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Investigators: Decades-old murder mystery has been solved

"This man died a horrible death and those responsible for his murder need to be held accountable."
Timothy Coggins

SPALDING COUNTY, Ga. -- Thirty-four years and four days after his body was discovered on a power line, authorities believe they have solved the murder of Timothy Coggins.

On Oct. 9, 1983, Coggins was found off of Manley Road in Sunnyside, Ga. He had been brutally murdered and his body was abandoned on a power line, authorities said.

"This was not meant to kill -- this was meant to send a message," Spalding County Sheriff Darrel Dix said. "This was brutal."

While investigators gathered evidence and questioned suspects and witnesses at the time, the case remained unsolved.

In March 2017, new evidence came to light that made investigators reexamine the case, according to Dix. In July, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation officially reopened the case.

"We started getting phone calls from people that remembered it happening," Dix said. "From people that were not even living in Georgia anymore were calling, saying, 'I've held this in for the last 34 years and I've been afraid to say anything about it, but now I feel like I need to talk about it.' And they did."

Original witnesses were re-interviewed and new information was received, according to Dix.

After several interviews with witnesses, both new and old, and with newly-gathered evidence, investigators said on Oct. 13, several arrests were made.

PHOTOS: Timothy Coggins murder arrests

Dix said Frankie Gebhardt, 59, and Bill Moore Sr., 58, were arrested on numerous charges, including murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and concealing the death of another.

Lamar Bunn, an officer with the Milner Police Department, and his mother, Sandra Bunn, 58, were both charged with obstruction.

Gregory Huffman, a detention officer with the Spalding County Sheriff's Office, was charged with violation of oath of office and obstruction. Dix said that Huffman was fired from his job upon his arrested Friday morning.

"I really can't get into a lot detail about what [the law enforcement officers] did," Dix said. "But what they did was enough that it hindered the investigation and caused us to feel like these people need to pay for what they're doing."

Dix said that the motive behind the crime was being withheld until the trial. Coggins had not been hanged, Dix emphasized. He did say that it appeared to be a racially-motivated crime, and had it happened today, it would be prosecuted as a hate crime.

"The goal in this whole thing is to get justice for Timothy Coggins and to get justice for the Coggins family," Dix said.

Coggins' neice, Heather Coggins, said she was grateful to hear of the arrests.

“We thought that it had just been forgotten, I mean it’s been so many years we didn’t think anyone was thinking about Tim or his case or trying to solve or get the people who did this to him," she said.

The men authorities believe who killed Coggins, Moore and Gebhardt, have extensive criminal histories, Dix said. He believes they intimidated those who knew what happened.

Dix said that more arrests could be forthcoming as investigators conduct more interviews.

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