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WATCH LIVE: Jurors see truck-dragging victim’s blood-soaked clothes

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News are bringing you gavel-to-gavel coverage of the cold case trial, Watch here:

Jurors in the truck-dragging, cold case murder trial of Franklin Gebhardt have every reason to be confused.

The testimony was straightforward in the beginning, as Larry Peterson, a former GBI crime scene analyst, told jurors there were three or four areas of struggle between the victim and his attackers, each marked by Timothy Coggins’ blood.

So far today they’ve witnessed:

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  • The state discredit DNA evidence that would seem to link Gebhardt and his brother-in-law William Moore, who is scheduled to be tried for murder in October, to the 1983 killing of Timothy Coggins. 
  • The defense eager to discuss a knife dredged from Gebhardt’s well by investigators
Franklin Gebhardt listens to testimony on Thursday.  Gebhardt, 60, is charged with felony murder and other counts in what prosecutors say was a racially motivated killing that occured in 1983 in Spalding County. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM (Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com)
  • A GBI forensic biologist testifying that DNA taken from Gebhardt did not match DNA from blood samples recovered from the victim.
  • A member of Aryan Nation, currently in prison, effectively snitching on a white man (Gebhardt) for killing a black man and; 
  • A friend of Gebhardt, Willard Sanders, testifying that Gebhardt told him he had killed Coggins and that  the murder was over a “drug deal gone wrong.” The defense suggested Sanders changed his story on the motive after an interview with GBI special agent Jared Coleman, who insists Coggins was killed because he socialized with white women. 
Ben Coker, District Attorney for the Griffin Judicial Circuit, questions Rachel Thornton, GBI forensic investigator, about blood-soaked clothing recovered at the scene. Forensic evidence was presented as the murder trial of Franklin Gebhardt continued. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM (Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com)

Is the state setting up the defense? Did Gebhardt attempt to set up prosecutors, allegedly telling a white supremacist while both were incarcerated last year at the Spalding County Jail that he fed contradictory stories about Coggins’ murder to his two cell mates, knowing they would try to parlay what he told them into a reduction of their sentences?

Answers still to come. Or not, as this trial speeds towards rapid conclusion. The state said it will rest by Friday afternoon at the latest.




Catch up on the first day of testimony here:

Defense, state blast 1983 investigation into murder of black Spalding County man

Race takes center stage on Day 1 of Spalding cold case murder trial


Willard Sanders points out defendant Franklin Gebhardt in the courtroom during Thursday’s testimony. Sanders said he has known Gebhardt most of his life and that Gebhardt had told him he did it. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM (Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com)

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