Bond denied after hearing for murder suspect Coley McCraney

Coley McCraney

A request for bond has been denied for murder suspect Coley McCraney after an almost two-hour bond hearing that included statements of cartel connections and questions about DNA before District Judge Stan Garner Jr. on Wednesday, May 29.

Garner submitted the denial to the court on Friday, May 31.

McCraney was arrested on March 16 and is charged with five counts of capital murder and rape in the 1999 deaths of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett. He was bound to the grand jury in an April 3 preliminary hearing, but has not yet been indicted.

During the bond hearing, several witnesses were called to the stand by defense attorneys David Harrison and Andrew Scarborough, including J.B. Beasley’s father, Hilton. He was asked about his personal investigations into the deaths of his daughter and Hawlett.

Hilton Beasley, who worked in a barbershop in 1999, said he began his own investigation into the 1999 deaths after receiving information from a barbershop customer about six days after he learned his daughter had been killed. He said he also worked with a former law enforcement investigator.

He told the court his investigations led to information that a cartel was operating in Ozark. He said his investigations centered around a man, J.R. Maulden, who had previously flown for Wiley Sanders in Troy. He later said Maulden disappeared.

“I’m assuming the competition got him,” Hilton Beasley said.

He said in 19 years of investigating, McCraney’s name never came up, but several other names had. He also said he believed McCraney should receive a bond.

Assistant District Attorney David Emery asked if anyone had been identified or arrested with regards to his investigation. Hilton Beasley mentioned Dan Presswood, a former OPD officer who first found the victims’ vehicle; a car dealership owner in Ozark; a female officer with the last name Crumb, who made statements about the cartel’s connection to the area; and a “gentleman,” whose name he could not remember, who left and went to Henry County, as names of individuals connected to his investigation into the case.

He also said he believed the cartel, that he said operates in all Southern states, was run by former Panamanian leader Manual Noriega at one time.

Emery asked if the information he received was from a man with the last name Williams who also had other conspiracy theories about another death. Hilton Beasley replied he was not sure if they were conspiracy theories.

Another witness called to the stand by the defense was Ozark Police Chief Marlos Walker, who spoke about the process the OPD used to charge McCraney.

Walker previously told the court in the April 3 preliminary hearing that he reached out to Parabon NanoLabs Inc., in August 2018.

During the May 29 bond hearing, Walker said Parabon, who he said was paid over $10,000 to perform their services, provided a list of five names based on markers from the 1999 DNA sample. He said he recognized McCraney’s name on the list because of their time together in school in Ozark, so he contacted him first.

Scarborough asked Walker if he knew McCraney to be violent or a fighter, and Walker replied that he did not.

When asked if he has any doubt if the DNA found on the victims matches McCraney, Walker said he believed the match was real “due to the science of the DNA” test.

At this comment, Scarborough asked Walker if the Ozark Police Department recently arrested a “DNA analyst” for forging DNA tests, referring to the owner of A and J Lab in Ozark who was arrested in connection with an investigation into allegations of altering and forging drug test screenings and paternity testing.

Walker said the owner of the lab was not a scientist, and those he worked with at Parabon were. Emery also commented during an objection that the lab owner “had nothing to do with DNA analysis.”

Garner then asked if the lab owner was involved with the analysis of the DNA associated with the Beasley/Hawlett case. Scarborough replied that the owner did not.

Walker restated that he believed in the DNA test, but he was surprised at the result. He said he was not surprised that McCraney matched the 1999 sample of DNA, which Emery later said had been compared around 17 million times in the past 20 years, but that there was a match so quickly.

“(We’ve) been looking for a DNA match for 19 years,” Walker said. “I was surprised of the match, period, because of the longevity of the case.”

Emery asked Walker if the Ozark Police Department tested McCraney’s DNA in March. Walker replied that the OPD took two samples of DNA, saliva samples, and sent one to Parabon and one to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS) in Montgomery.

Scarborough said the state does not have a weapon related to the case and no witnesses of the crime. Walker said there were witnesses “around the case,” people who saw vehicles and individuals at certain areas and certain times, but there were no witnesses to the actual crime.

When Scarborough commented that the DNA is all the charges against McCraney are based on, Walker said that was not true.

When asked if he knew who analyzed the DNA, Walker said he did not know. After Garner said he recalled from the preliminary hearing that ADFS was said to have analyzed this DNA, Walker said ADFS did analyze the first samples of DNA in 1999, but he could not recall who performed the analysis.

McCraney’s wife, Jeanette, was also brought to the stand and said she has been in a relationship with McCraney since 1998, when the couple met on March 20 at a club on Highway 231 at 6 p.m. She said the couple have been married since June 25, 2001.

Emery later asked when the couple began living together. She said the couple moved in together in June 1998.

In response to Harrison’s questions, she said her husband was never violent toward her and never drank or did drugs.

Jeanette McCraney then described the events leading up to her husband’s arrest. She told the court that Walker called McCraney by phone and told him he had “some names” he needed to look at. She said her husband called Walker “a classmate,” and she later learned he was the Ozark police chief.

She said McCraney, a truck driver, was on the road when he received the phone call, but she took him to Ozark the day after he returned. She said the couple were separated when they arrived in Ozark.

Jeanette McCraney said her husband did not recognize the names presented to him, and Walker and her husband talked about sports before he said he could get a bigger list of names if her husband would give a DNA sample.

She said he volunteered to give his DNA though he asked before offering his DNA if he would need a lawyer, to which he was told no.

“Coley said, ‘Anything I can do to help,’” she said, stating that she also volunteered her own DNA.

Jeanette McCraney said Walker called her husband about two or three weeks later and told him he had another list of names for her husband to look at. She said an appointment was made, but her husband’s work schedule was conflicting with the appointment, so he rescheduled for Friday, March 15. She said he also tried to call Walker back at least four or five times, but Walker never called him back.

He asked if the couple had any idea about the 1999 deaths of J.B. Beasley and Hawlett. She said, “Everybody knew about those girls getting murdered.”

Emery then asked about the couple’s children. She said she and her husband have two children together and he has six children total. When asked if she knew that McCraney cheated on her, she replied that he had not. She said his other children were from a previous marriage.

Emery then asked if she has asked her husband if he killed J.B. Beasley and Hawlett.

“Why would I?” she asked, stating she had no knowledge of how or why the girls were murdered or why his semen was present.

He also asked if McCraney denied offering his DNA the first time he was asked before she told him to do it. She said she did not know what was said while the couple was separated before she entered the room.

McCraney’s son, Dezmond, was also called to the stand and testified to his father’s character and past actions.

He said he never saw his father drink or do drugs, and recalled one instance where his father used corporal punishment on him for acting out in school when he was younger.

He also agreed to the descriptions given by Harrison that his father is a “good man” and a “man of God.”

Following witness statements, Harrison argued that the DNA test and sample performed in 1999 and the Snapshot DNA Phenotype Testing performed by Parabon would not satisfy the Daubert test, referring to the Daubert Standard that is used to determine if “an expert witness’s scientific testimony is based on scientifically valid reasoning that which can properly be applied to the facts at issue,” according to the Legal Information Institute website offered by the Cornell Law School in New York.

According to the website, the Daubert Standard comes from the 1993 United States Supreme Court Case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., and establishes five factors to assess testimony. These factors are: “whether the theory or technique in question can be and has been tested; whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication; its known or potential error rate; the existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation; and whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community.”

Harrison said the integrity of the 1999 DNA sample is in question, and the Parabon testing method will not stand “because there’s no peer review.”

“It is brand new,” Harrison said. “It has not been accepted by the science community.”

Emery countered that Parabon is not involved in the legal evidence presented in the case, and states, when hired, that the company said it is just “an investigative tool.”

He also said the 1999 DNA sample was analyzed and placed in CODIS to create a genetic profile. He also said DNA is “how people can be positively identified for the rest of their life.”

In the present day, Emery said McCraney’s DNA was not directly entered into CODIS until this year, and the “computer reported that it is your killer.”

“You couldn’t ask for stronger evidence in this case,” Emery said.

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