Details of Disappearance
Hazelton was last seen at the Alligator Place Apartments in Bolivar County, Mississippi on May 21, 2004. She had moved to Mississippi earlier that year with her boyfriend, James Arthur Fannings Jr., but maintained close contact with her family in Pennsylvania and called them frequently. The couple lived with Fannings's childhood friend, Chevaun Pierre Mack. Within a month of their arrival in Mississippi, the couple began running out of money. Fannings and Hazelton's relationship deteriorated: he was repeatedly unfaithful, physically abused her and sometimes locked her in their bedroom. Hazelton last spoke to her parents in May 2004. She asked for money so she could leave Fannings and return home to Pennsylvania. They sent her the money, but she never came home and never contacted them again. Her parents reported her missing that December, after months passed without them being able to reach her.
A photo of Fannings is posted below this case summary. He was arrested and charged with Hazelton's murder in January 2006. Mack said he saw Fannings shoot Hazelton in the head during an argument. After her death, Fannings made Mack help him dispose of the body. The men put Hazelton's body in a plastic barrel and loaded the barrel into her own green Chevrolet Blazer. They drove around in the vehicle with the body for two or three days, then attempted to burn it inside the barrel. Mack said he and Fannings took what was left and buried it in the woods near a creek in Duncan, Mississippi.
Fannings and Mack then drove Hazelton's Blazer to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sometime later, both men were arrested on unrelated charges and Hazelton's vehicle was impounded. Following his release from custody, Fannings began seeing another woman and they shared an apartment in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After Hazelton's parents reported her missing, the police interviewed Mack about her disappearance and he told them about witnessing her murder. He stated he hadn't come forward earlier because he'd been afraid for his life.
Fannings was tried late that in 2006. Except for Mack's testimony, the case against him was largely circumstantial. The jury deliberated only sixteen minutes before convicting him of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and is presently incarcerated in a maximum security facility in Mississippi. He appealed, but the courts upheld the conviction in 2008. Hazelton's family still hope to be able to find her remains. Foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.
Above: James Fannings