“She had so much life left in her,” Yvonne Lockwood told Dateline about her daughter Chynelle. “I still can’t say her name without crying.”
Chynelle Lockwood, who grew up in a small village in Alaska called St. Michael, was one of eight siblings. “Altogether, I had five daughters and four sons,” Yvonne said. “She was the oldest girl.”
Yvonne said that despite Chynelle’s nickname being ‘Pretty,’ her daughter wasn’t a girly-girl. “She also was a tomboy,” Yvonne said. “She took care of herself, too. We were all close to her.”
The summer of 2017 was to be an exciting one for Chynelle. “She turned 19 in April. She graduated from high school in May,” Yvonne told Dateline. “And then she was supposed to start school at UAA here, the University of Alaska here in Anchorage in August.”
The 19-year-old was interested in going into the medical field. “She kind of had natural ability,” Yvonne said. “She said she liked watching me take care of my grandma, and she ended up helping take care of her -- the other grandma.”
“She had one very best friend. His name was Mitch,” Yvonne said. “Him and Pretty were best friends since they were, like, in diapers. He practically lived at my house.”
Dateline spoke with Mitch Shelikoff about his friendship with Chynelle. “We grew up in the same village, so we basically grew up together,” Mitch said. “She was my neighbor, too, so we were always together.”
He said they liked to go on walks. “We basically just go walking every day, or every other day,” he said.
And that’s just what Chynelle went to do on the evening of July 10, 2017. Unfortunately, Mitch wasn’t with her that evening.
He said he had last seen Chynelle on July 9. Then he left the village for a couple of days. “I went to Nome for an appointment,” he said.
Mitch returned to St. Michael on July 11, and had plans to see Chynelle. “We were going to hang out and do our daily walking,” he said. That walk would never happen.
“When I came home, everyone was asking me where she was at, and I was like, ‘Um, I just got here, I don’t know where she is,’” Mitch said. “That’s when I started getting worried, because why would they ask me where she’s at?”
Yvonne Lockwood, who lives in Anchorage, told Dateline she wasn’t sure exactly what her daughter’s plans were on July 10, but she did know Chynelle was going out for a walk that evening. “I was texting with her, and I remember she was telling me she’s going to walk towards Russian Gardens,” Yvonne said. “I told her not to walk alone because I was thinking of, like, bears or moose.”
“I was telling her not to go by herself. And she said she’ll call me when she come back,” Yvonne said. “She never came back.”
Yvonne told Dateline that she never thought someone would kill her daughter while she was out on a walk.
“At the time, I didn’t have a phone, so I was just asking people if they’d seen her and nobody had seen her,” best friend Mitch said. And then the news came. “One of the locals called and said there was a body on the beach and that cops or troopers went to go check it out.”
It wasn’t long before Yvonne got a phone call from a sister who lives much closer to Chynelle and had horrible news. “My youngest sister called me,” Yvonne said. “When I answered the phone, she said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Getting ready for bed.’ She said, ‘Pretty’s dead.’”
Yvonne said she didn’t believe her sister and hung up. She immediately tried calling Chynelle’s phone. “It was going straight to voicemail,” she said. Yvonne then called a “health aide on-call” number. “I called a health aide on-call phone, and it was my niece,” she said. “As soon as she recognized my voice, she just started crying and told me to call the police department.”
“That’s when I started panicking,” Yvonne told Dateline. So she called the police department and said the officer who answered the phone turned it over to one of her sons who was already at the station. “All I was saying was, ‘Put Pretty on the phone.’”
Yvonne said her son started crying. “He just started crying and said, ‘You can’t, Mom. She’s dead.’”
Mitch Shelikoff remembered hearing the news.
“When I heard that it was her, I started crying and I went to go see her sisters and go hug them — we were all crying,” he said. “It was really sad.”
According to Alaska State Troopers (AST) Communications Director Austin McDaniel, the troopers were notified that a body had been found on the beach in St. Michael at around 6:30 p.m. on July 11. “A member of the community called troopers after locating the body,” McDaniel said. “State troopers responded with a village public safety officer and village police officer.”
McDaniel told Dateline that the State Medical Examiner’s Office was able to positively identified the body as Chynelle Lockwood. “The State Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Lockwood’s death was due to ‘drowning of undetermined etiology due to submersion in ocean water under unknown circumstances,’” McDaniel told Dateline. He added that while Chynelle’s death is “considered a homicide,” the manner of death was undetermined.
Dateline contacted the State Medical Examiner’s Office for additional information on the extent of Chynelle’s injuries, but a spokesperson informed us that their reports are confidential documents and not subject to public disclosure.
AST Communications Director Austin McDaniel told Dateline that DNA was collected at the scene, but was “determined by two labs to be insufficient for analysis.” McDaniel also said 75 people were interviewed over the course of AST’s investigation, and that “a member of the community was identified as a suspect.” The findings were sent to the Alaska Department of Law which “has declined to prosecute the charges that AST referred,” McDaniel said. “There are no further investigative measures that can be taken to increase the likelihood of prosecution,” he stated, adding that the case has been closed.
Dateline reached out to the Alaska Department of Law and received a statement from Communication Director Patty Sullivan. “This matter was thoroughly reviewed by the Department of Law. That review of the investigation resulted in a determination that there is insufficient evidence at this time to file charges in this matter,” she said. “If at any time in the future we receive new, additional information related to this case, we will evaluate the additional evidence to decide whether it is appropriate to bring charges.”
Yvonne Lockwood hopes someone will come forward with that additional information needed. She told Dateline that when it comes to getting answers for Chynelle, she feels like she’s shouting into a void. “I’m knocking on the door, but nobody’s answering,” Yvonne said.
“Honestly, I just want justice for her,” best friend Mitch Shelikoff said. “I’ve been praying before I sleep — praying for her justice.”
If you have information about this case, please contact the Alaska State Troopers at 907-269-5511.