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Man charged in wife's 1990 murder is cleared after friend confesses

Carl Harris Jr. was scheduled to go on trial for murder Monday. Instead, authorities announced that charges against him had been dropped.

Charges were dropped against a man accused of killing his wife in 1990 after another man confessed to the murder, authorities in Alabama announced Monday, the day his trial was set to begin.

Dale County District Attorney Kirke Adams said during a press conference Monday that charges against Carl Harris Jr. had been dropped after Jeff Beasley admitted to killing Harris' wife, Tracy Harris, according to the Dothan Eagle.

Beasley, 54, has been charged with her murder. The announcement was made on Carl Harris' 55th birthday, The Associated Press reported.

Jeff Beasley.Ozark County Sheriff's Office

“I think this arrest shows we never give up on getting the truth and serving justice,” Adams said Monday.

Tracy Harris disappeared from Ozark, about 85 miles southeast of Montgomery, on March 7, 1990, and her body was found a week later in the Choctawhatchee River, according to the Dothan Eagle. An autopsy showed she died by drowning and bruising on the side of her neck indicated she may have been strangled.

The case was cold until 2016 when Ozark police reopened it and arrested Harris in South Carolina.

More recently, Harris' defense raised questions about his guilt, pointing prosecutors to a witness they hadn't spoken to since 1990, according to the AP. The witness was Beasley’s ex-wife. When investigators tracked down Beasley, he confessed.

Police and Adams said Beasley was friends with the couple at the time she disappeared.

Defense attorney David Harrison said he does not believe the Ozark Police Department and prosecutors were thorough enough in their original investigation, the Dothan Eagle reported.

“This man was going to go to trial today. No one did anything until I filed a motion Friday in my client’s case implicating someone other than my client," Harrison said. "I do thank the district attorney’s office for looking into the witness and dropping the charges against my client. But no one has apologized to my client for what he has gone through since his arrest.”

Beasley had pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary in 1991 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but it's unclear how much time he served, according to the AP.

Jail records show he's being held at the Dale County Sheriff's Office on $150,000 bond. It's unclear if he has a lawyer.