The two Georgia men accused of dragging 23-year-old Timothy Coggins to death in 1983 allegedly bragged about the crime for years, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
During a probable cause hearing inside the Spalding County Jail Thursday, Nov. 30, GBI Special Agent Jared Coleman testified that brothers–in–law Frank Gebhardt and William Moore, Sr., boasted about murdering Coggins to children, girlfriends and acquaintances. Coleman said the two even argued about which of them was directly responsible for the Black man’s death, as they felt the other was taking too much credit.
“They were proud of what they had done,” said the special agent, who works with the GBI’s cold case unit. “They felt like they were protecting the white race from Black people.”
Georgia authorities were finally able to solve the young man’s murder in October, 34 years after Coggins’ body was found abandoned on a power line in Sunnyside, Ga. Police said he had been “brutally murdered” and showed visible signs of trauma on his body.
The tragic case went cold for decades, but it was new evidence that prompted police to re-examine and re-open the case in July. Moore and Gebhardt, along with Lamar Bunn, an officer with the Milner Police Department, his mom, Sandra Bunn and Gregory Huffman, a detention officer with the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, were arrested and charged in connection with Coggins’ murder.
“This was not meant to kill — this was meant to send a message,” Spalding County Sheriff Darrel Dix said at a news conference earlier this year. “This was brutal.”
According to prosecutor Marie Broder, Gebhardt and Moore were able to keep the racially motivated murder under wraps for so long because they frequently threatened and intimidated witnesses. Broder said Gebhardt, in both jail calls and interviews, said that “if you give me the name of a witness, they won’t testify.”
Investigators suspect the two men targeted Coggins for fraternizing with a white woman. The suspects’ attorney also noted that the motive could’ve been a drug deal gone bad, local station WSB-TV reported.
Coleman testified that Moore and Gebhardt had stabbed Coggins nearly 30 times, then chained his body to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him “five to seven times” back and forth near the wooded area below the power lines. The knife used to stab Coggins and the chain used to drag his body haven’t been located.
For the slain man’s family, hearing the gruesome details of the case for the first time was tough.
“Extremely difficult,” Coggins’ niece, Heather Coggins, told WSB-TV. “[It’s] extremely difficult to hear, to hold your tears, to hold your emotions, to contain your emotions listening to gruesome details of a loved one that was by himself.”
The case is expected to go before a grand jury as early as next week.