Four years after her disappearance, family wonders if Memphis woman is dead or alive

Published: Mar. 2, 2011 at 8:18 PM CST
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By Ursula Madden - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Four years ago, Memphis waitress Ricarda Tillman Lockett clocked out at work and was never seen again, leaving behind a young son and a devastated family.

Lockett's aunt, Richenda Pritchard, says her niece, known as Rica to her family, was staying at a shelter for abused women in the days leading up to her disappearance on February 19, 2007.

"She says, "Auntie, I'm not going back to him,' she says, 'cause he's been using me,'" Pritchard said.

The "him" Pritchard referred to is Lockett's estranged husband, Lou Lockett, the author of a book which includes theories on dissolving human bones with acid, and how to bury a body so it is never discovered.

"It says if the acid is good, the bones will get ate up to nothing," Pritchard said in 2007.

Pritchard shared the book with Action News 5 four years ago, thinking it might put pressure on investigators to look more closely at Lou Lockett, who was questioned by police.

"I know deep in my heart that I did not kill her," Lou Locket said on February 28, 2007.

Police records show Ricarda Lockett told police her husband verbally threatened to kill her or her family three different times. Lou Lockett was arrested for assault just three weeks prior to his wife's disappearance, after officers were called to the couple's home twice on the same day, and witnessed marks on Rica's neck consistent with being choked.

Ricarda told police Lou Lockett had grabbed her, pushed her down and choked her.

The couple was last seen together, outside Rica's place of employment, on the day she disappeared.

"Someone on the job, one of the cooks or workers, saw her getting in the car with him," Pritchard said. "And that was it."

"He's just saying he seen her, and dropped her off at home, and that was the last time he saw her," Lt. Mark Miller of the Memphis Police Department said shortly after Ricarda's disappearance.

Lou Lockett has never been charged in connection to Ricarda's disappearance, and in the years since, he has temporarily lost custody and then regained custody of the couple's one-year-old son, Donnell.

A protective custody order signed by Judge Curtis Person said the father was a "risk to the child's safety," and that family members and a Collierville police officer noted the father had, "been acting very strange."

Judge Person's order reads, "The father has been heard stating the mother is dead, but the mother has yet to be located."

Eight months after Lockett lost custody, he got it back, and Pritchard says the family hasn't had contact with him or Donnell since.

Donnell Lockett turned 5-years-old on Monday.

"My beautiful niece, she just wanted to have a family and do right," Pritchard said

So what happened to her that night she left work for the last time? Ricarda's aunt believes her estranged husband may hold some of the answers.

"I wish he would just tell, because she was with him last," Pritchard said. "I wish he would just tell us."

Action News 5 tried to contact Lou Lockett to talk about his wife's disappearance.  We went to the address listed in public records, but was unable to find him.

Memphis Police consider this a missing person's case, and have found no evidence Ricarda Tillman Lockett is dead or alive. If you know something about this case, contact Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH.

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