Crime Junkie - MURDERED: J.B. Beasley & Tracie Hawlett

Episode Date: November 20, 2023

Two 17-year-old girls set off one summer night in 1999 for a high school field party, excited to mark the end of summer with friends. But when they never make it to the party…or back home…the is on.If you want to check out Isabel’s nonprofit, Genealogy for Justice, please visit their website!You can learn more about The Good segment and even submit a story of your own by visiting The Good page on our website!Did you know you can listen to this episode ad-free? Join the Fan Club! Visit to view the current membership options and policies.Source materials for this episode cannot be listed here due to character limitations. For a full list of sources, please visit: Don’t miss out on all things Crime Junkie!Instagram: @crimejunkiepodcast | @audiochuckTwitter: @CrimeJunkiePod | @audiochuckTikTok: @crimejunkiepodcastFacebook: /CrimeJunkiePodcast | /audiochuckllcCrime Junkie is hosted by Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat. Instagram: @ashleyflowers | @britprawatTwitter: @Ash_Flowers | @britprawatTikTok: @ashleyflowerscrimejunkieFacebook: /AshleyFlowers.AF Text Ashley at +1 (317) 733-7485 to talk all things true crime, get behind the scenes updates, random photos of Chuck, and more! 

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Starting point is 00:00:00 Hi, Crime Jenkies. I'm your host, Ashley Flowers, and I'm Britt. And the story I have for you today is about two best friends planning to close out summer with a classic American flair at a high school field party. But when the girls never make it home, what should have been a scene out of a 90s teen flick turns into something out of a horror movie instead? This is the story of JB Hilton BeBesley and Tracy Hollett are best friends. I mean, inseparable. So when Tracy has to spend JB's birthday working the closing shift at JC Penny One sat at an A night in July, JB does the thing that any true, thickest thieves best friends would
Starting point is 00:01:17 do. She goes to the mall a little before 9 to wait for Tracy and keep her company while she's closing. After the two planned a head back to Tracy's house to get ready before heading out to headland to like tear it up on their last weekend of summer break and buy tear it up. I mean like the high school version in Dothan Alabama which seems similar to what I know growing up in Indiana like they're going to a field party. I love this already. I. Now, the girls are already getting a late start.
Starting point is 00:01:45 And Tracy's got a hard 1130 curfew, so when Tracy's shift is over, they get home, they get ready as quick as they can, and they're out the door in no time. Now, Tracy's mom, Carol, is working a double that day, so she's not there to see the girls off. But she does get home right around 1130 when Tracy is supposed to be rolling in as well. But instead of seeing Tracy walk through the door, Carol hears the phone ring. Not the main house line, it's a second line, the one in Tracy's room. And she ignores it, figuring it's some friend calling to free-cap the night, whatever,
Starting point is 00:02:19 but Tracy's little brother does what little brothers do and he picks up. Of course. Right, because like maybe their mom doesn't want to chat with Tracy's friends in the middle of the brothers do and he picks up. Of course. Right. Because like maybe their mom doesn't want to chat with Tracy's friends in the middle of the night, but he sure does. Little brothers? Yeah. So he's probably a little bummed when it actually is just his sister on the other end.
Starting point is 00:02:35 And Tracy's asking to talk to their mom. But why wouldn't she just call the mainline then? I think it was a strategic move. I know when I wanted something, I knew which parent to ask, right? And what's going on here is Tracy's trying to avoid her stepdad Michael. So she knew by calling her phone, like how it would play out. She knew her brother, she knew he'd pick up.
Starting point is 00:02:56 And her brother goes and gets mom, who is the person she wants to talk to. Bye, passing the stepdad. Yeah, this is like that delicate dance of parental diplomacy. I know. I know. I passing this stepdad. Yeah, this is like that delicate dance of parental diplomacy. I am familiar as a child and now familiar as a parent. Oh, as the parent. You're on the other end of it now. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I feel like Joe is she's not even two yet and she's already figuring out how to play the game. So like, I can't imagine what you're dealing with with an
Starting point is 00:03:18 actual teenager. So anyways, Carol picks up and Tracy tells her that the night hasn't gone as planned. They got lost, they had to stop for directions, so they haven't even made it to the party yet. This is when she's supposed to be home. And she's like, listen mom, I know it's already past my curfew, but I just can't I have an extension. Just this one so we can just stop by the party, say hi to everyone, and then I'll leave right after and I'll be home really, really soon.
Starting point is 00:03:46 Oh, and by the way, is it okay if J.V. spends the night and comes to church with us in the morning? A call I've literally made to my parents a million times. I know, I know, but where exactly is Tracy calling from? Well, Carol thinks it's a pay phone. And poor Carol, man, I mean, this woman has worked a double today. She is tired, probably kind of over it. So she's like five minutes. Payphone. And poor Carol, man, I mean this woman has worked a double today. She is tired, probably kind of over it.
Starting point is 00:04:08 So she's like five minutes. You can stop and say hi for five minutes and then you need to get your butts home. So Tracy, of course, I'm thinking at least did the thing that we all did as kids that now is an adult. I hate myself for doing, which is like, doling out the, I love yous and the thank yous because she got the answer that she wanted. But like, whether you have to kind of buy it or not as a parent, the I love you still feels good because you love those stinkers unconditionally.
Starting point is 00:04:36 So, Carol says I love you too before hanging up the phone. Now, headland is like 20 minutes away. So, the drive plus five minutes to say hi, which in teenage time, let's be real, it's at least 15 at least. But either way, knowing that the girls will be back anytime, Carol just goes to bed. The problem is when she wakes up in the morning,
Starting point is 00:04:57 the girls aren't there. And neither is JB's black Mazda 929. And this triggers immediate panic for Carol. But luckily she is a panicked mom with connections. She's got the local police chief, John White, on like speed dial. According to a segment on the case produced by WTVY News 4, he's a family friend having worked on the force of Tracy's biological dad before he had passed away. And I'm sure Chief White can feel Carol's desperation through the phone as she tells him
Starting point is 00:05:29 what's going on. But still, I mean, he's been in this long enough to know that most teenagers, most of them, show back up when they're good and ready. But, to be on the safe side, he has Doth and PD put out word to nearby agencies that these two teenage girls didn't come home last night. One of those agencies is the Ozark PD, which covers the Ozark Alabama. That's like 30 minutes away from where they are. And that morning at like 9.30, Ozark PD finds JB's car abandoned off a remote back
Starting point is 00:06:00 road. Both in PD sends out an officer who finds that the car is unlocked with the girl's purses and wallets inside. I mean, there's even cash in the car. But interestingly, the keys to the car are nowhere to be found. Was there anything like blood or... No sign of foul play. Which I think maybe lowers the temperature a little bit for the officers at the scene because their initial thought is like, okay, maybe the girls ditched the car for whatever
Starting point is 00:06:24 reason and they're going to be back soon. Uh, and left their purses is like, okay, maybe the girls ditched the car for whatever reason and they're gonna be back soon. Uh, and left their purses? I'm sorry, no. I know, but I mean, there is nothing else telling them that something bad happened here. I mean, they even look around the car, but nothing stands out. So the morning goes by, 9.30, 10.11.
Starting point is 00:06:39 And the girls don't just show back up at the car. So by early afternoon, chief White decides that it's time to check things out for himself. He drives out to Ozark and gets caught up with the officers on site, who by the way are still there, it's still confident that the girls are just going to show up at the car any minute. But Chief White, he's like, okay, listen, love the optimism, really do. But have you checked the trunk? They didn't check the trunk?
Starting point is 00:07:07 No, and not because they didn't think of it, they're like, well, we can't. There's no car keys. So we... Do these officers not have cars? I mean, there's a lever on the driver's side, just pull the lever. I know. Apparently you have to be the chief of police here to think of that. So they all share this kind of like light bulb moment together.
Starting point is 00:07:31 And an Ozark patrol officer hops in the front seat while everyone else gathers around the trunk. And as soon as he pulls the lever, everything they think they know changes in an instant. Just like that, their abandoned vehicle slash missing person's investigation becomes a homicide investigation, a double homicide investigation because they're in the trunk of JB's car are both girls and each had been shot in the head. This is where my crime junky brain goes, but it is where my cremjunkie brain goes. I mean, those girls had been in the trunk all morning in Alabama in July.
Starting point is 00:08:13 Yeah, he's. Yeah, there's no way around it. I mean, it's a setback for them. I mean, the Ozark Police Chief Tony Spivey even says in that same segment produced by news for, quote, basically about 14 hours that we're looking at. And the heat, of course, that expedites decomposition. And not to belabor the point, but it is like 2pm by now. They found the car at 9.30 in the morning, but no one can rewind the clock, so the only
Starting point is 00:08:40 way to move is forward. Right away, there are some notable things about the crime scene, like the expended 9mm shell casing in the trunk with the girl's bodies. Nibans been around for a solid two years at this point, so that could be huge to the investigation. Maybe they can connect the gun that killed J.B. and Tracy to other crime scenes. Maybe even to their perp when they have suspects. Another thing that they notice is that the girls are fully clothed, and there are no obvious signs of sexual assault. But they do notice something weird.
Starting point is 00:09:13 The girls' pants are muddy, and so are Tracy's shoes. Okay, but they are at a field party. I mean, I've been to field parties, like, isn't that expected? Yeah, but except when the girls' autopsies are conducted the next day, it gets even more like red flagier because, along with determining that both Tracy and J.B. were shot at intermediate range,
Starting point is 00:09:33 and that they don't appear to have been sexually assaulted like they assumed, the M.E.'s office notices that not only are the girls' pants and shoes muddy, the thing is they're still wet. Both girls are wet basically from the waist down. We're not just talking about like, oh we're in a field and like got some splatters on us and stuff. Waste down, wet and muddy.
Starting point is 00:09:54 Alvin Ben with the Montgomery Advertiser reports that when Ozark Mayor, Bob Bunting speaks to the press on August 3rd, he says that it was, quote, almost as if they had been standing in a pond. But it's weird to me that like no one noticed that until the autopsy were performed. Or maybe they did, but like the way it got reported just got dulled down, I don't know. Yeah, or like it wasn't noted properly, that's so bizarre. But I mean, what pond? Great question. I think they're thinking like, find the pond and your one step closer to answers, right?
Starting point is 00:10:27 But yeah. I don't know. My first question was like, was there a pond near this field party? To be honest, I don't know. I haven't seen that in the research, but I think that's because it ends up not mattering because it turns out when they interview the kids
Starting point is 00:10:41 from that field party where the girls were going, none of them report seeing J. seeing JB or Tracy there at all. Not before Tracy called home around 1130 and not after. So I know we assume it was a pay phone, but do we know where Tracy had called her mom from? No, I don't think her mom asked her where she was. So police don't even have a starting point other than Ozark, maybe? Right? Just because they're found there doesn't mean that's where she called from.
Starting point is 00:11:08 But they do get their first tip soon, and it points them in the right direction. A couple of women come forward to say that they had seen Tracy make the call to her mother. It turns out the girls were outside of a big little convenience store in Ozark when these like women pull up. Now the women, their plan was to run in, get a soft drink, turns out the store was closed, but while they were there in the parking lot, the girls approached them and asked for directions, which they gave them. They told them how to get back onto Highway 231, which is a straight shot through Midland
Starting point is 00:11:42 City and on to Dothin. And then they say they saw Tracy use the payphone to call her mom. So that's the call she makes where she's like, yeah, we just got directions. Did the women say anything about them being wet or muddy or dry? No. I feel like that'd be noticeable. Right, and they said nothing about that. Michelle Mayan actually reported for the Dothan Eagle that when the girls made the call,
Starting point is 00:12:02 at least according to these women, they were like perfectly fine, perfectly normal, nothing standing out. And it definitely didn't look like they'd been traipsing through any bodies of water. And no one else was there at the convenience store. Not when the women were there, no. But I think they took off before JV and Tracy did. So they can't say for sure
Starting point is 00:12:20 that no one else showed up after them. But you know what, can? The surveillance footage from the parking lot, and it does. It actually shows a white pickup truck pulling into the lot after those two women left, but in the truck, like, there's no one getting out, no one who's pumping any gas.
Starting point is 00:12:40 Okay, then I'm guessing it also doesn't show any abduction or the truck, like, leaving to follow the girl. It doesn't and I got a little caught up on this like How does it only show this and nothing else? But the only sense that I can make is that maybe the surveillance camera only covered a certain area of the parking lot Or maybe it was like a series of still shots rather than actual video. I don't know. Yeah, that would make sense So this isn't the missing piece that solves the whole puzzle, but there is no doubt that investigators are making progress.
Starting point is 00:13:12 In the coming weeks, another witness comes forward. A 28-year-old Ozark local named Johnny Barron time. According to Johnny, he'd left his house either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning to grab some milk for his kids. And while he was out, he says that he witnessed the girl's shootings. But there's a little bit of a problem with this witness. According to an interview with John Lorton in that news 4 segment, Johnny ends up giving several versions of this story as many as six different versions. And pretty soon he's no longer saying he just witnessed the shootings.
Starting point is 00:13:49 Now he's saying that he gave the shooter a ride and then the story just like keeps evolving. I bet it does. Right, so when investigators find out I'm guessing from a live-in girlfriend or wife or could be a roommate or something, I don't know. But when they find out that this little late-night milk-fetching trip had taken an hour and a half, and that apparently he was upset when he came home and then stayed up all night watching TV, they're like, okay, my man, like, jig is up. On September 1st, they take him into custody, and they charge him with two counts of capital murder. The judge refers his case to a grand jury
Starting point is 00:14:26 in order Johnny be held without bond, citing the fact that a cellmate apparently told investigators that Johnny had even confessed to the crime. That seems a little bit weird to me using like the cellmate story as the citation for the judge. I mean, they do all the time. I just don't know how much stock you can put in it. To me, this is like a very light case right now. Like, he's a witness who changed his story. We see do all the time. I just don't know how much stock you can put in it. To me, this is like a very light case right now.
Starting point is 00:14:46 Like, he's a witness who changed his story. We see that all the time. And we also see inmates snitch or flip or make stuff up all the time. Right. It just seems weird to kind of base the no bond of that, but whatever. Well, maybe not whatever,
Starting point is 00:14:59 because during this whole time, Johnny is like full on recanting everything he said, all six plus versions. Now, what he says is that all he was trying to do was cash in on the reward money because at that point, it was like, I mean, something like $29,000. So he's like, obviously, I got myself caught up in something much bigger that I didn't intend to do. I was trying to, you know, forge my way into reward money and what I ended up doing was to him forging his way into a murder charge, right, implicating himself.
Starting point is 00:15:31 But investigators aren't buying this, because they think they've got a Trump card on Johnny. You see, even though preliminary results said otherwise, it starts looking like the girls, or at least JB. We're sexually assaulted after all. Or maybe I should say at least that a sexual assault was attempted, because they ended up finding Seaman on JB's clothes. And by late October, they're able to pull a full DNA profile from the Seaman. So the judge orders Johnny to submit a sample of his own for comparative testing.
Starting point is 00:16:09 More and more, the case feels like it's lining up to be a slam dunk. But when the results come back, it throws everyone for a loop. According to what the Ozark Police Chief tells reporter Ashley Estes for the Montgomery advertiser, quote, John William Barentine is not the source of DNA found during the evidence gathering process. But then, the police chief says something unexpected. In the same breath that the chief says the DNA didn't match Johnny. He also says that the investigation isn't changing course. Um, it feels like maybe it should. Uh, yeah, especially since their whole story up to this point had been that Johnny acted
Starting point is 00:16:58 alone that night. And it's not even like he knew the girls either. Supposedly, again, according to their theory, it was just like happenstance that he ran into them. So, I mean, if it's not his DNA, but he supposedly met them randomly, killed them on his own, please explain. Yeah. I mean, they don't,
Starting point is 00:17:17 but you need more than just trust me in a court of law. I know sometimes we've seen less than that, but at least in this instance, the judge recognizes this and releases Johnny on bond in mid-December. And then in January, the grand jury declines to issue an indictment. So not long after that, the charges are dropped. So everything just kind of dissipates then. Right.
Starting point is 00:17:40 In February, the girl's case is handed off to new investigators with the Ozark PD who are also working with agents from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. And later that month, investigators traveled to Mississippi to interview a person of interest, some guy who apparently left Ozark soon after the murders, but by March, this guy's ruled out. But that same month in March, they catch wind of something else in Mississippi? There is another double homicide of two teenage girls. Amanda Wellborne and Kelsey Bullock. Go on. Well the similarities only grow. Like J.B. and Tracy, those girls had been out driving
Starting point is 00:18:22 around the night they were killed. Not super clear if they were in their own car, someone else's car, still whatever. Their bodies are found abandoned on the side of a rural road, and they both die from gunshot wounds. The big difference in their case is that law enforcement think they know exactly who's responsible for these girls' deaths. And it's two local men, 19-year-old Paul Evans Jr., an 18-year-old Nathan Townsend. And how far away is Ozark from where the girls were killed in Mississippi? I mean, it's like four and a half hours, which it's not happening in the same backyard, same suburb, whatever. Okay, but we've seen serial killers span the entire country four hours.
Starting point is 00:19:03 Right. Doesn't really mean anything. I totally agree. But we've seen serial killers span the entire country for hours. Right. Doesn't really mean anything. I totally agree. The only thing that's kind of like the catch here is that there are other little discrepancies that kind of pop up that make it seem less and less likely that the cases are connected. Like the fact that according to reporting in the Montgomery advertiser, they knew Amanda and Kelsey, but there's no evidence that they'd ever met
Starting point is 00:19:25 Jbe or Tracy. And although all four girls died from gunshot wounds, the bullets didn't come from the same gun. They weren't even from the same type of gun. So you have that tack on the distance between the crime scenes and by mid-marge investigators all but rule out a connection between the Ozark case and the Mississippi case. Do they compare the DNA though? Yeah, they do, so even though they didn't think they were connected, they still do their
Starting point is 00:19:50 due diligence and compare both guys to their sample in the Ozark case, but it comes as no great surprise when neither man is a match for this seamen found on JB. So they continue plugging away, and by the summer of 2000, they've got a pretty decent idea of what happened to JB and Tracy the summer of 2000 they've got a pretty decent idea of what happened to JB and Tracy the night they died. Still no idea who or why, but at least the when and the where are falling into place. And the theory goes like this. The girls had been forced into JB's trunk probably at gunpoint either in the big little parking lot or after someone followed them out of the parking lot.
Starting point is 00:20:26 And remember, the footage from the convenience store that night supports this theory to some extent. Okay, correct me if I'm wrong, but the parking lot feels like a way more likely abduction site. Like, how would this guy have gotten them to pull over if they had already safely left that parking lot? Well, here's the thing. I actually kind of go the other way because if the reporting on this case is correct, it says that they don't see the guy get out of his truck in the footage. So if you can see his truck surely, you'd see someone exit it, right? Even if you don't see that like anything happening to the girls. So if the theory is there in JB's car, this person would have had to get out of their
Starting point is 00:21:02 truck and wouldn't that have been mentioned. Now maybe that wasn't released, I don't know. Maybe it wasn't visible on the tape. Right, but here's the other piece that you don't have yet. There are rumors going around town that maybe someone flashed a light or potentially a badge, and got the girls, again, like to pull over or I don't know. But there's a rumors, like nothing ever officially points in that direction.
Starting point is 00:21:27 So again, without knowing more about the footage, you could be totally right that it happened there in that parking lot. Either way, Alvin Ben reports in the Montgomery advertiser that chiefs by V things that once they'd been forced into the trunk, they were driven out to a road outside of town, a road called Alabama 123 or State Road 123, which is just south of Ozark. Why that road specifically? Well, somewhere along the way, I don't know exactly when, which is why I didn't mention it sooner. A resident of that area reports having heard a chilling scene that night.
Starting point is 00:21:59 Apparently, they heard blood-curdling screams, followed by two gunshots that rang out just after midnight. Now, I don't know if they reported that then, or later, or what? I mean, we know that their car ends up being ditched somewhere else before it's ever found, so even if this person had called something in that night, if someone went out, there was probably nothing to see there, I don't know. Anyway, this is how investigators think the girls got wet and muddy. Nothing says it specifically in the source material,
Starting point is 00:22:31 but my assumption is that this area had to have had some kind of wet terrain that they'd been looking for. So they think that the killer took them to this remote spot, popped the trunk, and the girls screaming and utterly terrified took off running through the mud, through the water, through vegetation that left burrs sticking to their clothes, and somehow their killer caught them, managed to get them back to the trunk and killed them. Then he drove the Mazda back to the dump site with their bodies in the trunk and left. But if their theory is that he's in their car, how did this guy flee the scene? Well there are a couple of possibilities.
Starting point is 00:23:11 One is that an accomplice picked him up, but there's not much supporting this theory, but nothing to really disprove it either. But the other is that he just walked away into the night. And that seems likely because though the dump site is a remote area and removed from a lot of vehicle traffic, there are plenty of places within walking distance. I mean, the city center called Ozark Square is just a mile away, so dude's not exactly gonna have to rough it for a whole night or hitch a ride, if that's really what happened. So please have this theory, they just need evidence to point them to a suspect or a suspect to connect to the evidence, but they don't have anyone new on their radar.
Starting point is 00:23:54 And when the results from the databases come back, those are a bus too. There's no bullets matching there as in Nibin and no hits in the codis database when they upload their DNA profile. On the first anniversary of the girl's deaths, the family's hold of vigil, where the car was found, which is now marked by two crosses. Despite the lack of progress, when the girl's case is covered on America's most wanted in August of 2000, everyone does feel a rush of hope, investigators, the families, the entire community really. And the episode does lead to a flood of tips.
Starting point is 00:24:28 But Chief Spivy is quoted in the Montgomery advertiser as saying, most of the tips were information we already had and exhausted. And so the case sits cold for a whole other year and almost a full another. But then something happens right before the third anniversary of the crime. It's May 2002 now, and that's when another homicide victims car is found abandoned, strikingly close to where the girls were found. And when investigators determined that the suspect in that case
Starting point is 00:25:03 was familiar with the area, even had a relative living just a quarter of a mile away from the girl's dump site in July of 1999, all signs start pointing in the same direction. The suspect is a guy named Eugene Yudtse, and he'd been out on work release when he killed his cleaning crew supervisor, a woman named Melva Sue Johnston. He had dumped her body near the movie theater that his crew cleaned. So then she wasn't in the car, correct?
Starting point is 00:25:37 No, she wasn't found in a car. But there's still like enough connections that they wanna talk to this guy. But when investigators with Ozark PD and an agent from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation interview Eugene, he denies any involvement in JB and Tracy's deaths. Which, sure, I mean, take that with several large grains of salt, maybe a whole shaker.
Starting point is 00:25:59 But it's worth noting that he isn't denying his involvement in Melvus's death. But it doesn't matter, right? We don't need a confession in this case. We have DNA, and DNA doesn't lie. Eugene's DNA is compared to the profile from JB's clothes, and it is a giant letdown. No match. Just like that, another lead bites the dust.
Starting point is 00:26:24 Yet again, the case goes cold and it stays that way for years this time. From one vigil to the next the family's weight, praying for a resolution to the case, and they make that same prayer year after year for 16 more long-grueling years. In 2015 Chief Spivy officially retires and he is replaced by a new chief, named Marlos Walker. And Chief Walker doesn't waste any time getting his officers working on the department's
Starting point is 00:26:57 cold cases. In reporting for the Dothan Eagle in August of 2017, Michelle W. Forehand quotes Chief Walker as saying, When I became chief, we had four cold case files. We have solved two out of four, and I strongly believe this case will be the next case to be solved. Kickin' a**, taking names?
Starting point is 00:27:16 I love to see it, I love to see it, right? Yeah, but careful who we praise. I don't know if you know this saying, like there's no one person who's all good or all bad. I couldn't find the details, but fast forward a while, Chief Walker does end up agreeing to resign over some allegations regarding his conduct.
Starting point is 00:27:36 Again, question mark, I don't know what that all is about, but that's a few years down the line. And at this time, I think what the Chief was doing was hopefully for good. Maybe there were other motivations, but honestly time, I think what the chief was doing was hopefully for good. Maybe there were other motivations, but honestly, I just think about the families in these scenarios and they deserve answers no matter what's going on behind the scenes. And right now, chief Walker is the one who gets those answers for them. When the Golden State Killer is arrested in April of 2018 with the use of genetic genealogy,
Starting point is 00:28:04 Walker's investigators assigned to JB and Tracy's case take note. So that spring, they submit the DNA evidence from JB's clothing to Parabond Nanolabs, and then they wait. In early 2019, results come in, and it leads them straight to the man who killed the girls. A man named Koli McCraney. Koli McCool? Exactly. This is a name that wasn't ever part of the investigation. Chief Walker said that this dude had flown completely under the radar.
Starting point is 00:28:39 Oh my god. Now, when all this is happening in 2019, K Cole is a 45-year-old Air Force veteran working as a long-haul trucker and living with his wife right in Dothan. So they bring him in for questioning and ask him if he'll submit to a DNA test. Cole complies, but he completely denies knowing or ever having met JB and Tracy. And listen, Investiners aren't even showing their cards yet.
Starting point is 00:29:03 They make no mention of genetic genealogy. And when you think about it, if you weren't a crime junkie, these were early days. I don't think IGG was like dinner table conversation for most people and like most households. Oh right, so more than likely if you'd never done anything to get his DNA in the system in the first place, he probably thought he was totally in the clear. Right, which is why he's like, yes, sure, take the swab, like I'm not in codis. But what's wild is, I mean, he's right, he wasn't in codis.
Starting point is 00:29:32 But what's interesting is that around the time of the murders, he was in the middle of a paternity suit. And Lance Griffin with the Dothan Eagle reports that only the day before the murders, Cole had been ordered to submit DNA testing, which still to be clear wouldn't have ended up in codis, but Lance refers to this as quote, some unwelcome news for Cole which might be an understatement, because he basically stuck both middle fingers up and refused to give this sample.
Starting point is 00:30:04 And same thing happened when he was ordered to do it again a few months later. So the suggestion is that what he was amped up pissed off about this paternity suit, so he killed the two girls? Maybe? I mean, I don't know, but when they start looking at him, like even location wise, it all makes sense now, because Kohli lived in Ozark at the time and not just anywhere in Ozark. He lived a quick one mile walk from where the girls were found. Super convenient for Kohli.
Starting point is 00:30:33 Makes that whole like walking away from the car make a lot of sense. Yeah. What's not so convenient for Kohli though is that the direct DNA comparison comes back. But this direct comparison is a match to the semen on JB's clothes. The JB who he didn't know, but somehow his semen got her clothes. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:30:53 So they waste no time getting him fully into custody. Obviously, they couldn't run the sample like the same time they were talking to him. So he had been let go. They go track him down, pull him over in his rig in March of 2019, and officially place him under arrest on Capitol murder and rape charges. And just in a side, it is reported a lot around this time that Coli had no criminal history,
Starting point is 00:31:18 but I don't know where that is coming from because it's all right there in black and white. In 94, when he was in the Air Force he was arrested on some major DV charges including aggravated assault, assault consummated by battery upon a child under 16, unlawful detention and possession of a concealed weapon. The only sense I can make of this discrepancy is that he was prosecuted by the Air Force since the incident took place on base and everything. So maybe it never became part of his publicly available criminal records.
Starting point is 00:31:53 I don't know, but according to his wife, his first wife, not the one he's married to when he's arrested, Coli beat her with the magazine from a 9mm pistol, pulled out a chunk of her hair, and then locked her and her baby in a room and refused to let them out. Oh my God. Did you say a 9mm pistol though? I love your attention to detail. Yes I did.
Starting point is 00:32:15 So if anyone else doesn't have for its attention to detail, was the same gun that was used to kill the girls. Same kind of, right? Same kind of gun, right. The problem is it actually turns out that they're not able to say that it's the exact gun because this is I don't I can't explain this but the gun is
Starting point is 00:32:32 eventually recovered but they don't know where it is question mark but that's worse than just being able to say they can't prove that it wasn't the same gun yeah I don't know if I got lost but I do know that in his possession somehow they found the same type of ammo as the ones that match the bullet casings in the trunk with the girls. Now, Cole's case is eventually referred to the grand jury and he's held without bond at the Dale County jail in the meantime. In June of 2019, the grand jury indites him on five counts of capital murder and in August he enters a plea of not guilty. In October, the court sets a trial date for February 2020, then Coli's defense attorney
Starting point is 00:33:10 says, you know what, spring 2020 is more likely, until of course, it's not. I was just about to say, like, timing wise, this doesn't look good. And of all the things the pandemic took from us, like justice really pisses me off. I feel like it happens in every genetic genealogy case. Like the timing, it's like a cosmic joke. We get this new tool, it becomes widely used, but at the time these smaller departments get wind of it, start using it in their cases,
Starting point is 00:33:39 getting their family trees built, arrests are made, makes its way all the way to like a trial date, pandemic. We have, we've been seeing this in, I mean, almost every genetic genealogy case unless the person pled guilty, but that's because it was all happening at the same time. To your point, it felt like a little bit of a cosmic joke
Starting point is 00:33:57 because we're like, finally, something we've waited for for decades, in most cases, and then, oh crap. And truly, that was just the start of the problems in these legal proceedings. The trial is eventually rescheduled for August of 2022, but the judge is forced to delay it yet again when the pool of qualified jurors
Starting point is 00:34:17 is too small to proceed. So it feels like there's like, for the poor families, there's all this hurry up and waiting, kind of thing. Aaron Dixon with local ABC affiliate WDHN reports that in March of 2023, prosecutors and defense attorneys battle over whether the judge should issue an order prohibiting the death penalty without a unanimous sentencing verdict. The judge ends up denying that defense request, and after one final pre-trial hearing in April, the case finally heads to trial, which commences on April 19, 2023.
Starting point is 00:34:51 But even the start of the trial gets delayed by a couple of hours when one of the jurors just doesn't show up. So instead of proceeding with 12 jurors and two alternates, the trial moves forward just one alternate. Now during the defense's opening statement, Cole's attorney argues that the semen was really no big deal because Cole had been a player back in 1999. And in this telling, they met in a parking lot of the big little store and the girls said that they were lost, somehow getting directions turned into a rendezvous where they all hung out and Koli and JB had sex.
Starting point is 00:35:27 No. No. Koli's wife, Jeanette, testifies on his behalf claiming that Koli got home that night at around 12.45 a.m., saying that his car had broken down at a nearby store. So if you're getting this, he's showing up at home without his car. In the whole time, she's weirdly insistent that it for sure wasn't later than 12.45 because she wouldn't have let him in if it had been 1am. Okay.
Starting point is 00:35:52 So I'm guessing that the defense is trying to rebut the prosecution's timeline, but it seems like a strange hill to remember being willing to die on 24 years later. Right, I'm like, did you turn into a pumpkin at 1 a.m.? Yeah. I'm confused. Is the prosecution's theory that it was coley on the security cameras, like driving into the big little store that night?
Starting point is 00:36:13 Yeah, I think so. Again, I've never seen it reported specifically that that's the case, but like, that's the inference I get. Now, in a move you don't see all the time, coley takes the stand at his trial trial and he gives an interesting story. According to him, he and JB weren't strangers after all. Again, first interview with cops, never seen them, never met them. Now, they're not strangers.
Starting point is 00:36:38 His story now is that they met at the Dothin Mall in June of 1999. They chatted, he gave her his mom's phone number, which isn't even where he lived at that time, but whatever. And then, Coli says that on July 31, JB called and they made plans to meet at the big little store at 10 p.m. Oh, sure, Jan. Right, which is like, they're there because they're lost,
Starting point is 00:36:59 like, that does not even make sense. Now, he says that she wasn't there when he got there at 10, but as luck would have it, later that night, Koli had car trouble on his way home, right in front of the big little store and he pulled in the parking lot, recognized JB, asked if they'd give him a ride,
Starting point is 00:37:16 says he could show them a shortcut to get to 2.31. Oh, which they already knew how to get back to. Mm-hmm, because the women had given them directions. And he says, somehow they end up in his rig, which he had parked at a Texaco parking lot when he wasn't on the road. So this isn't the same white truck. Again, it's like all messy. But he says he offers to give them a tour of his rig.
Starting point is 00:37:38 Who wants that? They hopped inside, sex was supposedly had. The girls dropped him off nearby at his house at 12.45, and then off they went into the dark, dark night to meet whoever... I'm sorry, no. Jury feels the same. On April 25th, they come back with their verdict, guilty on all counts. Which by the way, are now four counts of capital murder instead of five, because the judge
Starting point is 00:38:00 determined that one of the charges was just a duplicate. But I don't know that that even matters. Just a few days later, the jury recommends a sentence of life without parole, and then on June 15th, that is the sentence the judge imposes. It took 23 long years, but the prayers of the girl's families are finally answered. They'll never get to hug their girls again. Didn't get to see them graduate, will never send them off to college or walk them down the aisle, won't get to meet the grandchildren
Starting point is 00:38:30 that they should have gotten to watch grow up. But at least, at long last, it's over. Ever since talking to Sarah Turnie after her sister's trial, I hope other families feel what she felt. She didn't even get a win, but she got a sense that she could breathe again, that every day wasn't in uphill battle where she had to wage war. She felt lighter, she said. And I never liked closure, and we don't always get justice. But I hope that the burden for their families is lighter. And I hope we all remember that it's never too late to help lighten a family's burden.
Starting point is 00:39:19 You can find all the source material for this episode on our website, And be sure to follow us on Instagram at And be sure to follow us on Instagram at crimejunkypodcast. We'll be back next week with a brand new episode, but stick around for a little bit of good. I think it's time to hear some good-ass. I know, and I'm excited. I usually get a little peek at these first, but I'm going and blind today, so. So, fun.
Starting point is 00:40:04 So, this is a submission from our website, and I'm just going usually get to peek at these first but I'm going and blind today, so so fun. So this is a submission from our website and I'm just gonna let it speak for itself. Hi, AudioTruck friends, my name is Isabel. I'm a long time listener and fellow crime junkie. I wanted to write to you today to express my gratitude for all that you've done, for countless families as you share their loved ones' stories and bring light to some of the injustices they've had to face alone. Because of you, they have the love and support of your listeners and the true crime community. Believe it or not, all of you at AudioTruck helped inspire the creation of a new non-profit, but I am founder and president of, called Genealogy for Justice. Now, stick with me for a moment, so I can tell you about how we came to be. In the summer of 2021, my mom was assigned a grant that you made to the company she worked for
Starting point is 00:40:48 to a case of an unidentified male and female found together in Houston in 1981. Soon, Dean and Tina Lynn Klaus had their names back because of the grant that crime junkie and other audio check listeners made possible. This grant changed the lives of Dean and Tina's surviving families forever. Not only did they get news about Dean and Tina that they'd waited decades to hear, by getting these answers, they realized the couple's daughter wasn't found with them when they were killed. The second blessing of the audio check grant was the miraculous discovery of their daughter,
Starting point is 00:41:22 Holly Marie, alive and well after 40 years of being missing from those who loved her. Upon finding Holly, Dean and Tina's family established the Dean and Tina Lynn-Claus Memorial Fund with FHD forensics. Genealogy for justice was established to help manage that fund and do advocacy work with the surviving families of cold case victims. Now, thanks to the seeds planted by your generosity, we have helped fund DNA sequencing and genetic genealogy investigations for three other unidentified remains cases. Just look at the good we've been able to do with the support of audio check,
Starting point is 00:41:57 crime jockey, and its listeners. And this is only the beginning. And Isabelle then added a link to Genealogy for Justice, which we will have in our show notes. I think this is amazing because this is like, I think like the ultimate goal. It's like, yeah, I want our listeners to go act, but then to build something else
Starting point is 00:42:16 that's gonna go on and do so much good, it's amazing. I love it and it's so funny. Someone asked me, there was another nonprofit that did funding for Genealogy and DNA testing, and they're like, oh, that's what season of justice says. I was like, that's not competition, that's like teamwork. Yeah, I was like, I hope a hundred nonprofits
Starting point is 00:42:34 like this are made and can provide funding because yeah, there shouldn't be one or two or 10, there should be all of that. Until there are no more cold cases. Exactly. So this is the absolute like a pit ofome of why we do what we do. Yeah. I love this one.
Starting point is 00:42:49 Good on you, Isabel. Congratulations. I wish you all the success in the world with a nonprofit. And I hope you go on to solve all the cold cases too and give everyone their names back. Crime junkie is an audio check production. So what do you think, Chuck? Do you approve?
Starting point is 00:43:04 Crime junkie is an audio-check production. So, what do you think, Chuck? Do you approve?

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