Killer Receives Life Sentence in 1999 Deaths of Teenage Girls

DNA testing tied Coley McCraney to the slayings
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2019 7:31 AM CDT
Updated Jun 15, 2023 5:55 PM CDT
UPDATE Jun 15, 2023 5:55 PM CDT

An Alabama judge sentenced a man to life imprisonment without possibility of parole on Thursday, bringing a close to the case of the slayings of two teenage girls in 1999. Coley McCraney was convicted of capital murder in April by a jury that decided the sentence, which the judge was obliged to follow, the AP reports. Tracie Hawlett and J.B. Beasley were 17 when they disappeared. "The families of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett have prayed for over two decades that their daughters' murderer would be brought to justice," said state Attorney General Steve Marshall, the prosecutor in the case.

Mar 18, 2019 7:31 AM CDT

Nearly 20 years after they were murdered, two Alabama teens may finally get some justice, and it was partly the case of the Golden State Killer that led to the break in theirs. The story of what had happened to Dothan's JB Beasley and Tracie Hawlett, both 17, on the night of July 31, 1999, after a party in Headland has been featured on multiple unsolved-mystery TV shows but led to no viable suspects, the Dothan Eagle notes. Then Joseph James DeAngelo was busted in April 2018 for a slew of California murders that spanned two decades, and the Ozark Police Department decided to ship evidence from the Beasley-Hawlett crime scene to a lab that does the same type of DNA testing used in the DeAngelo case—and a DNA match came up tying 45-year-old Coley McCraney to the murders, Chief Marlos Walker tells ABC News.

JB and Tracie got lost on their way back from the party and ended up in Ozark, and Tracie's mom said she received one phone call from them from a gas station, telling her they were coming home; it was the last anyone heard from them. The car they were in was found the next morning, the girls dead in the trunk with gunshot wounds to the head. Per, McCraney had never been a suspect and had lived an apparently crime-free life since, though notes he had some child-support issues around the time of the murders. WDHN reports he has worked as a truck driver, has a family, and founded a ministry in 2013. Walker tells WDHN he knows McCraney personally, adding, "I don't believe DNA lies." McCraney has been charged with capital murder and rape and is being held at the Dale County Jail without bond, per jail records. (More cold cases stories.)

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