X

'I Think They Always Knew': A Lynching Is Revived, 34 Years Later

Timothy Coggins was dragged to his death in 1983. But where was justice?
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 26, 2020 1:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – Timothy Coggins was said to be funny and exuberant, with a captivating smile. Tragically, the young Black man was lynched in October 1983—a crime that went unsolved until law enforcement took up the cold case and showed it to a jury 34 years later, GQ reports. "I think they always knew who did it," says Coggins' sister Telisa. "But because it was a white man who killed a Black man, they didn't care. They never really tried." She last saw Timothy alive on the night he left a Black dance club in rural Georgia, where they lived, to meet with white men waiting for him outside. Two days later, sheriff's deputies appeared with a photo of the 23-year-old's body, stabbed dozens of times with a Confederate-style "X" carved into his stomach. But a sheriff's probe turned up nothing.

story continues below

Reviving the case in 2016, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found people who said two locals—Frankie Gebhardt and his brother-in-law, Bill Moore—had boasted about killing Coggins for allegedly sleeping with Gebhardt's "old lady" and bilking him in a drug deal. Investigators soon dug up a shredded T-shirt and an old knife blade on Gebhardt's property, and Gebhardt got life in prison; Moore, 20 years. "The death of Mr. Coggins was very clearly a lynching," says the GBI agent in charge. The Equal Justice Initiative says thousands of Blacks were lynched—that is, killed in a premeditated mob execution, by hanging or otherwise—between the Civil War and World War II, and while public spectacles faded, white vigilante justice continued. See the full GQ article or a new documentary about the case. (Read more lynching stories.)

The best longform stories, in one weekly email.
We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.