Decades later, Coley McCraney found guilty in Beasley, Hawlett murders

A sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place Thursday at 9 a.m.
Coley McCraney has been found guilty on all counts for the murders of JB Beasley and Tracie Hawlett.
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 2:09 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2023 at 12:16 PM CDT
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DALE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Coley McCraney has been found guilty on all four counts in the murder trial of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett.

The charges were as follows: two counts of capital murder- shooting into an occupied vehicle, capital murder of two or more people, and capital murder during the course of another felony (rape).

A sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place Thursday at 9 a.m.

McCraney was arrested in 2019 and charged with the murders of 17-year-old Dothan teens J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett two decades earlier. The teens’ bodies were found in 1999. Their deaths remained part of a high-profile cold case for years until DNA evidence was revealed that implicated McCraney.

Several witnesses were called to the stand including Bobby Blankenship, a retired Ozark police officer, Dothan investigator Alton Miller, Marc Crews, retired lab director with the Department of Forensic Sciences, Dothan Laboratory and Gregory Wanger, a retired forensic pathologist.

Wanger testified that both Beasley and Hawlett appeared to have been covering their head or faces when they were shot.

During day three of the trial, Agent Barry Tucker testified, focusing on the mud that was found on the outside and inside of the car where Beasley and Hawlett were discovered. He also testified that he found blood dripping under the car and said it appeared to have blown back indicating the girls were shot at another location from where the car was found.

Under cross-examination, Tucker admitted Coley McCraney’s fingerprints were not found anywhere on the car. He later testified that it was possible to drive a car without leaving your fingerprints.

McCraney himself took to the stand during the trial, testifying that he knew Beasley prior to the murders, something he had not revealed before.

Both sides wrapped up their closing arguments Tuesday just before noon. During closing arguments, the defense pointed out that the state had no confession, murder weapon, or witnesses, only DNA.

“Don’t let the state hypnotize you into bringing back a guilty verdict,” Defense attorney David Harrison said.

The prosecution said McCraney’s story did not add up.

“Don’t lose your common sense,” Marshall told the jury. “Verdict is a Latin term that means “speak the truth.” The truth, in this case, is a verdict of guilty.”

McCraney faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

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