A 60-year-old Georgia man was convicted Tuesday (June 26) for the 1983 murder of a black man, in what the prosecution described as a racially motived crime.
Frank Gebhardt sat stoically in the courtroom when Judge Fletcher Sams sentenced him to life in prison with an additional 30 years for his part in the brutal crime. According to reports, Gebhardt along with his brother-in-law, Bill Moore Sr. stabbed Timothy Coggins 30 times and dragged his body behind a pick-up truck. His body was found on Oct. 9, 1983.
Coggins, 23 at the time, was said to be killed because he was dating a white woman. The murder remained unsolved for more than three decades.
"We've waited for 34 years to even be here today," Coggins niece, Heather Coggins told reporters after the verdict was handed down. "We never thought that we would be here. We thought Tim had been forgotten."
In Oct. 2018, Gebhardt and Moore Sr. were arrested after witnesses came forward about Coggins' murder. The defense argued that Gebhardt was "racist" and "mean" but the witnesses, who were already in jail, only spoke up in hopes to have their sentences reduced. The prosecution countered by saying the witnesses revealed information only the killer would know.
The jury deliberated for six hours before returning with a guilty verdict. When Gebhardt was arrested last year, Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix said it was clear as day Coggins was killed because he was black.
"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.
Heather spoke on behalf of the family, sharing how now they can move on. "Now we can live in peace. Tim can rest in peace, my grandparents can rest in peace, now we can live in peace.