On the penultimate day of July 1999, Coley McCraney received news that changed the course of his life forever. A judge demanded that he provide a DNA sample to comply with a paternity petition made by a woman who claimed that McCraney was the child of a baby that was born less than a year before on September 1998. Ozark judge Fred Steagall felt that the request for DNA was reasonable and expected McCraney to comply quickly.
However, it didn’t take long for things to take a nasty turn. The next day two teenagers named J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett went missing from their Ozark homes. The next day, their dead bodies were found in the trunk of one of the teenager’s cars, ravaged and abused.
The paternity petition listed McCraney’s address to be on Lisenby Drive only about a mile from where the police discovered the missing teens’ beaten bodies – at the intersection of Herring Avenue and James Street.
McCraney did not appear for the DNA test. It seemed that something had gotten in the way. A second request came and went, and he still did not appear for it. What was happening? Judge Steagall was not happy. He had expected this to go off without a hitch. Instead, he was forced to proceed with the case regardless. McCraney was expected to pay $243 per month in child support as well as an addition $50 each month to the mother to catch up for child support he should have been paying the mother from the very beginning.
Over the next several years, the child’s mother kept filing child support petitions because McCraney was never on time with payments.
McCraney had an interesting history. He was a military veteran, serving in the United States Army from 1993 to 1997. He was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi for a length of his term of service. In 1992, he had married and was later divorced. And in 1995, he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. His life was in shambles as the turn of the millennium came about.
However, nineteen years ago, he remarried and relocated to Dothan in the Ozarks. His life really started to turn around when he found his path with God. He founded a religious organization, a nonprofit, called Spirit and Truth Lifeline Ministries. He served the community dutifully as the organization’s director.
Now, McCraney’s DNA finally came back to haunt him. He was forced to provide it in association with the deaths of teens J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett. And this time, there was no escaping the court order. It was his DNA linked to the crime scene. It seems he snapped and killed the teens.
McCraney never had a criminal record. He made his first appearance in court for the murder charges in front of District Judge Stanley Garner. He has been charged with five counts of capital murder and one count of rape. He will be held in jail without bond.
Dale County District Attorney Kirke Adams stated that McCraney is eligible for the death penalty.