Mike Roberts, stepfather of Tracie Hawlett, who was found murdered along with her friend J.B. Beasley in Ozark in 1999, tried to explain Monday what it has been like to live in limbo.
"We haven't slept a whole night in almost 20 years," said Roberts, who, along with wife Carol have helped keep the case alive through yearly vigils and public comments. "We've been through pure hell the last 20 years."
The Robertses heard about the imminent arrest of Coley McCraney Friday, when Ozark Police Chief Marlos Walker called them in.
"We've been called in a lot of times," Mike Roberts said. "So we weren't sure what was going to be said."
Although an arrest has now been made, it marks the beginning of a long process to determine guilt or innocence for McCraney.
"I know we are going to have to relive this all over again, but I'm ready to relive it to put somebody behind bars," Mike Roberts said.
Dale County District attorney Kirke Adams said Monday he plans to give the victims a voice during upcoming court hearings.
“I want the families of these two victims to know this is just the beginning,”Adams said. “We have a long way to go, but I will be their voice during all court proceedings. Ten years ago, I made up my mind to seek the death penalty in this case, and that is what I am going to do.”
Friday evening, Ozark Police arrested Coley McCraney, 45, of Dothan, and charged him with five counts of capital murder and one count of rape.
Carol Robert said she supports Adams' decision to seek the death penalty in the case.
“I want this man to get the death penalty for what he done to Tracie and J.B.,” she said. “These girls did not deserve this. I haven’t had any sleep since I got the news about this arrest. I want to see justice happen for these two girls.”
Mike Roberts echoed his wife's sentiments.
"He's done lived 20 years free," he said. "I support the death penalty."
Almost 20 years after the two teens were slain, Carol Roberts was stunned by news of the arrest.
“I can honestly say I was shocked and numb all over,” Roberts said. “We have waited for so long and now it has finally happened. He took a part of me away, but I want justice served and I want that served by him getting the death penalty.”
During the 18th anniversary of the girls’ deaths, Roberts recalled the last thing her daughter said to her.
“I take comfort in the fact knowing the last thing my daughter had to say to me was ‘I love you’,” Roberts said. “So many times those words are not the last words heard. I have had to face the fact my daughter’s murder may never be solved. But, while facing that fact, I have seen and realized just what a gift I did have by the Lord giving me Tracie. She wasn’t with me as long as I would have wanted her to be. But the years I did have her, she was my joy. I lost Tracie’s’ father when she was four and I thought that was the most horrible thing I would ever have to go through. I was wrong.”
Roberts said she would be at every court preceding held concerning the murder of Tracie and J. B. “I am going to be my daughter’s voice.”
She already knows what she will say to McCraney if given the opportunity.
"I just want to look him in the eye and ask him why," she said. "I don't think that is too much to ask for."
Members of the Beasley family present at Monday's press conference declined to comment on the arrest.