Man Convicted, Sentenced to Life in Prison in Ozark for 1999 Slayings of Two Teenage Girls

Coley McCraney

A jury in Ozark has ruled a man convicted of the 1999 slaying of two teenage girls should spend the rest of his life in prison.

The ruling comes a day after jurors convicted 49-year-old Coley McCraney of capital murder for the deaths of Tracie Hawlett and J.B. Beasley, court records show.

“We lost two precious girls…who didn’t have the opportunity to grow up and experience life,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a press conference after the sentencing decision.

Marshall, who prosecuted the case, said the verdict doesn’t bring closure but answers the question of what happened to the teens nearly 24 years ago. “Ultimately, he’s going to be able to spend the rest of his life in prison thinking about what he has done,” Marshall said.

Hawlett and Beasley, both 17, disappeared after setting off for a party in southeastern Alabama on July 31, 1999. They never returned. Their bodies were found the next day in the trunk of Beasley’s black Mazda along a road in Ozark. Each had been shot in the head.

Nearly 20 years passed without an arrest until police hired a company to run crime scene DNA through an online genealogy database. Police said they identified an extended family member and then asked McCraney to submit a DNA sample that they said matched the crime scene DNA. McCraney, a truck driver and preacher without a criminal record, was arrested in 2019.

Teens Killed Cold Case

A memorial to two Alabama teenagers killed in 1999 stands beside a road at Ozark, Ala., on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

The DNA evidence was the key piece of evidence for the prosecution. McCraney testified that he had sex with Beasley but did not kill her, news outlets reported.

Family members testified during the sentencing hearing about the anguish of losing their daughters.

However, supporters of McCraney, who believe jurors erred in their verdict, held “Coley Strong” signs outside the courthouse or told jurors they know McCraney as a kind and religious man, news outlets reported.

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Categories: Crime, News, Statewide