Neighbors Speak Out On Child’s Death

Tuesday, April 29th 2008, 6:07 pm
By: News On 6

Investigators are saying a Claremore four-year-old died after being hit in the stomach. Christopher Barnard's step-father is being held on charges of first degree murder. Police say, the man admitted hitting the boy twice with a closed fist.

As News On 6 anchor Terry Hood reports, neighbors say Christopher Barnard was like any other four-year-old boy. But, they admit there was some odd behavior surrounding the child. He didn't go outside much and they heard an unusual amount of crying.

Christopher Barnard lived directly above Betty Johnson and her husband, who had his own nickname for the energetic four-year-old.

"Anytime he saw my husband sitting on our patio he would hug him and call him 'my friend' or 'Hi, my friend' and Bob would answer back, 'Hi Buster,'" said neighbor, Betty Johnson.

Neighbors say Christopher was often passing out hugs to his apartment friends, but add they heard him cry much more than a normal four-year-old.

"We didn't see him a whole lot because he was inside most of the time," said neighbor, Sabrina Newton.

Late on Monday morning, the boy's step-father called police. Steven Lockler told them Christopher had fallen. But, investigators say clues on his body revealed a different story.

"There were marks on his body consistent with extensive child abuse," said Assistant Chief Stan Brown with Claremore Police.

As medical teams worked to revive the four-year-old, neighbors became curious and say Lockler seemed nervous.

"I said, ‘May I ask what happened?' And he said he fell in the bathtub, he said, 'I turned to get a towel to dry him,'" said Johnson.

"After the boy had fallen, he said he had actually fallen on the part of the door where the shower door shuts, there's a metal track. He said that had hit his stomach on that," said Newton.

But later, police say, the 335-pound Lockler admitted hitting Barnard twice in the stomach then, spanking him with a belt after he soiled his pants. It's news that comes as a shock to neighbors, who wonder how someone could do something so violent to a helpless child.

"This is sad; very, very sad," said Johnson.

There are no other children in the house, but neighbors say Barnard's mother is pregnant.