Prosecutor: Black man dragged behind truck for ‘socializing with a white female’

Posted: 6:52 p.m. Wednesday, November 01, 2017


Disturbing new details emerged in a racially charged Georgia murder that languished unsolved for more than three decades.

Timothy Coggins was killed after “socializing with a white female,” a prosecutor said Wednesday, adding that the Spalding County man was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck.

The revelations in the 34-year-old case came as Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ben Coker argued Wednesday that the two men charged with killing Coggins should be denied bond.

Coggins, 23, was found with stab wounds and had lacerations on his neck, back and stomach. He also received blunt force trauma. Coggins was dragged through the woods while tied to a truck, Coker said.

Coggins was found on Oct. 9, 1983, in a grassy area near a power line along Highway 19 about 30 miles southeast of Atlanta.

The case had been dormant for years until a tip broke it open. William Moore Sr. and Frank Gebhardt were charged last month with murder. Three others — including two members of law enforcement — have been charged in connection with helping Moore and Gebhardt avoid prosecution.

The new details unveiled in court on Wednesday evoke other notorious racial killings over the years.

Emmett Till, 14, was killed in 1955 after allegations that he made a pass at a white woman. Two men were acquitted in the Jim Crow-era killing in Mississippi.

In 1988, James Byrd, also black, died after he was dragged behind a pickup truck in Texas. Three men were convicted; one was executed in his killing.

Coker told a Spalding County judge on Wednesday that multiple witnesses had come forward saying that Gebhardt had, on numerous occasions, admitted to killing Coggins. Coker said Gebhardt would brag about it when he drank.

Gebhardt and Moore even told a witness that if they spoke to authorities, they would be dragged down the road like Coggins had been, Coker said.

Spalding County Superior Court Judge Fletcher Sams denied bond for the two men, citing evidence of intimidating witnesses. He said bond would be “inappropriate.”

The other three charged in the case are out on bond.

Sandra Bunn, 61, and her son, Lamar, were charged with obstruction of justice. Bunn is Gebhardt’s sister. Gregory Huffman, 47, was charged with violation of oath of office and obstruction of justice.

About a dozen members of the Coggins family were in court Wednesday, where they got their first look at the alleged killers.

Heather Coggins, niece of Timothy, said she and her family were glad that bond was denied because of the murder suspects’ history of intimidation. She said it was extremely difficult to hear how her uncle had died.

“This is the first time we have heard details of that magnitude,” she said. “It’s hard to go back to that night.”

A grand jury is set to convene December 5.