Arrest made in

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 3, 1999

Ozark murders

By MICHELLE J. WILSON

Staff Writer

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Published Sept. 3, 1999

OZARK – An Ozark man has been arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in connection with the Aug. 1 slayings of two teenaged girls.

Johnny William Barrentine, 28, of 110 Young Ave., Ozark, was arrested at about 9 a.m. Wednesday, said Ozark Police Chief Tony R. Spivey at a press conference here Thursday morning.

Barrentine is charged with the murders of Tracie Jean Hawlett and J.B. Hilton Beasely, both of Dothan. The 17-year-old Northview High School seniors were found shot to death in the trunk of Beasely’s car on the afternoon of Aug. 1. The suspect lives within walking distance of where the girls’ bodies were found, Spivey said.

Beasely was the daughter of Lanier Beasely, who owns Ed’s Barber and Style Shop in downtown Troy.

Barrentine is being held in the Dale County Jail without bond, Spivey said. He had an initial hearing Thursday.

The arrest was made by officers of the Ozark Police Department in conjunction with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI) and the Dale County Sherriff’s Department, he said.

Barrentine’s arrest resulted from information gathered by investigators Tuesday, Spivey said. He refused to comment on the nature of the information due to the ongoing investigation.

The suspect was questioned by officers at the Ozark Police Department Wednesday, and his arrest followed that interview, he said.

Barrentine’s mother Faye Barrentine attended the press conference at which her son’s arrest was announced. She sobbed loudly when details of his arrest were announced.

"My son didn’t do this," she said. "He has a two-year-old son, and he is not capable of doing anything to hurt a child."

She said the suspect’s family members want the murders to be solved but do not think Barrentine is guilty of them.

Spivey said officers were being cautious about releasing much information about what led to Barrentine’s arrest because they do not want to jeopardize the continuing investigation.

He did say the murder weapon has not been found, and the offer of some $35,000 in reward money did not lead to the arrest.

Investigators are still trying to establish a motive, Spivey said. They believe they have a possible motive but would not release it due to the continuing investigation.

"We are very confident in this development and arrest but still have a lot of information to go through," Spivey said. "Our investigation is not anywhere near complete."

Although police have made an arrest in the case, they have not ruled out other potential suspects, he said. Police are still looking for information to explain the more than a 14-hour gap in the time the girls were last seen at an Ozark store until their bodies were found around 1 p.m. Aug. 1.

Ozark Police are also waiting for reports from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences tests.

Police are still searching for the key ring taken from Beasely’s car. It is described as having white blocks with black letters that have a heart on one and spell out "Hard2Get." The key chain, which contains the car’s keys was the only thing missing from Beasely’s car.

They ask anyone with information about the crimes to call the 24-hour hotline at 1-888-538-3555, Ozark police at 334-774-5111 or Dale County Crime Stoppers at 334-774-999. Some $35,000 in rewards is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the murders. Calls to the police will be kept confidential.

According to police reports, each girl had been shot once in the head. The car was found abandoned on Herring Avenue in Ozark, near the city’s police department.

The girls were last seen at a Big/Little Store in Ozark around 11:30 p.m. on July 31, witnesses said.

Earlier that night, Hawlett left work shortly after 9 p.m. She and Beasely planned to attend a field party in Haleburg, but police have not confirmed they ever made it there. It was around 11:30 p.m. when two women saw the girls at the Big/Little store on East Broad Street in Ozark. The girls asked directions to U.S. Highway 231, then Hawlett telephoned her mother to say they had been lost in Ozark but were on their way home.

Robbery was ruled out because the girls’ purses were in the car. A preliminary autopsy showed they had not been sexually assaulted.

"This investigation has been long and very trying," Spivey said. "All the law enforcement agencies involved have worked continuous hours around the clock searching for answers."

He expressed his sincere appreciation to those officers, the public and the media for their support.

During the investigation, the Ozark Police were assisted by the ABI, Alabama State Troopers, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dale County Sherriff’s Department, Daleville Department of Public Safety, Wiregrass Violent Crime/Drug Task Force, FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, Dothan Police Department, Houston County Sherriff’s Department, Alabama Department of Game and Fish, Dale County District Attorneys Office and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. Many other law enforcement agencies, including the Troy Police Department, offered to help in the investigation.