CBS’s ’48 Hours: The 30-Year Secret – The Tracey Harris Murder,’ as the title suggests, is an episode that examines how the brutal 1990 slaying of Tracey Harris, an Ozark, Alabama, native, was solved three decades after it transpired when a witness revealed a secret that baffled the local community to its core. With aspects like deception, betrayal, loyalty, and alleged abuse marking every step of this case, it is a matter that changed the course of life and nature for several people. So now, if you’re curious to know all the details, you’ve come to the right place.
How Did Tracey Harris Die?
Tracey Harris, a 22-year-old mother of a young daughter, resided with Carl Harris, 25, in a beautiful home in Ozark, where they had started a life for themselves. Even though the once-married couple had divorced, they continued to live together as Tracey wanted their family to remain that way; she wanted their daughter to have both parents by her side no matter what.
Unfortunately, though, that took a turn on March 7, 1990, when Tracey vanished from her home without a single trace left behind. Loved by her friends, family, and the local community in general, the search for the young woman began as soon as she was reported missing. On March 14, exactly a week after Tracey disappeared, her body was pulled from the nearby Choctawhatchee River in Dale County.
An autopsy revealed that the 22-year-old had water and sand in her lungs, indicating that she drowned. However, she also had bruises and marks on her neck consistent with that of strangulation, meaning that she’d been attacked before being thrown into the body of water. According to reports, Tracey was naked from the waist up, and her clothes were found elsewhere. Yet, there are no records that suggest that she’d been sexually assaulted. Ultimately, Tracey Harris’ death was determined to be a homicide.
Who Killed Tracey Harris?
Carl Harris became a suspect for Tracey’s murder almost as soon as her body was discovered. Over a dozen witnesses came forward to claim that he was physically abusive towards his ex-wife. Considering that they lived together, investigators also believed that he was the last person to see her alive. Furthermore, upon looking into his personal life and finances, they discovered that Carl had a girlfriend, which pointed towards a possible motive. After all, if Tracey wasn’t in the picture anymore, Carl could move on without complications. However, because of a lack of concrete physical evidence, Carl was not charged at the time, and the case subsequently went cold.
It was 25 years later, in 2015, that the Ozark Police cold case unit picked up Tracey’s case once again. Upon their investigations, they found all the aforementioned information to be reliable, leading to Carl’s September 13, 2016, arrest. Carl, though, has always denied having a hand in Tracey’s killing or even abusing her beforehand, saying that she was the love of his life and that he would never hurt her. In January 2020, as prosecutors continued to prepare their case against Carl, they found an old witness statement made by Dawn Beasley, wherein she alleged to have seen the Harris couple’s domestic violence first hand. Thus, she was subpoenaed to testify in court.
Dawn Beasley had declined to appear in court before, but once she received the subpoena, she called the prosecutors and admitted that she wouldn’t testify as they had an innocent man on trial. “The man that did commit the crime,” she said, “confessed it to me the night he did it.” Thus, on the day Carl Harris’ trial was to start, the District Attorney’s office held a press conference announcing that charges against him were being dropped. Instead, thanks to Dawn’s statements, Jeffrey Beasley, her ex-husband and a former friend of the Harris couple, was arrested for Tracey Harris’ 1990 murder. He has since confessed and pleaded guilty to the charge against him.
Read More: Where Is Carl Harris Now?