Law enforcement officers must move forward to resolve Ozark murders

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 19, 1999

Dec. 18, 1999 10 PM

Several months after the senseless slayings of two young girls who were found in Ozark, law enforcement officials don’t seem to a good idea of who could have been responsible for the murders.

An arrest was made, but DNA evidence seems to rule out the suspect who remains in custody.

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While we are happy for Michael Barrentine and his family, we are a little troubled as well. These murders have not been solved, leaving lingering doubts in the minds of many people that a killer is still roaming the area. And even more troubling is that without a suspect in the case who can be linked to the murders, it will be difficult for law enforcement officials to establish a motive. This may mean that the killer or killers in this case may kill again.

Nothing has been reported linking the murders to other murders, which makes it seem likely that the two girls were not the victim of a wandering serial killer.

Again, the question is raised, "Who did this and why?".

Without an answer, none of us can be sure that we are safe or that our children are safe. The parents of the two teenagers never fathomed that when their daughters left to go to a party that they would never see them alive again.

These are troubling issues to face. In rural Alabama, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security that makes us feel that murders happen elsewhere and not here. We often feel safe when we go shopping or leave home to visit friends. The shocking nature of these brutal slayings is riveting.

Bringing the issue close to home for Pike County residents is the fact that the girls were murdered in a neighboring county and that the father of one of the girls is a Troy resident.

We support law enforcement endeavors to resolve this case and we understand that evidence is necessary to establish suspects in a case.

Still, we fear that the energy behind this case led to political pressure for law enforcement officers to make an arrest which turned out to be, at least from recent reports, fruitless.

Until this case is solved, many people – particularly the loved ones of the two victims – feel as if nothing is sacred or safe.

We encourage officials who are working this case to move forward and let Barrentine go if he cannot be linked to the crime. A bad alibi is not enough evidence to imprison a man for two brutal slayings when the evidence found at the scene fails to implicate him in any way.

It’s time to set aside politics and egos in the name of resolving this case. The person or persons responsible must be found and brought to justice for this crime. Until that happens, troubling questions linger in our minds.

We hope law enforcement officers move on from where they are and let the facts of this case serve to help find the guilty and exonerate the innocent.