SPALDING COUNTY, Ga. — Investigators said two men got away with murder for more than three decades thanks, in part, to help from two law enforcement officers.
The explosive news came in a news conference from the Spalding County sheriff Friday.
The death of Timothy Coggins was “no doubt” racially-motivated, according to sheriff Darrell Dix.
It was in 1983 that Coggins' body was found abandoned near power lines on Manley Road.
According to the report, Coggins died of multiple forms of trauma. The sheriff said after an exhaustive investigation, the case went cold.
A new witness came forward earlier this year, which led to a re-examination of the case. Original witnesses were contacted and re-interviewed.
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Channel 2 Action News learned that two of the five people implicated in the death of Coggins were acting in their official capacity when the crime happened. Dix said Milner Police Officer Lamar Bunn was charged with obstruction, and Spalding County Detention Officer Gregory Huffman was charged with violation of oath office.
Frankie Gebhardt, 59, and Bill Moore Sr., 58, were charged with felony murder.
Sandra Bunn, 58, was charged with obstruction.
“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 said.
Coggins' family thanked the current sheriff and the GBI for taking another look at this case.
"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, so on behalf of them, we would definitely like to say 'thank you,'” said Coggins’ niece, Heather Coggins. “The only unfortunate part in this is that our grandparents, Timothy Coggins’ parents, are not able to see this today."
The sheriff said recent media coverage helped witnesses to come forward.
“Thanks to the assistance of both local and statewide new media coverage, previously unknown witnesses stepped forward and when interviewed, many of the witnesses stated that they had been living with this information since Coggins' death but had been afraid to come forward until now or had not spoken of it until now,” Dix said.
The sheriff said the investigation is not over and that more arrests are expected.
Friends of the victims said they thought this day would never come.
"It worried everybody to death, but we never could find out what was going on, so life just continued to go on," Alton McFarland said.
The Coggins’ family never gave up hope for justice.
“Even on my grandmother's deathbed she knew that justice would one day be served,” said Heather Coggins. “So we are eternally grateful and we would like to say thank you.”
Cox Media Group