DALE COUNTY, Ala (WDHN) — Murder suspect Coley McCraney took the stand during the sixth day of his trial and told his side of the story, all while maintaining his innocence.
Coley McCraney is accused of killing JB Beasley and Tracie Hawlett and raping Beasley, on July 31, 1999. The teens were found shot to death the next day 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.
Both the prosecution and defense say that after McCraney’s 2019 arrest, he initially denied ever knowing or meeting Beasley or Hawlett, but during his testimony today, he recanted that and admitted to meeting both girls and having sex with Beasley the night they were killed.
According to McCraney, he had previously met Beasley at the Wiregrass Commons Mall outside of Radio Shack in June 1999 and the two struck up a conversation while sitting on a bench. During the conversation, McCraney says he gave Beasley the phone number to his mother’s house since he did not have a phone at his own home.
McCraney says the two spoke on and off for a few weeks and on the weekend on July 31, 1999, right after coming home from a long-haul trip, they made plans to meet at a gas station in Ozark at around 10:00 p.m. that night
This is the same gas station where the prosecution claims McCraney met Beasley and Hawlett, held them at gunpoint, raped Beasley, and then took the two girls to Herring Avenue and shot them in the trunk of Beasley’s car.
McCraney claims that night he left his house at around 9:45 p.m. to be at the gas station early, but sometime after 10:00, when the girls did not arrive, he drove to his mom’s house to wait for a call from Beasley but never got one.
McCraney said left his mom’s house at about 11:30 p.m. and while passing by the gas station where he was set to meet the girls at, his alternator gave out and he coasted into the parking lot and broke down, where he saw Beasley and Hawlett at the gas station’s pay phone.
Later during McCraney’s testimony, Attorney General Steve Marshall said this was a major coincidence that McCraney’s car broke down at the same time the girls were at the store. “It’s a remarkable coincidence isn’t it,” said Marshall.
McCraney testifies that he and the girls talked and when they asked him for directions to Highway 231 heading towards Dothan, McCraney got in Beasley’s car and showed them a shortcut taking them to the intersection of Highway 231 and Highway 18, the same place his semi-truck was parked at a truck stop.
According to McCraney, when the three arrived at the truck stop, McCraney and Beasley got into his semi where the two had sex, then Beasley and Hawlett drove him home but dropped him off down the street so McCraney’s girlfriend and now wife, Jeanette McCraney, wouldn’t see them. McCraney says this is the last time he ever saw either of the girls again.
Jeanette McCraney, who testified on Friday, says that her husband returned home around 12:45 a.m. on August 1, 1999, and when they went to jump off his car at the gas station, no one else was there when they arrived.
Both Jeanette McCraney and Coley McCraney say neither of them left their house the rest of the night.
McCraney flashed forward 20 years to his arrest on March 15, 2019, and David Harrison, McCraney’s lead attorney, asked McCraney why he had originally told investigators he had never met the girls. McCraney said he was terrified after his arrest and did not want to tell them.
“When they put those cuffs on me I figured they had already made their minds up,” McCraney said.
Nearing the end of his testimony, Harrison asked McCraney if he raped Beasley in the back of his truck that night. McCraney said no. Harrison also asked McCraney if he murdered Beasley and Hawlett. McCraney once again said no.
When the prosecution cross-examined McCraney, Attorney General Marshall went through a timeline of events that occurred during his around 25-hour hold in an interview room at the Ozark Police Station after his arrest. Marshall asked McCraney if he was mistreated during this time and McCraney said he was not.
Stay with WDHN as we follow one of the most significant murder trials in Wiregrass history.