A 34-year-old cold case involving the racially motivated murder of a 23-year-old black man has been solved with the arrest of five white people – including two police officers who allegedly tried to cover up the homicide.
Timothy Coggins was found dead on a power line on Oct. 9, 1983 in a small Georgia town of Sunny Side in Spalding County, the west-central part of Georgia.
Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix said Coggins had been “murdered brutally” because he was Black.
“There is no doubt in the minds of all investigators involved that the crime was racially motivated, and if the crime happened today it would be prosecuted as a hate crime,” Dix told WSB-TV in Atlanta.
“It has been an emotional roller coaster for everybody that was involved,” Dix said.
Cold cases involving Black victims are rarely solved after three decades but in July, investigators met with Coggins’ family and decided to reopen the case. Give credit to the investigators, many of them new to the case, for being diligent in their pursuit of justice.
Consider this: Original witnesses who were re-interviewed said they knew who murdered Coggins but were afraid to share their knowledge of the crime because they had been intimidated by the alleged murderers. Officials said the investigation is not over, and more people could be arrested and charged.
Police arrested and charged Frankie Gebhardt, 59, and Bill Moore Sr., 58, with murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and concealing the death of another.
Sandra Bunn, 58, Lamar Bunn, 32, and Gregory Huffman, 47 were charged with obstruction. Huffman, a detention officer with the sheriff’s office, has also been charged with violation of oath of office, according to authorities. Sandra Bunn and Lamar Bunn, who works for the Milner Police Department, are mother and son, officials said.
Gebhardt and Moore were denied bond by a judge Saturday morning. A $25,000 cash bond on the violation of oath of office charge was set for Huffman, with another $10,000 cash bond set for the obstruction charge. The Bunns were released Friday after posting bonds of $706.75, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“We know that there’s been tireless nights and we know that you guys have put in so many hours making sure that these people were brought to justice…’” said Coggins’ niece, Heather Coggins, according WSB-TV. “The only unfortunate part in this is that our grandparents, Timothy Coggins’ parents, are not able to see this today.”
The Coggins family never gave up hope and stayed on top of investigators. They deserve to be praised for their tenacity while grieving for three decades and demanding answers.
“We have always wanted justice, held out for justice, and knew that we would have justice,” Coggins said. “We have endured grief for the past 34 years.
“Our journey is coming to an end,” she added, “their journey is just beginning.”
For the Coggins family, the system finally worked.
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