TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Shawnee Co. District Attorney Chad Taylor announced late Friday that murder charges have been filed in the 2012 death of a Topeka convenience store owner.
Monroe Lockhart, who is already serving time for an unrelated for an unrelated battery case, is now charged with first degree felony murder and arson. The charges stem from the death of Corey Brown.
The 39-year-old's body was found in rural Douglas County January 5, 2012. He'd been reported missing January 3, the same night Lockhart's burned out car was found along the Kansas River off Seward Avenue.
Lockhart and Brown were managing partners in what was formerly the Hudson Crossing Convenience Store at SE 15th and Adams. They'd been described as long-time friends.
Taylor was joined by Douglas County DA Charles Branson and a host of law enforcement from the Topeka Police Dept., Shawnee County Sheriff's Office and Douglas County Sheriff's Office at a Friday news conference announcing the charges.
Taylor declined to discuss Lockhart's alleged motive in the case, citing the need to ensure a fair trial. However, Taylor did reveal that evidence recently came to light that Brown was shot and killed January 3 in the area of White Lakes Mall in Topeka. Until that was established, Taylor said, it was considered a Douglas County case, since that is where Brown's body was fuond.
Branson said Douglas County investigators kept working the case as thought it were fresh, developing new information and leads which led to Friday's announcement.
Authorities acknowledged they'd suspected Lockhart for some time, but declined to reveal what new information connected the dots. Topeka Police Chief Ron Miller said authorities had a lot of information they believed accurate but had to continue filling their files.
Authorities say the investigation continues. They didn't rule out additional charges against Lockhart or other potential suspects. They say further details will wait until Lockhart's preliminary hearing.
Lockhart was sentenced in April to nine and a half years in prison for a November 2011 aggravated burglary and aggravated battery case which prosecutors said stemmed from a dispute over property allegedly stolen from the convenience store.
His next court date in the murder case is not yet set.