Man sentenced for using slain athlete’s cards

Published 1:28 pm Friday, September 25, 2009

Christian Bonner has been sentenced to 36 years in prison for using credit cards that belonged to slain University of Mississippi track star Rodney Lockhart.

Bonner wept and asked for leniency during his sentencing hearing Wednesday. Judge Robert Elliott showed little.

Lockhart, 20, was a junior psychology major and member of the gold medal-winning U.S. 1,600-meter relay team in the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing. He was a standout sprinter at Ole Miss before being shot to death at his Oxford apartment on Sept. 29, 2007.

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Bonner, a former Ole Miss student from Picayune, pleaded guilty in July to using Lockhart’s credit cards to buy fast food for several days after the slaying.

“Anything I did do, I didn’t mean to. I was under the influence of other people,” Bonner told the judge. “If you do take leniency with me today, I will consider it a break.”

Elliott sentenced Bonner to 60 years — the maximum on each count — but suspended a total of 14 years. Bonner was sentenced to an additional 10 years for having a cell phone while detained in the Lafayette County Detention Center.

He still faces a capital murder charge in Lockhart’s death.

District Attorney Ben Creekmore said the sentence was appropriate.

“He knew the owner of the card had been murdered,” Creekmore said. “Instead of doing what any reasonable person would have done … he was out there spending his money.”

Creekmore said authorities are still working on the murder case.

“If we went forward and secured a conviction in Rodney Lockhart’s murder, it would be bittersweet because this may not be a murder that was accomplished alone,” Creekmore said. “We do believe that Christian Bonner is appropriately charged, however.”

As for getting 10 years on the cell phone charge, Lafayette County Jail Administrator Gerald Clemons said it’s dangerous for inmates to have phones that can’t be monitored or recorded.