Prosecutor: Black slain for ‘socializing’ with white female

GRIFFIN, Ga. (AP) — A black man slain in Georgia 34 years ago was killed because he had been “socializing with a white female,” a prosecutor said as he asked a judge to deny bond for two suspects in the recently revived cold case.

Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ben Coker revealed new details at a court hearing Wednesday in the 1983 slaying of Timothy Coggins. Two white men were charged with murder last month after authorities reopened the cold case in Spalding County, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Atlanta.

The prosecutor said 23-year-old Coggins was dragged through the woods behind a pickup truck, news outlets reported. Arrest warrants say he died from being stabbed and cut, and suffered “seriously disfiguring” wounds.

“The murder of Timothy Coggins was due to Coggins socializing with a white female,” Coker told the judge.

Coggins was found dead along a road in the Sunny Side community on Oct. 9, 1983. Sunny Side has a population 134, according to the 2010 Census.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office reopened the case in March after getting new information.

Last month authorities charged Frankie Gebhardt, 59, and Bill Moore Sr., 58, with murder in the slaying. 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. Superior Court Judge Fletcher Sams denied their request and ordered the men to remain jailed.

Coker said witnesses told investigators that Gebhardt had admitted many times to killing Coggins. The prosecutor said Gebhardt bragged about it when he drank, and threatened a witness that if they spoke to authorities, they would be dragged down the road like Coggins had been, Coker said.

“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.”

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.

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