Parents of slain Auburn student to file claim against university

by: Richard Elliot Updated:


COBB COUNTY, Ga. - The parents of a slain Auburn University student from Cobb County have filed an official claim against the school stating their belief that their daughter might still be alive if Auburn had a campus police department.
Lauren Burk was kidnapped from the Auburn campus and murdered in March 2008. A jury convicted Courtney Lockhart, a dishonorably discharged solider, and a judge sentenced him to death for the crime.
"It's like it happened yesterday," said Jim Burk, Lauren's father.  "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's mother, Viviane Guerschon.  "You get used to the weight, but the weight is always there."
According to police, Lockhart kidnapped Burk from a parking lot outside an Auburn dorm in a botched robbery attempt.  Investigators said he forced her to strip, then drove around considering what to do with her.  Deciding she needed to escape, police said Burk jumped from the moving car, but as she did, Lockhart shot her through the chest.  She died in the street minutes later.p

Phenix City police arrested him days later after a massive manhunt.
The Burk family believes Auburn might have prevented the crime had they had a campus police department.  The school ended their campus police department in the 2000s in an effort to save money and uses Auburn City police to patrol campus.  They also believe Auburn failed to follow security recommendations in a federal report released before the murder happened.
But under sovereign immunity laws, Auburn University cannot be the subject of a lawsuit.  So the Burk family said it has filed a claim against Auburn with the state of Alabama's Board of Adjustment.  That board has the power to consider the claim and use state money to compensate those cases it feels has merit.  Their claim asks for $1 million, but Jim Burk said it's about more than money.
"It's kind of a moral claim, and I want them to be judged by public opinion," said Burk.  "My concern is to make sure that this doesn't happen to anybody else."
Burk is particularly upset that Auburn paid millions to change head football coaches but hasn't spent money to recreate its police department.
Burk did praise Auburn for its assistance in creating a Lauren Burk Foundation.
"At this point, we are not aware of the claim," said Auburn University spokesperson Mike Clarity. "And it's Auburn's policy not to comment on pending investigative issues."