Loved ones continue search for answers following 15-year-old crime
Some anniversaries are never meant to be celebrated.
Just ask any of the countless friends and family members of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett, two 17-year-old young women whose deaths have puzzled local residents for nearly 15 years.
Beasley, daughter of Petrey resident Lanier Beasley, and her friend, Hawlett, were found shot to death inside the trunk of Beasley’s 1993 Mazda on Aug. 1, 1999, which was found parked on Herring Street in Ozark.
For all of the questions surrounding how or why the incident came to be, the details leading up to the event are well documented.
The Northview High School seniors were on the way to a field party in honor of Beasley’s 17th birthday on the eve of July 31, but the pair never made it to their destination.
Beasley and Hawlett found themselves lost in Ozark where they encountered a woman and her daughter at a gas station—the last people to see the pair alive—at approximately 11:30 p.m.
The girls received directions to U.S. Highway 31, which would take them 20 miles southeast to their destination.
But Ozark police found the car the next morning with no clear signs of foul play until they received a missing persons report for the girls.
It was then that the police opened the trunk and found the girls, both of which head suffered one shot in the face at close range from a 9 mm pistol.
A number of questionable items were left at the scene, including Beasley’s license that was found on the dashboard, but perhaps the missing items—Beasley’s keys and key chain, which had a series of block letters that read “Hard2get,” as well as the pistol—raise the most concern.
Fifteen years later and the families are still no closer to solving the crime.
“It tears me up,” said Jacqui Burgoon, Beasley’s sister.
“I am still shocked after 15 years that something like this happened here.”
But Beasley and Hawlett’s loved ones have never stopped the search for answers, with police chasing leads across the country and even resorting to America’s Most Wanted for aid, though neither avenue has shed any further light on the case.
Others have made smaller but no less meaningful efforts to keep Beasley and Hawlett’s memory alive, including the Justice for J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett Facebook group, which is current sitting at more than 900 members.
The community shares information pertaining to the case, as well as photos and memories of Beasley and Hawlett.
An annual vigil is also held at the couple’s crosses on Herring Avenue.
The gathering consists of not only family members and friends, but also complete strangers.
Even in passing, the girls continue to make an indelible influence on the lives of many.
“Our families do it on the same day every year to remember them, so this year we’ve had a couple of people say they felt like we needed to pray—involve the community,” Burgoon said.
“We want everyone that knows them, heard of them or have no connection but have followed the case, to join us.”
Despite the dour circumstances, the families are hopeful that the truth will come to light eventually.
But it won’t be without the aid and courage of the surrounding community.
“Someone out there knows who did this to my sister and Tracie,” Burgoon added.
“Please don’t let fear keep you from doing the right thing. The person(s) who committed this awful act needs to be off the streets. If anyone has any information at all regarding this case, please contact Ozark Police Department. J.B. and Tracie deserve Justice.”
This year’s vigil is set for Thursday, July 31 at 7 p.m.