Grand jury clears murder suspect

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 11, 2000

Staff Writer

Jan. 10, 2000 11 PM

OZARK – The man charged with the August killing a Troy businessman’s daughter and her friend went home free Monday when a grand jury issued a "no-bill" which falls short of an indictment.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

According to reports, a Dale County grand jury issued the "no bill" on the murder charge that was filed against Johnny William Barrentine, 28, of Ozark. The Dale County’s Circuit Clerk’s office said the grand jury’s report contained no other information about the murders, which are considered to be unsolved.

The decision means that Barrentine has been cleared of the capital murder charges against him as the result of the shooting deaths of high school seniors J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett.

The investigation into Barrentine hit a stumbling block in late 1999 when DNA evidence recovered from the crime scene – Beasley’s car – failed to match DNA samples supplied by Barrentine. According to reports, semen recovered at the scene of the crime did not match Barrentine’s DNA.

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

The girls were discovered in the trunk of Beasley’s car on Aug. 1near the Ozark Police Station. Each one died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

Police arrested Barrentine after he told them he saw a neighbor shoot the girls and failed to provide them with enough information to make an arrest. He also told them contradictory stories about his whereabouts on the night of the murders. He has since admitted that he lied about the indicent in an attempt to claim the $29,000 reward.

At a press conference in September when Barrentine’s arrest was announced, Ozark Police Chief Tony R. Spivey said police were confident they had arrested the right man. Now they must continue in their investigation.

Barrentine’s mother Faye Barrentine attended that press conference and said, "My son didn’t do this." "He has a two-year-old son, and he is not capable of doing anything to hurt a child," she said.

She said family members want the murders to be solved but did not think Barrentine was guilty.

Although police made an arrest in the case, they never ruled out other potential suspects.

Spivey 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.

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 Beasley 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 as a motive because the girls’ purses were in the car. A preliminary autopsy showed they had not been sexually assaulted.