Hawlett family hopes arrest leads to answers in daughter's murder

OZARK, Ala (WTVY) -- Tracie Hawlett's mother, Carol Roberts, never thought they'd get to this point.

“I was shocked. We were numb. I just sat there trying to let it sink in. It was a good feeling, but it was bittersweet,” said Carol.

Ozark Police Chief Marlos Walker told her he would be charging Coley McCraney, 45, with the murder of her 17-year-old daughter.

Tracie and her best friend J.B. Beasley left for a birthday party in Headland on the night of July 31, 1999. The two Dothan teenagers got lost and wound up in Ozark. Tracie called her mom to say they were on their way home, but they never made it. Police found their bodies the next day.

“I just want to look him in the eye and ask him why. Why he thought he had the right to take my daughter’s life and take her away from us. You know God gave her to me. He didn’t have the right to do that. I just want to know why, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” said Carol.

Tracie's brothers, Chris and Ben Roberts, were much younger than her.

“She looked out for us. She wouldn’t let anyone mess with us or touch us. It was nice to have an older sister to have to look up to and gain knowledge from her,” said Ben.

“Having our sister taken away from us, it put a big gap in our family and our routine. It took away a lot. She's supposed to be an aunt to my children and my brother's children,” adds Chris.

Both remember their sister putting others first, especially them. This news leaves them apprehensive.

Ben said, ”I've heard the rumors. I've heard everything for the past 20 years. When something like this happens we’re not excited. We're pleased, but we also have reservations because we've been through this before with (Johnny William) Barrentine. This feels more real obviously because we feel like we do have something. I'm waiting for the day he is ultimately convicted. That's what we pray for.”

Tracie’s step-father, Mike Roberts, who also helped raise her after father died at a young age, also feels like the evidence is telling.
Mike said, “DNA don’t lie. Let the DNA speak for itself. I’m not accusing nobody of nothing, but the DNA don’t lie.”

District Attorney Kirke Adams made it clear if McCraney is convicted, he will seek the death penalty.

Tracie's family says they support with that.

“I went home last Friday and read in Exodus. I read if you take a person's life you should have to give up yours. I'm sorry but that's the law, and I honestly believe that is what should happen,” said Carol.

Mike added, “They shouldn't live 20 or 30 years. They ought not to live more than a week. They didn't give these girls a chance to ask them whether they wanted to live 20 more years or not. And he shouldn't either.”

Though none of Tracie's family is looking forward to a trial and having to relive these murders, they are ready for justice to be served.

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