DALE COUNTY, Ala. (WDHN) — Less than a week before murder suspect Coley McCraney’s grand jury hearing, all of the evidence presented at his preliminary hearing was made available to the public.
This evidence, shown in the court’s index of trial exhibits, include the August 1999 autopsy reports done on victims J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett, the firearms examination and a full description of the 1994 assault charge filed against McCraney during his time in the Air Force.
The Girls’ Autopsy Reports
According to reports sent to then-District Attorney David Emery by state medical examiner Alfredo A. Paredes back on Sept. 17, 1999, the girls were examined at the Central Alabama Forensic Medicine Facility in Montgomery the day after they were discovered.
The person who did the autopsy, examiner Gregory P. Wanger, wrote that he was at the scene the day law enforcement found the girls’ bodies in the trunk of their car and removed their bodies that evening with the help of forensic investigator Mark Day.
In his assessment of what happened to the girls, Wanger clearly explains how they were killed. Both were shot at intermediate range, close enough for the gunpowder from the bullets to show up as dots on the face.
Tracie was shot in the right temple, with the bullet going through her front lobe and exiting right in front of her ear at a lower trajectory.
J.B. was shot in the right cheek from a higher angle, causing the bullet to fatally damage her spinal cord and exit her upper neck.
Rape kits were obtained for both girls, although no sign of recent injury was seen in their genitalia. DNA evidence found later would make it appear that J.B. was raped. When the defense asked if the DNA evidence was a sign of rape in of itself, Bryan said it was since McCraney denied knowing the girls.
However, one of the key pieces of DNA evidence mentioned in the forensic report that matched McCraney’s DNA is missing from the autopsy’s account of the girls’ clothing.
In a March 2019 forensic report detailing the DNA recovered from J.B.’s body, McCraney’s DNA is said to match sperm fragments on the girl’s underwear and stains found on a sweater.
At the time of her death, J.B. was said to have worn a white, black, and blue striped blouse, blue jeans with a black belt, and other items, but no sweater is listed among them.
It’s not clear from the exhibit index how the sweater came into play, but J.B. was not wearing it when she died, according to her autopsy.
The Firearms Examination
No murder weapon was ever recovered in this case, but during the preliminary hearing, Lt. Michael Bryan said a Hi-Point 9mm pistol is believed to be the gun used to kill both girls.
The lab results for bullets recovered from the left and rear panels of the car were 9mm bullets that came from either a Hi-Point, Lorcin or Stallard Arms weapon.
In addition to the bullets, 11 spent cartridges were taken in as evidence. One case was a Remington brand 9mm cartridge found in the trunk of the car.
However, the examination states this cartridge was not fired from the same weapon as the other cartridges that were found.
The 1994 charge
Back in April, it was revealed by the prosecution that McCraney was charged with assault of a minor under 16 years of age, according to military records.
Bryan said that one of the weapons recovered in this investigation, a Hi-Point 9mm pistol, belonged to McCraney. This weapon matches the make and model believed to kill the two teenagers in 1999.
This led to a heated exchange between Bryan and David Harrison, one of McCraney’s attorneys. The defense stated that the ammunition and magazine were found on the other suspect in the charge, Ferrod McDaniels, and that he was the owner of the weapon.
In its motion to strike the records, the defense still maintained that the weapon belonged to McDaniels, but an examination of the incident report gives no explicit statement on who owned the gun.
The report states the complainant was McCraney’s first wife, Zappaharie McCraney., who showed up to Keesler Air Force Base’s Gate 1 at 3:37 a.m. on April 11, 2004, and told personnel that her husband assaulted her.
She was reported to have a bruise forming on her left cheek and a spot where the hair on her head was pulled out. In a written statement, Zappaharie said she was hit in the head with a 9mm magazine and locked in a room with her baby, escaping when McDaniels entered the room.
Military police later detained McCraney and McDaniels and searched them. As the defense said, 9mm Luger ammunition and a broken magazine were found on McDaniels while an 8 1/2″ Buck knife was found on McCraney.
Officers looked for the gun in the area but didn’t find it, but the report states the handgun was recovered as evidence.
McCraney was charged with aggravated assault, assault consummated by battery on a child under 16 years of age, unlawful detention, and possession of a concealed weapon. McDaniels was only charged with trespassing as he was a civilian.
According to the report, McCraney was placed under pretrial confinement, but the records do not state what happened after this.
You can view the full list of evidence by click this link.