A DNA match found during genealogy tests led to the arrest of a truck driver preacher in the murder of two teenage girls who were found dead by gunfire in the trunk of a car almost 20 years ago. (March 18th)

A preacher driving a truck was accused of killing two teenagers from Alabama almost 20 years ago, after a DNA match related to the murders.

Police said they had analyzed the genetic genealogy and compared the evidence in a freezer to Coley McCraney, 45, of Dothan, Alabama. He could be sentenced to death for murder and rape.

Tracie Hawlett and JB Beasley, both 17, never went to a party after leaving Dothan on the night of July 3, 1999. They were found the next day with gunshot wounds to the head in the trunk. from the Beasley Mazda to Ozark, about miles southeast of Montgomery.

The news of McCraney's arrest surprised Hawlett's mother, Carol Roberts.

"God gave it to me," said Roberts, "He was not allowed to do that, I just want to know why."

McCraney, who recently preached in his own church, is cooperating with the authorities, said defense lawyer David Harrison.

"My thoughts are with the families of the victims," ​​said Harrison. "It's a tragedy. We do not need to do three tragedies by condemning him. "

McCraney's lawyer stated that his client was an exceptional member of the community with his grandchildren. He worked as a truck driver for several companies. The chief of the Ozark Police, Marlos Walker, said he was surprised that the evidence revealed to McCraney that he had known after living in the same city.

The killings have changed the community, said Sherry Gilland, who feared letting her daughter bike or walk away from home after the tragedy.

"It's a cloud over the city, but it's up now," she said.

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McCraney does not have a criminal record, said Alabama's Attorney General, Steve Marshall, and was not a suspect before DNA testing. Police sent evidence to Parabon NanoLabs for DNA testing, Walker said, after genetic technologies revealed the case of the Golden State Killer in California last year.

Less than a month after the murders, the court documents show that a judge ordered McCraney to undergo DNA testing because a woman claimed that he was the father of his daughter. McCraney did not submit a sample at that time.

But at least one of McCraney's family members has voluntarily sent DNA included in a genealogy database called GEDmatch, said CeCe Moore, chief genealogist of genetics at Parabon NanoLabs. This helped to identify McCraney as the murderer and separate genetic tests compared it to the evidence presented in the case.

District Attorney Kirke Adams said he was asking for the death penalty, adding that the numerous death penalty charges against McCraney include the murder of Beasley during a rape.

"Today, all those who have sought justice for Tracie Hawlett and J. B. Beasley, including all Wiregrass residents, are about to close the proceedings in this long and painful case," said the Attorney General.

While defense attorney said he was concerned that McCraney would get a fair trial, Hawlett said she still remembers her last conversation with her daughter. She called to find out if Beasley could spend the night after the party, it was for Beasley's birthday.

"The last words of his lips were," Mom, I love you, "Roberts said. "The last words of my mouth for her were:" I love you. ""

Contribute: The Associated Press

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