The case of two Georgia men accused of dragging a black man to his death behind a pickup truck is going before a grand jury.
Multiple media outlets report brothers-in-law William Moore Sr. and Frank Gebhardt appeared Thursday in magistrate court for a probable cause hearing at which a judge decided there was enough evidence against the men to proceed.
Gebhardt and Moore face a felony murder charge in the 1983 death of 23-year-old Timothy Coggins.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Jared Coleman testified in a cramped courtroom inside the Spalding County jail that the men bragged about the killing.
“They were proud of what they had done,” said Coleman, who works with the GBI's cold case unit. “They felt like they were protecting the white race from black people.”
Coleman said the men stabbed Coggins nearly 30 times, then chained his body to the pickup and dragged him into the woods.
The GBI believes the two may have carried out the killing because Coggins was socializing with a white woman.
“Something had happened between a black man and white woman,” said Coleman on Thursday, quoting another witness.
The suspects' attorney said the motive could also have been a drug deal gone bad.
Whatever the reason, Coleman said, race was a factor.
The judge eventually agreed there was enough evidence to proceed.
Outside the courtroom, Coggins' family said hearing the new details for the first time was hard on all of them.
“Extremely difficult, extremely difficult to hear, to hold your tears, to hold your emotions, to contain your emotions listening to gruesome details of a loved one that was by himself,” said Coggins' niece, Heather Coggins.
Three other people arrested are facing charges in the case, which could go before a grand jury as early as next week.