EXCLUSIVE: How Ozark police tracked suspected killer Coley McCraney

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Ozark, Ala. (WDHN) — WDHN and ABC News have learned more about the methods Ozark police used to track down a suspected killer in a pair violent murders from 20 years ago.

Who is Coley McCraney?

Ozark police Chief Marlos Walker knew Coley Lewis McCraney personally. Walker told ABC News the latest developments in the double murder case of Tracie Hawlett and J.B. Beasley are “shocking.”

“I don’t believe DNA lies,” Walker added.

McCraney has never been on the radar for the crime and, by many accounts, has a very clean record, but his DNA has been linked to the most mysterious crime this area has seen in the last quarter-century.

There is no indication that McCraney knew the girls before the crime.

Twenty years later, a look at McCraney would show a family man with a blue-collar background. He was known in some circles as a man of God with a military background. McCraney’s current occupation is a truck driver, and other sources have told WDHN that he is a pastor, although WDHN has been unable to attribute him to a physical church in the Dothan area.

How did Ozark police investigators find McCraney?

The 19th anniversary of the double murder had just passed.

In August of 2018, the Ozark Police Department began working their way back through the Hawlett-Beasley murder files.

Another series of headlines would change the approach the department was taking in the case thanks to newer and readily available technology. “The Golden State Killer” case was solved through DNA evidence, prompting Ozark Police to try the same thing.

DNA preserved from the scene of the crime in 1999 was sent to Parabon Labs — which, according to online searches, is based in Virginia. Parabon then sent Ozark police a list of names associated in some form to the DNA sample provided, and the McCraney name was recognized.

Coley McCraney was brought in by Ozark police, and a DNA swab was taken and sent to Parabon. A match was made approximately three weeks ago.  

Walker also said these results were confirmed by the state laboratory in Alabama.

All of this information culminated into a Friday arrest of McCraney. WDHN had knowledge of McCraney being in police custody Friday night and honored a request from Chief Walker to hold the story while the investigation progressed.

McCraney now faces five counts of capital murder and one count of first degree rape. Per Alabama law, because the murders happened along with the commission other heinous crimes, they can be separated as multiple counts of capital murder.

A conviction on one of the five capital murder charges could result in the death penalty for McCraney.

Monday

Ozark police Chief Marlos Walker will address the media Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. WDHN anticipates that former Ozark Chief Tony Spivey will be in attendance among others closely associated with this case.

WDHN News will air a Special Report SUNDAY NIGHT at 10 p.m.

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