Charges provide insight into the night murdered teens disappeared

Booking photo from Dale County Jail.
Booking photo from Dale County Jail.(WTVY News 4)
Published: Mar. 17, 2019 at 9:21 AM CDT
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Charges filed against a man, whom police accuse of murdering two high school teens, give insight into what they believe happened 20 years ago.

Coley McCraney, 45, faces five counts of capital murder and one count of rape related to the 1999 deaths of high school students J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett.

During the summer of 1999, police believe McCraney shot and killed the two 17-year olds and raped one of them.

Last seen at a convenience store in Ozark, officers discovered the teens' bodies a short distance from there. The bodies had been stuffed into the trunk of their car. That means that they had almost certainly been kidnapped.

Even though only two people died - multiple charges, in this case five - can be filed under Alabama law. That's because if a killer commits other crimes --- kidnapping, rape, or robbery --- during the same series of criminal acts, he could be found guilty of two or more capital murder charges.

Therefore, McCraney is charged with two counts of capital murder in the death of each teen, for a total of four charges.

The final capital murder charge stems from allegations he raped one of the girls. Like kidnapping, Alabama law permits an additional murder charge if rape occurs during the same criminal event.

The murder charges are punishable by either the death penalty or life in prison and there's a possible life sentence on the rape charge.

Ozark police plan a news conference on Monday morning when they are expected to discuss the charges against McCraney in detail. Until now, they have not issued a statement.