SPALDING COUNTY, Ga. - The case of a black man's dragging death has ended with a Spalding County jury coming back with a verdict of guilty of all charges.
The family of Timothy Coggins, who was murdered in 1983, emotionally cried as the guilty verdict was read to Frankie Gebhardt in the courtroom.
Gebhardt was charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault and concealing the death of another. The judge in the trial has sentenced Gebhardt to life in prison for the crime.
Investigators had argued that the murder was racially-motivated and Coggins was killed because he was black. Prosecutors said Gebhardt and his co-defendant Bill Moore, Sr. bragged about killing the 23-year-old man.
Speaking to reporters, Timothy's oldest niece Heather Coggins said the family had waited for over 34 years to be at the reading of the verdict today.
"We thought we'd never be here today," Coggins said. "My grandparents went to their grave with this murder being unsolved."
"It wasn't just a murder. It was a brutal, heinous killing. Now we don't have to tell our kids or our grandkids anymore that no one cared for your Uncle Tim. We have someone who is guilty and will spend the rest of their life in prison to serve time for this murder that he committed."
She said that they were "elated" by the guilty verdict.
"I think that the hard work and the hours that were put in by our investigators and the GBI and the DA's office all worked together. Everybody came together and we decided long ago that we were not going to let this go we were not going to give up on this. We were going to fight it all the way to the end," said Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix.
"At this point now we can move on. Now we can live in peace," she said in tears. "We don't have to tell anyone else this story that Tim was from a small town where no one cared and no one was brought to justice for this murder. It wasn't just a murder, it was a brutal, heinous killing. And now we don't have to tell our kids or our grandkids anymore that no one cared for your uncle Tim."
Gebhardt, the first of two suspects on trial, had been charged along with co-defendant Bill Moore Sr. with murdering Timothy Coggins in 1983. Prosecutors said the defendants were upset Coggins was dating a white woman.
With the physical evidence collected at the crime scene lost years ago, the prosecution built its case largely on testimony from witnesses who testified Gebhardt and Moore bragged about killing Coggins, stabbing him dozens of time and dragging him behind a truck.