5 arrested in 1983 'racially motivated' murder of 23-year-old black man in Georgia
Timothy Coggins died as a result of multiple forms of trauma, authorities said.
— -- Five people in Georgia have been arrested in connection with a "racially motivated" murder that occurred more than 30 years ago, authorities said.
The victim, Timothy Coggins, was found dead in Sunnyside, Georgia, on Oct. 9, 1983, the Spalding County Sheriff's Office said in a press release Friday. Coggins' body was found near a power line in Sunnyside Georgia after he was "brutally murdered" and abandoned, officials said.
Coggins died as a result multiple forms of trauma, according to the sheriff's office.
After his death, investigators began conducting interviews and gathering evidence in their search for Coggins' killer, but the search "went cold" until March of this year, when the new evidence came to light, causing the sheriff's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to re-examine the case, authorities said.
In July, investigators met with Coggins' family to brief them on the new leads. Shortly after the meeting, authorities decided to release information on the reopened case to the public to generate new leads. Original witnesses were re-interviewed, which led to the finding of new information as well.
Many of the witnesses stated that they had been "living with this information since Coggins' death but had been afraid to come forward or had not spoken of it until now," police said.
On Friday, more than 34 years after Coggins was killed, authorities arrested five people in connection with his murder. Two of the five suspects face murder charges.
The Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office has 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, Spalding County Capt. Dwayne Jones told ABC News.
Coggins’ family thanked authorities for re-opening the investigation into his murder.
"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 to ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV. “The only unfortunate part in this is that our grandparents, Timothy Coggins’ parents, are not able to see this today."
All of the suspects who were arrested in connection with Coggins' death are white, according to authorities.
"Based on the original evidence recovered in 1983 and new evidence and interviews there is no doubt in the minds of all investigators involved that the crime was racially motivated and that if the crime happened today it would be prosecuted as a hate crime," the sheriff's office said.
The suspects are currently being processed at the Spalding County Jail, Jones said. It is unclear when they will be arraigned.