(WDHN) After nearly 20 years, Ozark police may finally have a lead on who killed teenagers JB Hilton Green Beasley and Tracie Hawlett back in 1999.
Police have taken a suspect into custody after a DNA match was found through a family DNA website, similar to how investigators in California found the man believed to be the Golden State Killer in 2018.
Ozark police have not officially confirmed this development, but former police Chief Tony Spivey was seen leaving the Ozark Police Department with Chief Marlos Walker and Sheriff Wally Olson Friday night.
On July 31, 1999, Northview High School students JB and Tracie were on their way to a party for JB’s birthday in Headland. They never made it to their destination.
According to Tracie’s mother Carol Roberts, the girls couldn’t understand the directions they were given and got lost, ending up in Ozark, Ala.
Eventually, Tracie called her mother from the Big Little Store and Chevron station at 763 East Broad Street, which is now an Inland gas station.
“She said, ‘Mom, we’re on our way home,’” Roberts said in an interview on Haunting Evidence in 2007.
At dawn on August 1, Tracie’s mother called the police for help, and around 9 a.m. on Aug. 1, police found the car, a black Mazda, on the side of Herring Avenue.
There were no clear signs of foul play, and the girls seemed to have vanished without a trace. Until investigators opened the trunk. Inside, they found the bodies of the two teenagers, both shot in the head with a shell casing remaining on Tracie’s leg.
“One of the girls’ purses was located in the front area of the car,” then-police Chief Tony Spivey said in the same episode. “It had money, credit cards, things of value in there, which would lead us to believe the motive was not robbery.”
The girls did not die where the car was left, according to retired Dep. Chief Eddy Henderson. There was mud on the girls’ feet, and their pants were wet below the knee.
Police arrested a man named Johnny William Barrentine, who they said implicated himself by putting himself at the crime scene during an interview with Alabama Bureau of Investigation agents and Ozark police officers, the Southeast Sun reported.
Barrentine later said he told police his fake stories to get the $35,000 reward that was promised at the time.
He later was cleared when semen found on Beasley’s clothing and skin did not match his DNA, and no physical evidence was found that proved he was there.
For decades, the case remained in the minds of the people involved, investigators and family alike.
“I’ve been in this business for 24 years, and I’ve investigated thousands of cases,” Spivey told WDHN back in 2007. “And this, of course, is by far the most challenging case that I can say I’ve been associated with.”
Meanwhile, the girls’ parents and friends said they still thought of them and missed them deeply.
“There is not a day that goes by I don’t think about J.B.,” said Patti Simpson, friend of J.B.’s, in an interview with the Dothan Eagle. “She was full of energy and just a joy to be around. She was an amazing, well-mannered girl, who had a passion for dance.”
“I take comfort in the fact knowing the last thing my daughter had to say to me was ‘I love you’,” Roberts said in the same article. “So many times those words are not the last words heard.”
However, with this latest development, there is a chance that those in mourning can finally find some closure, nearly 20 years later…By Nathaniel Rodriquez