PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — The man detectives have identified as a person of interest in a Schoolcraft teacher’s disappearance denies any involvement.
Christopher Lockhart told 24 Hour News 8’s Lynsey Mukomel over the phone Saturday morning he has given investigators all of the information he has on his wife, Theresa Lockhart, and that he has been cooperative despite their statements to media.
On Friday the Portage Department of Public Safety named Christopher as a person of interest in their investigation.
Theresa, a Spanish teacher at Schoolcraft Community Schools, was reported missing on Saturday, May 20, by school officials after she didn’t show up for work. Her car was found that same weekend just a couple miles from her home at a park-and-ride off of Angling Road.
Her husband cites a history with anxiety and depression, plus a potential non-renewal of her teaching contract after this school year as an explanation for her sudden disappearance.
Christopher said the district was trying to force her into resigning and she had been struggling the week leading up to her disappearance.
Dr. Rusty Stitt, superintendent of Schoolcraft Community Schools, told 24 Hour News 8 Saturday that Theresa initiated a potential resignation, however.
The district never received a formal resignation though and continues to pray she will return safely, Dr. Stitt said. Her contract runs through the end of this school year.
Her husband believes stress at work was too much and went on to explain that she received help in the past for her mental health without telling him.
“When she left I assumed she was going to get herself some help. That’s why I wasn’t really too worried about it at that point in time because I want to keep her issues private,” Lockhart told 24 Hour News 8. “…I basically told them the same story I’m telling you, that she up and left. She’s done this before. I didn’t think she had a job to go back to.”
Regardless of her situation at work, why would Christopher not cooperate with police if he’s not guilty of anything? Investigators told 24 Hour News 8 Lockhart will not let them search their home.
“I don’t recall in any way that they asked if they could come in [to our house} and take a look around. That was never asked of me…,” Lockhart claimed. He said an officer originally took a statement a few days after she had been last seen, then detectives showed up in his driveway unannounced a few days later.
“It was at that point after talking to that detective that it was like, OK, we’re going to handle everything through a lawyer,” he said. “I’m not acting unusual. I’m going to and from work. I’m carrying on normally around here as best I can. The initial officer came in the doorway and I let him in… I gave them the ability to contact her friends and her family but other than that I don’t see that there’s any other way I can help the investigation. Her car was found and returned. It’s in good working order… I’m assuming if something looked like [something] had happened there, I’d assume they would’ve kept the car.”
About a quarter of the way through the conversation Lockhart added their tenth wedding anniversary is this October.
“I’m terribly worried about her, I don’t know where she’s at… I’m holding out hope that, you know, nothing has gone wrong. There’s no evidence right now to indicate anything is wrong,” Lockhart told 24 Hour News 8.“…Did something bad happen to her? Yeah, that’s absolutely possible. But could she also have picked up and left and, you know, drove off and decided I’m going to start a new life somewhere with somebody else or did she check herself into a hospital? It’s like all these other avenues are distinct possibilities.”
Lockhart said for now his attorney has advised him not to answer detectives’ questions.
“I think the police just don’t have anything more right now and I guess they’re trying to shake some trees and see what falls out,” he said. “It’s an attempt to embarrass me and put pressure on me.”
After speaking with Lockhart, 24 Hour News 8 reached out to Portage Department of Public Safety Deputy Chief John Blue. He said Christopher should consider helping them find Theresa instead of obstructing their investigation.
THERESA’S FRIEND: ‘WHO DOESN’T KNOW THE WHEREABOUTS OF THEIR SPOUSE?’
Saturday, 24 Hour News 8 also spoke with Theresa Lockhart’s lifelong friend about the new developments in her disappearance.
Michelle Addington has known Theresa since they were just kids and have remained close ever since.
Addington said Theresa and Christopher had a strained relationship, and that Theresa had told her of problems with their marriage.
When investigators announced that Christopher was a person of interest in his wife’s disappearance, Addington said she was not surprised. She is skeptical of some of the claims he has made.
“I understand the answers he is giving, but for me they don’t fit with the character — her character — and the person she is,” Addington told 24 Hour News 8. “The fact is they were living together. They were married. Who doesn’t know the whereabouts of their spouse if you’re living together and you’re married?”
Addington said she is trying to be patient as police continue their investigation.
Despite what investigators have said about the case, she is holding on to hope that somehow Theresa may still be alive.
Anyone with information on Theresa Lockhart’s whereabouts is asked to call Portage police at 269.329.4567 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100.