DALE COUNTY, Ala (WDHN) — Former Ozark Police Chief Marlos Walker took the stand during the fifth day of the McCraney Murder trial and recounted what led up to the arrest of Coley McCraney.
McCraney is accused of killing JB Beasley and Tracie Hawlett on July 31, 1999. The teens were found shot to death in the trunk of Beasley’s Mazda 929 on Herring Avenue in Ozark. The case went cold for 20 years until DNA evidence found on Beasley allegedly matched to McCraney, who was arrested in 2019.
According to Walker, he became involved with the case in 2009 when he worked as an investigator for the Dale County Sheriff’s Office and was on the cold case task force. He then became the Abbeville Police Chief in 2013, but says he kept up with the investigation when officers had questions. Walker says he dove back into the case after becoming the Ozark Police Chief in 2015.
Walker says in 2019, his department received a list of family names possibly connected to the case from a secondary DNA source, and McCraney’s family name was on the list, so he called McCraney to get a DNA sample, which was willingly given to the police after McCraney’s wife said he should give the sample.
Walker testified that when he received word from the lab that McCraney’s DNA was a match for the specimens found on Beasley, McCraney immediately became a suspect and Walker called him to come into the station again to speak, to which McCraney agreed as soon as he got back into town.
Before McCraney could make it back to Ozark, his semi-truck was pulled over in Daleville and he was taken into custody by then Lieutenant, now Chief Deputy, Micheal Bryan with the Ozark Police Department.
The prosecution claims that after McCraney was arrested and charged with the murders, he was held by Ozark Police in an interrogation room for around 25 hours with the lights constantly on, and a cot was given to him but then suddenly taken away, giving him nowhere to sleep.
Walker said McCraney was held in the room for that long because his department had to take care of things such as gathering evidence and getting a search warrant for McCraney’s residence, but Walker denied knowing if the lights were left on or if he had a cot taken away during that period.
Deputy Chief Micheal Bryan, who testified after Walker, said they did leave the lights on inside the room, but McCraney had the ability to turn them off.
Both Walker and Bryan say they did not try to get a confession from McCraney during his time in the interrogation room.
During Walker’s cross-examination, defense attorney Andrew Scarborough asked him if there was any evidence linking McCraney to the rape of Beasley or the murder of both girls.
“Do you have any eyewitnesses that can say he (McCraney) raped one of these girls? Do you have any eyewitnesses that can say he (McCraney) killed these two girls?” Scarborough asked.
Walker said no to both of these questions.
Scarborough asked if authorities ever found a gun connecting McCraney to the murders. Walker said no to this as well and said the only evidence connecting McCraney to Beasley and Hawlett was his DNA match.
Walker also said that out of the entire list his department had, McCraney was the first and only person they tested for a DNA match.
The defense, led by attorney David Harrison, is trying to prove that McCraney had consensual sex with Beasley and left after giving the lost girls directions to Highway 231 heading towards Dothan. They claim this is why McCraney’s DNA was found on Beasley. The prosecution, led by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, says McCraney held the girls at gunpoint, forced them to go to another location, raped Beasley, and forced them into the trunk of Beasley’s Mazda 929, before shooting and killing both girls.
Stay with WDHN as we follow one of the most significant murder trials in Wiregrass history.