After nearly 20 years, DNA evidence has led to an Alabama man’s arrest for the murder of two teenage girls, authorities announced.
Coley McCraney, 45, of Dothan, was taken into custody on Saturday for the murders of Tracie Hawlett and J.B. Beasley, whose bodies were found in the trunk of their car in August 1999 after they went missing in Ozark.
The two friends, both 17, had been fatally shot in their heads, though they didn’t appear to be victims of robbery, authorities said at the time.
“Cases are not forgotten. Cases are not filed away, but instead, we are simply looking for that next lead,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said at a Monday morning press conference. “Today is a good day, but it’s simply the beginning of a process that will now take place in court.”
Police said they took McCraney, who worked as a truck driver and briefly served in the military, into custody without incident during a traffic stop. Authorities would not say whether McCraney has confessed to the crimes. He faces five counts of murder and one count of rape.
Dale County District Attorney Kirke Adams said McCraney could face the death penalty if convicted, and that the five murder counts relate to how the crime was committed.
“Theoretically, it’s two murders, just different counts to make it capital,” Adams said at Monday’s press conference.
Ozark Police Chief Marlos Walker told reporters that authorities apprehended McCraney after entering DNA evidence from the crime scene into a genealogy database. That database led authorities to McCraney’s family and then to a McCraney himself. McCraney’s DNA matched the evidence from the crime scene, according to police.
“We don’t have a motive at this point; we can’t release some of the things that are leading us to that,” Walker said.
Walker declined to say whether authorities believe anyone else may have been involved in the girls’ murders but said they will be examining that possibility, including in relation to McCraney’s work as a truck driver.
Local station WDHN reported that McCraney created a religious organization called Spirit and Truth Lifeline Ministries in 2013.
Hilton Lanier Beasley, J.B. Beasley’s father, told WDHN he was skeptical that McCraney is solely responsible for the girls’ deaths.
“This is not the work of a single person,” he told the Dothan station. “(We) may be wrong, but my attitude is I just have to wait and evaluate.”