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August 8, 2022

Alabama woman admits she was lying about police involvement in teen murders

A woman whose claims about police being involved in the decades-old killings of two Alabama teens found dead in a car trunk fueled a social media frenzy several years ago now says she was lying the whole time.

Rena Crumb, 53, recanted her allegations Thursday as she testified during a hearing for an Alabama trucker awaiting trial on capital murder charges in the slayings of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett, WTVY-TV reported. The victims were both 17 when they were shot to death in southeast Alabama and left in a car trunk in 1999.

The defense hoped Crumb’s testimony about police wrongdoing could help clear their client. But after repeatedly saying she couldn’t recall certain things, Crumb blurted out: “I lied.”

Coley McCraney, 48, was arrested in the killings in 2019, or about four years after a blogger in southeast Alabama reported Crumb’s claims that police higher-ups had covered up an officer’s involvement in the slayings. The allegations blew up on “true crime” websites and social media, leading to a defamation lawsuit against Crumb and others that was dismissed in 2018 after the blogger filed for bankruptcy.

Authorities have said DNA evidence led to the arrest of McCraney, who has pleaded not guilty in the slayings and to a charge that he raped one of the victims.

McCraney’s defense asked a judge to let them present evidence that someone else killed the two, leading to the hearing in which Crumb, under questioning, said she hadn’t told the truth. The officer who Crumb had accused took the stand and denied his involvement, as did an investigator who questioned Crumb earlier this year.

Defense attorney David Harrison suggested that Crumb was threatened to change her story.

Crumb, a one-time volunteer with the Ozark Police Department, did not respond to a Facebook message sent Friday seeking comment. Crumb received a suspended sentence and a $250 fine in 2016 after being convicted for harassing a sister of Beasley, Jacqui Burgoon, records show.

Dale County Circuit Judge William Filmore didn’t immediately rule on what testimony jurors would be allowed to hear at McCraney’s trial, set to begin Aug. 15. Defense lawyers asked the judge to prevent jurors from considering any evidence collected from the car where the bodies were discovered, saying the car has been crushed and is no longer available, preventing them from inspecting it.

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