I've been researching unsolved homicides that could possibly be connected to the Beasley-Hawlett murders. While J.B. and Tracie may or may not have been the first victims of their killer, I believe there's a very strong likelihood that their killer did not stop killing after murdering the girls. And, as no similar crimes have been committed in southeast Alabama in the years since, the killer must have moved on.
The Daytona Beach Serial Killer first caught my eye as a possible connection based simply on geography and time frame. From there I discovered many more points of interest that strengthened the theory that J.B. and Tracie could have been murdered by the DBSK. Here's what I've found so far; points of interest to the Beasley-Hawlett murders are bolded:
THE DAYTONA BEACH SERIAL KILLER: FOUR MURDERS
Between December 2005 and December 2007, four women were found murdered in Daytona Beach, Florida:
1. Laquetta Gunther, 45, was found in an alley on December 26, 2005. She had been shot once in the head, execution-style. The killer's DNA was recovered from the scene. No attempt was made by the killer to conceal the body.
2. Julie Green, 34, was found on January 14, 2006. She had been shot once in the head, execution-style. Though no DNA was found at the scene, no attempt was made to conceal the body. Tire tracks belonging to a 2003 Ford Taurus or Mercury Sable were found at the scene. Investigators later located the exact tires that had left the tracks.
3. Iwana Patton, 35, was found on a dirt road on February 24, 2006. She had been shot once in the head, execution-style. It appears she may have struggled with her killer. No attempt was made to conceal the body. DNA was recovered from the scene and was later found to be a match to the DNA recovered from the scene of the Laquetta Gunther murder. A shell casing was recovered from the scene that allowed investigators to identify the make and model of pistol used. Ballistics linked the weapon to the Gunther and Green murders.
Although a 9mm was used in the Beasley-Hawlett murders and the weapon used in these three murders was found to be a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson Sigma Series VE, this discovery immediately led LE to wonder if the murders had been committed by a police officer or a former police officer. (More on this below.)
4. Stacey Charlene Gage, 30, was found January 2, 2008. Authorities believed she had been killed about three weeks earlier, on December 11, 2007. She had been shot once in the head, execution-style. Immediately investigators noticed that circumstances surrounding the Gage murder were "eerily similar" to the unsolved Gunther-Green-Patton homicides. A year later, on January 23, 2008, authorities formally announced that Stacey Charlene Gage had indeed been murdered by the same man who killed Gunther, Green, and Patton.
Gunther, Green, and Patton were believed by law enforcement to have worked as prostitutes in the Daytona Beach area. The discovery of a link between the Gage murder and those of Gunther, Green, and Patton brought investigators to a new conclusion: because Gage had no criminal record involving prostitution but she did have a history of drug problems, authorities now believed that what linked the victims was more than likely the fact that they were all vulnerable and may have voluntarily accompanied their killer, possibly in a vehicle. (For more on this, see killer's profile below.)
THE I-10 CONNECTION
The four linked murders detailed above are among 28 unsolved homicides in Florida alone that have been connected to serial killings by the FBI. The Bureau suspects that many or all of these murders may have been committed by long-haul truckers. An astounding 19 of these murders occurred along Interstate 4 between Tampa and Daytona Beach, a distance of only 140 miles.
With this I-4 fact in mind, I wanted to check for any popular trucking routes that might lead a trucker to the Dothan/Ozark area. The most obvious link was Interstate 10, the southernmost transcontinental highway in the U.S., stretching from Jacksonville, FL to Santa Monica, CA.
The first interesting fact I discovered is that most of I-10 in Florida travels through some of the least-populated areas in the state. This led me to think that perhaps a long-haul trucker/serial killer might really favor this particular stretch of I-10, which would have no shortage of remote, isolated spots.
That's when I noticed that, traveling along I-10, exactly between Marianna, FL and Chipley, FL, I-10 is intersected by U.S. 231, the same route J.B. and Tracie left the Big/Little Store in search of on the night of July 31, 1999. Roughly 40 minutes north of the Florida intersection of I-10 and U.S. 231 lies Dothan, Alabama — hometown of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett. Continue following 231 north for another 20 minutes and you will find yourself in a rural, isolated area with a low population: Ozark.
THE KILLER'S PROFILE
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the profile of the DBSK, as generated by profiler Tom Davis, is as follows (all points of interest to the Beasley-Hawlett case bolded):
- Probably in a dysfunctional relationship with a woman.
- Has little control over the relationship, which may be the catalyst for his
- Victims were chosen at random.
- Victims are a substitute for a close female interest.
- Most likely clean-cut man who is employed.
- Articulate and well-groomed.
- May seem "normal."
- Good social and verbal skills.
- May also have a volatile temper.
- Average guy from an average neighborhood.
- The killer is said to seek out "substitute victims" in order to relive his rage. He seeks out women from whom he can easily gain confidence. These are women from "high-risk" lifestyles. The murderer made no apparent attempt to hide the bodies, suggesting that he did not plan the disposal of his victim, opting instead to leave them in the area of his attacks.
Among several specific one-time persons of interest who have since been ruled out, I found two parties included on lists of potential suspects in the Daytona Beach killings especially alarming in light of the details of the Beasley-Hawlett case:
- Law Enforcement Impersonators. The fact that J.B. Beasley's driver's side window was down and her driver's license was on the dashboard when her car was found points to the killer being a police officer or someone posing as a police officer.
- Man in a Truck. Reporters from WESH 2 News spoke to a woman who said she was walking down the street in January of 2006 when a truck pulled up next to her. "He pulled over. I thought he was going to ask a question, but he pulled a gun on me and says, 'Get in,'" Nelita Ramos said. She said that she was taken to an alley on Beach Street where the man put the gun to her head. The man reportedly told Ramos she was going to die. After a few hours, during which she begged for her life, Ramos was let go.
Two strong theories held by investigators in the case of the DBSK are of particular interest when looking for connections to the Beasley-Hawlett murders:
- The killer is law enforcement or former law enforcement. The Daytona Beach News Journal
ran a story on March 22, 2006, in reference to the (at that time) three unsolved
murders. The story included the following:
Talk around the city that a former cop is the serial killer behind the unsolved murders of three women is not farfetched, a Daytona Beach police captain said Tuesday. "All theories are open right now, including that it could be a former cop," said Capt. Brian Skipper, who oversees the detectives involved in the investigation. "It could be anybody, from any department, from any city."
Many of the area law enforcement agencies issue a .40 caliber weapon to their officers.
- The killer is an out-of-towner. Iwana Patton, the third victim, was killed on February 24th, 2006. Stacey Gage was killed approximately (according to pathologists) December 11, 2007. That is nearly two years between the third and fourth victims. Could the killer have been a visitor to Daytona Beach?
Ozark-Daytona Beach: Did a serial killer roaming the
Southeastern U.S. cross paths with J.B. and Tracie?
Southeastern U.S. cross paths with J.B. and Tracie?
THE MILITARY/LE CONNECTION
Law enforcement officers with a military background are common. Were any of the officers working in or around the Daytona Beach area between 2005-2008 former military who were stationed at Fort Rucker in the summer of 1999, when J.B. and Tracie were murdered?
Fort Rucker is 10 minutes from Ozark.
THE "TWO LOCATIONS" CONNECTION
The following is from the March 23, 2006 NBC News article "Daytona Beach Serial Killer Set to Strike Again?" written by Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler:
Evidently the killer made no significant attempt to conceal the bodies. This suggests that he simply wanted to separate himself from his victims, with no well thought-out or previously identified body disposal site that he could use to make identification of the victims more difficult for the authorities. As all three victims were shot, it would appear that the killer felt safe in discharging a firearm, perhaps multiple times, into the victims without being seen or heard. This further suggests that he could have killed the victims in a location different from where their bodies were found.
Important Note: Ozark police confirmed from the beginning of their investigation that J.B. and Tracie were killed in one (unknown) location, then moved to where they were found on Herring Avenue.
MORE POSSIBLE LINKS
Here are some further points of interest I've discovered in researching a possible connection between the Daytona Beach Serial Killer and the Beasley-Hawlett murders:
- A television news report on the Daytona Beach killings noted that all four
known victims of the DBSK were found in the city, but in remote locations.
J.B. and Tracie were found in the city of Ozark, but in a remote
- DBSK Victim #4 Stacey Gage was last seen driving just before midnight.
She had gone out to get some ice at a convenience store. J.B. and Tracie
were last seen driving away from a convenience store shortly before
- It was noted by Daytona Beach authorities that, based on the locations the four
bodies were found, the DBSK had to have been "very familiar" with Daytona Beach.
Similarly, the fact that J.B. and Tracie were found on Herring Avenue led Ozark
LE to believe the girls' killer was either a local or someone very familiar with
- Below are photographs of the four known victims of the DBSK. Based on these photographs it does not appear the DBSK has a specific victim type. Also supporting this is the fact that the victims' ages range from 30 to 45 years old. Thus there is nothing to suggest that J.B. and Tracie fell outside a particular appearance type preferred by the DBSK, as there is none. And while the girls were only 17 when they were murdered, the DBSK himself would've been 6-8 years younger in 1999.
Clockwise from top left: Stacey Gage (30), Laquetta
Gunther (45), Iwana Patton (35), Julie Green (34)