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Trial in 1999 Ozark slayings continued due to lack of jurors

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Less than a week before it was set to begin, the trial for the suspect in the 1999 killings of two Dothan teenagers has been continued due to the lack of available jurors.

Jury selection in the State of Alabama vs. Coley Lewis McCraney began on Monday. According to reports by WTVY, only 75 of the 250 potential jurors summoned actually showed up at the Dale County Courthouse on Monday. Of those, 17 were quickly excused for different reasons. The remaining potential jurors were questioned individually about their knowledge of the case and their death penalty beliefs. On Tuesday, media reports continued to reflect the challenge of finding an impartial jury let alone enough people to empanel a full jury from such a small jury pool.

Circuit Judge William H. Filmore issued the order to continue the case Tuesday afternoon, citing the lack of jurors to strike a jury from. According to media reports, the trial will be rescheduled for 2023.

J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett were found shot to death Aug. 1, 1999, in the trunk of Beasley’s car on Herring Avenue in Ozark. They had planned to attend a party near Headland on the night of July 31 but got lost and were last heard from when Hawlett called her mother from Ozark to let her know they were on their way home. Both were 17.

McCraney faces multiple counts of capital murder in the deaths of Beasley and Hawlett, including one capital murder charge for the rape of Beasley.

McCraney was identified as a suspect 20 years after the killings when DNA from the crime scene was submitted for genetic genealogy testing similar to how California law enforcement identified the Golden State killer in 2018. McCraney was indicted in June 2019.

Originally set for trial in November 2020, the case was continued due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trial was continued again in 2021 and was set for May 2022 before being continued to August.

The last few weeks have seen a number of pre-trial motions and hearings in case, including one hearing where witness Rena Crumb, 53, admitted she lied about police involvement and police wrongdoing in the killings.

Peggy Ussery is a Dothan Eagle staff writer and can be reached at aussery@dothaneagle.com or 334-712-7963. Support her work and that of other Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.

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