PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — More than five months after she was reported missing, the body of Theresa Lockhart was found Tuesday in a shallow grave in the Allegan State Game Area, Portage police say.
During a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Portage Department of Public Safety Director Nicholas Armold said that after Christopher Lockhart was found dead of an apparent suicide, officers found a note in which he confessed to killing his wife.
Lockhart wrote that he and his wife had argued and he snapped. The note also contained a hand-drawn map to where Theresa Lockhart was buried.
Portage DPS called the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office and around 4:25 p.m. Tuesday, searchers found Theresa Lockhart’s body buried near Swan Creek Marsh in Valley Township, west of Allegan. That’s about 50 miles northwest of the Lockharts’ Portage home.
“It appears as though at one point it was probably fully buried,” Allegan County Undersheriff Michael Larsen said earlier Wednesday, “but due to the immense rain that we’ve had lately and the fact that it was shallow, it was partially uncovered.”
The grave was in deep in the state game area south of M-89 and east of 46th Street, in a wooded area about 60 feet from where some roads cross. Authorities said people go hunting there, so it’s possible that the body may have eventually been discovered even had Christopher Lockhart not directed authorities to its location.
Larsen said there were no obvious signs of stab or gunshot wounds, but the body was heavily decomposed. It was sent to Western Michigan University, where it was positively identified and an autopsy was conducted. Theresa Lockhart’s cause of death was not released Wednesday.
Allegan County authorities told 24 Hour News 8 that all indications are Christopher Lockhart acted alone in killing his wife.
“I go back and forth between numb, really depressed and denial and don’t accept it yet,” Michelle Addington, a close friend of Theresa Lockhart, told 24 Hour News 8.
She remembered Theresa Lockhart as “a loving, kind person.”
“Nobody deserves to have a violent end like that, but least of all somebody who spends their life trying to help other people,” she said.
She said she knew Theresa Lockhart and her husband had problems, including a previous no-contact order, but that her friend never shared many details.
“What could we have done different?” Addington wondered. “And that’s where it makes it so hard.”
Portage police spent 154 days looking for Theresa Lockhart, 44, who worked as a Spanish teacher for Schoolcraft Community Schools. She last seen May 18 and reported missing two days later by her employer. Her car was found in a park-n-ride off Angling Road only a few miles from her home, but there was no sign of her.
Christopher Lockhart was considered the main person of interest in his wife’s disappearance almost from the start. He refused to talk to police about his wife, never contacted DPS about her case and never organized or participated in any searches for her. In June, he told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone that he had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance.
>>Inside woodtv.com: The search for Theresa Lockhart
Then, Tuesday morning, officers discovered Christopher Lockhart’s body in the basement of his home. The officers went there to conduct a welfare check because Lockhart had missed a probation appointment and his electronic tether had not tracked any movement for some time. An autopsy found he died of strangulation.
In the suicide note, he expressed remorse for killing his wife and asked for forgiveness, police said.
Christopher Lockhart’s condition had deteriorated over the last several months. He was arrested multiple times in July on unrelated vandalism charges and for drunken driving. At the time of his death, he was wearing a tether meant to track alcohol consumption and was rarely leaving his home. His father also recently died, police said Wednesday.
For months, residents near the Lockhart home on Poplar Bluff, west of Oakland Drive, have waited on word of their neighbor and wondered if her husband was responsible for her disappearance. Now they know.
“Know that Theresa will live on in all of us and we are more conscious as neighbors to keep an eye out,” one neighbor said.
In a post on the “Help Us Find Theresa Joan Lockhart” Facebook page Wednesday night, family thanked everyone who had offered “prayers, thoughts and kind words.”
A statement family released on behalf of Theresa Lockhart’s mother Loretta Huyge thanked searchers, members of the media who kept the case in the public eye, and police who worked diligently on the case.
Schoolcraft Community Schools Superintendent Rusty Stitt released a statement Wednesday night saying the school community was saddened by Theresa Lockhart’s death and offering condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and students. The statement said counselors would be available for students seeking support in the coming days.
Full statement from Schoolcraft Community Schools:
“It is with tremendous sadness and a heavy heart that Schoolcraft Community Schools acknowledges the passing of Theresa Lockhart. We are all saddened by her death and send our deepest condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and students. Like so many others, all of us at Schoolcraft Community Schools have been holding out hope for a very different outcome since the news of her disappearance last May.
“Mrs. Lockhart was a part of the Schoolcraft Schools Family from 2015 to 2017, serving primarily as our Spanish teacher.
“Counselors will be available for students who wish to talk, or are seeking support, over the next days. Any Information regarding funeral arrangements will be provided when available.”
–24 Hour News 8’s Sarah Hurwitz contributed to this report.