Frankie Gebhardt was free for more than three decades after brutally murdering 23-year-old Timothy Coggins in rural Georgia. Investigators said Gebhardt was mad that Coggins was dating a white woman, and disfigured him with his brother-in-law, Bill Moore.
From October 9, 1983, to 2017, Coggins’ family fought for justice, but his parents did not live to see it served. Gebhardt was found guilty of murder and other charges, and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years.
An ABC 20/20 crew was embedded in Spalding County, Georgia, and gained access as the case unfolded in the courtroom. Gebhardt was convicted of the murder after a jury trial, and Moore pleaded guilty to manslaughter. “In the Cold, Dark Night” airs Friday, July 17, 2020 at 9/8C on ABC.
Here’s what you need to know:
Frankie Gebhardt Is Serving a Life Sentence Plus 30 Years in a Georgia State Prison
Frankie Gebhardt was sentenced to life plus 30 years in the death of Timothy Coggins in 1983. A jury found him guilty of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault and concealing the death of another in 2018 following a trial. He had been arrested in 2017 following the reopening of the 1983 cold case murder.
Here is his prison record:
His prison record indicates Gebhardt, 62, began serving time in the case at the time of his arrest on July 12, 2018. He was convicted and sentenced to life in the Georgia State Prison system. He also served time from December 3, 1984 to March 14, 2985.
Throughout the years, Gebhardt bragged about his crimes to friends, family members and jail mates. The first time he confessed, Coggins’ body had just been found, according to 11 Alive News, which covered the 2018 trial.
Willard Sanders, was one of the men who found the body, and he had known Gebhardt since he was 6 years old. Within hours of finding the body, Sanders said Gebhardt talked about killing Coggins and how he did it, according to the Associated Press.
“He brought up, did we find the body on the power line? I said ‘yeah,”‘ Sanders told jurors. “And he said he and Bill put him there. He said Bill killed him, and he tied chains to his feet and drug him on the power line.”
“It kinda surprised me a little bit,” he added.
The Georgia Supreme Court Upheld Frankie Gebhardt’s Murder Conviction in 2019
Frankie Gebhardt challenged his murder conviction, saying it should be overturned due to technicalities. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld his conviction in December, 2019, according to 11 Alive. You can read the state Supreme Court’s decision in full here.
“Franklin Gebhardt was found guilty of malice murder and various other offenses in connection with the 1983 torture and stabbing death of Tim Coggins,” the court summary said. “On appeal, Gebhardt contended: (1) the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his murder conviction; (2) the trial court erred in denying Gebhardt’s pre-trial plea in bar with respect to the charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and concealing the death of another; (3) the trial court inappropriately commented on the evidence at trial; and (4) the trial court committed several evidentiary errors. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed.”
Heather Coggins, Timothy Coggins’ niece, told Gebhardt at trial that the family forgives him, according to CNN.
“I told him that what he did to our family 35 years ago tore our family apart. Our grandmother went to her grave not knowing what happened to her son. I said, ‘We forgive you. I hope that whoever you pray to, you ask for forgiveness and are forgiven. I also hope that you spend the rest of your natural life behind bars,'” she said. “He just looked at me.”