The family of a black Georgia man has finally gotten justice for the murder of a loved one nearly 35 years ago. Frankie Gebhardt was found guilty on Tuesday of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and concealing the death of another in the dragging death of Timothy Coggins. Gebhardt has been sentenced to life in prison.
According to CNN, Gebhardt accused Coggins of socializing with a white woman who happened to be the killer’s “old lady.” Assisted by his brother-in-law Bill Moore Sr., the men were said to have stabbed Coggins dozens of times and then tied him to the back of a truck with a logging chain. They dragged Coggins down an unpaved road in the rural town of Sunny Side, Georgia, and left his mutilated body there.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Marie Broder faced many obstacles in this case as the technology available to investigators in 1983 was far less sophisticated than what exists today. However, eyewitness testimony was introduced that both Gebhardt and Moore bragged about “killing a n*gger.” That evidence established a racial motive for the murder and proved to be compelling.
While Coggins’ parents didn’t live to see Gebhardt be punished for his horrific crimes, other family members were present during the trial. They expressed great joy and relief that the case has finally been solved–at least in part.
“At this point now we can move on. Now we can live in peace,” said Timothy’s niece Heather Coggins, according to FOX News 5. “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.”
The family has at least one more trial to endure, however. Moore faces the same charges as Gebhardt and will go on trial in the coming months. Ordinarily, Broder would have faced an uphill battle as she tried to prove her case. At least half of the evidence collected and tested at the time of the murder is missing. But Gebhardt’s conviction has likely opened the door to a possible conviction. The family is hopeful.
“We thought we’d never be here today,” Coggins said. “My grandparents went to their grave with this murder being unsolved.”