Nearly 35 years later, man found guilty in 'racially motivated' murder

RAW: Coggins family representative speaks out after guilty verdict

SPALDING COUNTY, Ga. — A judge has sentenced a man to life in prison after a jury found him guilty for a racially motivated murder nearly 35 years ago.

Channel 2's Richard Elliot was inside the Spalding County courtroom as Frank Gebhart sat quietly as the judge read the jury's guilty verdict.

“We the jury unanimously find on the count of malice murder, guilty. On the count of felony murder, guilty,” Spalding County Superior Court Judge Fletcher Sams read.

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The jury convicted Gebhardt of the brutal 1983 stabbing death of Timothy Coggins -- a murder investigators said was racially motivated.

They said Gebhardt and Bill Moore stabbed Coggins, then dragged his body behind a truck and dumped it in a field off Minter Road.

Jurors reach verdict in Spalding County trial

BREAKING: Frank Gebhardt found guilty on all counts in cold case murder trial of Timothy Coggins, who was stabbed and dragged behind a truck in 1983. LIVE coverage at 4 p.m. on Channel 2. ----------- Jurors have reached a verdict in the "racially-motivated" cold case murder trial in Spalding County. https://2wsb.tv/2Km6x7s

Posted by WSB-TV on Tuesday, June 26, 2018

After the guilty verdict, the judge sentenced Gebhardt to life in prison and deputies led him away.

Following the verdict, Elliot spoke with the Coggins family.

“I’m so elated with joy I can’t even describe it in words,” Coggins’ niece, Heather Coggins, said.

The family said they were convinced they would never get justice.

Detectives testified that the original investigation from 34-years ago was sloppy and incomplete.

Heather Coggins thanked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix for reopening the case.

“It wasn’t just a murder. It was a brutal heinous killing, and now we don’t have to tell our kids and our grandkids anymore than no one cared for your Uncle Tim, and now we have someone who’s guilty, who will spend the rest of his life in prison,” Coggins said.

The other man charged in this case, Bill Moore, will go on trial later this year.