A black man was brutally murdered in Georgia more than 34 years ago because was seen “socializing with a white female,” prosecutors said.
New details in the 1983 slaying of Timothy Coggins were revealed during a court hearing Wednesday. Two white men face murder charges in his death.
Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ben Coker said 23-year-old Coggins died after he was dragged behind a pickup truck through the woods. He was stabbed and suffered cuts on his neck, back and stomach.
"The murder of Timothy Coggins was due to Coggins socializing with a white female and that Coggins had been stabbed multiple times and drug behind a truck by Franklin Gebhardt and William Moore Sr.," Coker said, according to WSB-TV.
Gebhardt, 59, and Moore, 58, were arrested and charged with murder last month after authorities reopened the cold case in Spalding County, about 40 miles south of Atlanta.
Coggins was found dead along a road in the city of Sunny Side on Oct. 9, 1983. In March, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office reopened the case after getting new information.
In July, Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix called it a “horrible, torturous death.”
Defense attorneys for the two suspects asked a judge Wednesday to free them on bond, saying the men were too old and frail to pose a danger. The judge denied their request and ordered the men to remain jailed.
"It was very difficult hearing some of the things today, and seeing the defendants was very difficult as well," said Heather Coggins, a niece of Timothy Coggins who sat in the courtroom. "It's the first time we've had a chance to see them up close and personal.”
She told News4Jax “the worst is over.”
"Although it's been 34 years, we have always wanted justice, held out for justice and knew that one day we would have justice,” she added. “We are eternally grateful you guys didn't give up."
Three others, who also are white, have been charged with obstruction in the case. One of them, Lamar Bunn, was a police officer in Milner, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Griffin, the capital of Spalding County. Another, Gregory Huffman, worked as a detention officer with the sheriff's office. Huffman was fired, while Bunn was suspended from duty pending the outcome of the case.
The third person charged with obstruction is identified as Sandra Bunn.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.