Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Police in Georgia arrested five people, including two who work in law enforcement, in connection with a 34-year-old racially motivated murder case.
Frankie Gebhardt, Bill Moore Sr., Lamar Bunn, Sandra Bunn and Gregory Huffman were arrested for their roles in the killing of 23-year-old Timothy Coggins, who was found dead in a grassy area near a power line in Spalding County on Oct. 9 1983.
"This investigation is not over. It has entered a new phase leading up to the prosecution of those people responsible for this heinous crime, and those that obstructed or hindered this investigation," Sheriff Darrell Dix said in a release Friday.
Gebhardt, 59, and Moore Sr., 58, were charged with murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and concealing a body. Lamar Bunn, a Milner Police Department employee, and Sandra Bunn, 58, were charged with obstruction. Huffman, a detention officer with the Spalding County Sheriff's Office, was charged with obstruction and violation of oath of office.
Coggins was brutally slain and investigators agreed there was "no doubt" race was the motivating factor behind the crime, Dix said.
"Based on the original evidence recovered in 1983 and new evidence and interviews there is no doubt in the minds of all investigators involved that the crime was racially motivated and that if the crime happened today it would be prosecuted as a hate crime," Dix said.
Dix said the initial investigation of the case was derailed in 1983 when those suspected of being involved in the murder threatened and intimidated potential witnesses, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The case was reopened in March and officials said many of the witnesses reported living with information since Coggin's death but "had been afraid to come forward or had not spoken of it until now."
"We have always wanted justice, held out for justice, and knew that we would have justice," the victim's niece Heather Coggins said. "We have endured grief for the past 34 years ... our journey is coming to an end; their journey is just beginning."
Dix offered condolences to Coggins' family and added the pursuit of the case should act as a warning to criminals in the county.
"We are sending a message that we want to make crystal clear. If you are a criminal, murderer, drug dealer, or gang member you are no longer welcome or tolerated in Spalding County. We will do everything we can to stop you regardless of who you are, where you come from, and as demonstrated today, regardless of time or distance," he said.