SUNNY SIDE, Ga. (AP) — After reopening a cold case, authorities in Georgia have arrested five people — including two law enforcement officials — in a killing they say was racially motivated.
Timothy Coggins, a 23-year-old black man, was found dead along a road in the city of Sunny Side, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Atlanta, on Oct. 9, 1983. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office reopened the case in March after getting new information.
The five people arrested are white, and Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix told reporters Friday that investigators have “no doubt” the slaying was racially motivated.
“If the crime happened today it would be prosecuted as a hate crime,” Dix said.
Authorities say 59-year-old Frankie Gebhardt and 58-year-old Bill Moore Sr. were arrested Friday and face charges including murder. Both men have extensive criminal records, the sheriff said.
Lamar Bunn, a Milner police officer, and Sandra Bunn face obstruction charges. Gregory Huffman, a detention officer with the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, was charged with obstruction and violation of oath of office.
Dix said Huffman was fired Friday morning. Milner police Chief Michael Bailey said Bunn has been placed on active suspension without pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
It wasn’t immediately clear if any of those charged had lawyers who could comment on the charges.
Authorities did not elaborate on each person’s alleged involvement in the killing.
Dix said the original investigation in 1983 was hampered when suspects threatened and intimidated potential witnesses. After a new witness came forward earlier this year, the case was reopened and original witnesses were interviewed again.
The investigation continues and more people could be charged, authorities said.