deal, he will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"Nothing can ever be done to repay him for what he's done, but this is a start," said Moore. "It's not over with, but I feel good about what's happened."
Moore and his family are glad this chapter is over, but he says the case is not.
Christopher's mother, Roxann Barnard, is also behind bars. She's accused of enabling child abuse.
"I love my son. And I'll always miss him. And I just pray for all the other families out there, that their kids ain't abused," said Moore.
Roxann Barnard and Steven Lockler Jr. also share a child. He was born just a couple of months ago, while she was in jail. The baby is in state custody. Her trial is set to begin February.Related story:
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