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Documentary to tell story of Timothy Coggins cold case murder investigation

More than 34 years after the brutal murder of Pike County’s Timothy Coggins, two men were arrested and charged for his death and an ABC documentary on the case ‘˜In the Cold Dark Night,’ a 20/20 event, will air Friday, July 17 at 9 p.m. Timothy Coggins was violently murdered and found by hunters in a field off Minter Road in Spalding County on Oct. 9, 1983. According to the medical examiner, Coggins had at least 30 stab wounds and he was dragged by a chain behind a truck along Minter Road in the Sunny Side community north of Griffin. The original investigation was closed after only two months. The family said they were scared into silence over his death and investigators said Gebhardt and others intimidated potential witnesses into silence. Coggins’ sister testified that her family was threatened on two occasions shortly after her brother’s murder. ’A loud noise hit the front door,’ said Talesa Coggins to jurors during the trial. ‘It was a brick and on the brick, it said, ‘˜Hush. You’re next.” Witnesses in the case said he was killed because Coggins had been dancing with a white woman at a club on the night he was murdered. The cold case was broken wide open in 2017 as Bill Moore Sr. and Frankie Gebhardt were arrested and charged. In 2018, Gebhardt was found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault and concealing the death of another and sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison. Bill Moore Sr. pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and concealing the death of another and was sentenced to 20 years followed by 10 years of probation. Special Agent Jared Coleman and Capt. Mike Morris with the Spalding Sheriff’s Office reopened the case in December 2016 and conducted hundreds of interviews. Chris DeMarco, was the GBI supervisor over the case. ’There were a lot of man hours that went into getting convictions on this case. We had strong circumstantial evidence but we needed strong witnesses and through all of our interviews, we were able to find new witnesses as well,’ he said. ‘We had a District Attorney’s office and sheriff’s office that were fully on board with working on this case and it was a total team effort. The main thing is, at the end of the day, the Coggins family got some closure. There was a lot that went into making sure justice was finally served.’ DeMarco said an informant indicated there was a well on Gebhardt’s property where he disposed of evidence after the crime. Gebhardt later built part of his house over the well and investigators had to figure out a way to excavate it safely. ’Two months before the trial, we made the decision that we had to get into that well but we knew that we could potentially destroy the house if we tried to dig the well out,’ said GBI assistant special agent in charge DeMarco. ‘We used a new technique to excavate the well – the Hydrovac system. We used the high power pressure washer to cut through all of the dirt with the vacuum system sucking up items. Everything the informant said we would find, we did. We found some of the victim’s clothes and what we believe was the murder weapon and the chain they dragged him with.’ DeMarco noted that two years to the day after the conviction of Gebhardt, the governor signed the Georgia Hate Crime Bill on June 26, 2020. After the arrests were made in 2017, family members held a memorial service and placed a headstone at Coggins’ gravesite in December 2017. Those who knew and loved him and younger generations gathered, wearing shirts with his photo and ‘˜At Last ‘¦ Resting in Peace’ on them. Many wore purple – Timothy’s favorite color. They heard how Timothy walked younger relatives home to ensure their safety and that he had a charming smile and smooth dance moves. ’He always wanted to make sure everyone got home safely,’ said his brother Tyrone Coggins. ‘This is confirmation to the family that 34 years later, Tim made it home.’

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