Lauren Burk’s parents say they believe she might still be alive if Auburn had a campus police department. Burk was abducted from a campus parking lot and killed in March 2008. Courtney Lockhart was convicted in her murder and was sentenced to death. Burk was 18 at the time and Lockhart, who had been dishonorably discharged from the Army, was 23. Lockhart is now on death row.
“It’s like it happened yesterday,” Jim Burk said of his daughter’s death. “There’s not a day that goes by that my family doesn’t have her close in our mind and heart.”
“Losing a child is like carrying stones in your pocket at all times,” said Lauren Burk’s mother, Viviane Guerschon. “You get used to the weight, but the weight is always there.”
Police said Lockhart abducted Burk from a parking lot outside an Auburn dorm during a bungled robbery attempt. He forced her to take off her clothes and drove around, investigators said. Lockhart shot Burk in the chest as she tried to escape by jumping from the moving car, police said. She was pronounced dead later after being found on the side of the road.
Phenix City police arrested Lockhart a few days later.
Burk’s parents said they think the presence of campus police officers could have prevented the crime. Auburn shuttered its police department several years before the killing to save money. Auburn city police patrol the campus. Burk’s parents also said they believe Auburn didn’t follow security recommendations in a federal report.
Auburn cannot be sued because of sovereign immunity laws, WSB-TV reports. The Burk family says it has filed a claim against the school with the state’s Board of Adjustment. The board can consider the claim and use state money to compensate cases that it feels have merit. The family’s claim asks for $1 million, but Burk’s father said it’s not just about money.
“It’s kind of a moral claim, and I want them to be judged by public opinion,” he said. “My concern is to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anybody else.”
A spokesman for the university said the university doesn’t comment on pending investigations.