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GRIFFIN, Ga. (AP) — Half the evidence collected from the scene of the 1983 slaying of a black man has vanished, but witnesses have come forward to say the defendant admitted to the killing just hours after the body was found, experts with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation testified Thursday.

Frank Gebhardt is on trial for murder in what prosecutors describe as the racist slaying of Tim Coggins.

The case went unsolved for decades. Prosecutors now believe Gebhardt and another man, William Moore, stabbed, cut and dragged Coggins behind a pickup truck because he was dating a white woman.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports GBI experts testified that Coggins’ blood-stained pants, underwear and the sheet his body was wrapped in were recovered, but the DNA pulled from the blood evidence did not match Gebhardt or Moore.

Willard Sanders, one of the men who discovered Coggins’ body along a cut for a power line 34 years ago, said within hours of the discovery he talked with Gebhardt who he says admitted to the slaying.

“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.”

One of Gebhardt’s former cellmates testified that Gebhardt told him he took the knife used in the killing and dumped it down a well on his property. A GBI expert testified they found a rusty knife in that well along with a chain when they excavated it in 2017.

Jonathan Bennett wasn’t even born when the killing happened, but he told jurors that years later, he overheard Gebhardt telling his father that he had killed Coggins.

“He said that William Moore stabbed him 38 times, and then he tied him to the back of the truck and drug him down the road,” Bennett said.

Wednesday, a former medical examiner testified that Coggins was stabbed around 30 times.

Moore will go on trial for murder later this year.

The prosecution could rest its case by Friday.


Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,