Yesterday, in front of the Honorable W. Fletcher Sams, defendant William “Bill” Moore entered a guilty plea for the murder of Timothy Coggins on October 7, 1983. He entered a plea to Voluntary Manslaughter and Concealing the Death of Another. He was sentenced to 20 years to serve, followed by 10 years on probation. He is banished from the Griffin Judicial Circuit. The family of Timothy Coggins and law enforcement were all in agreement with this guilty plea.
Timothy Coggins was killed over 34 years ago in a field off Minter Road. Law Enforcement closed the original investigation after two months. Special Agent Jared Coleman with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Captain Mike Morris with the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office opened the case in December of 2016 and conducted hundreds of interviews. These two agencies, along with the Spalding County District Attorney’s Office, and the Fire Department used a Hydrovac system to excavate a well on the defendant’s property. It was the first time in the State of Georgia that such a system was used for well excavation. In the well, a white tank top, shoes, a chain, and a knife were some of the items recovered. Moore’s co-defendant, Franklin Gebhardt, was convicted by a Spalding County jury in June of this year and sentenced to life in prison.
District Attorney Coker said of the result, “[y]esterday marks the end of a long and arduous journey for the family of Timothy Coggins. My heartfelt thanks goes out to law enforcement for their work on the case. May Timothy rest in peace, and may his family begin to heal.”
Last week, a Fayette County jury convicted Mustafa Mahdi, a 21 year old Fayetteville man, of Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, and Possession of a Knife During the Commission of a Felony. The jury found that the defendant was guilty but mentally ill. The Honorable W. Fletcher Sams sentenced the defendant to life in prison. Assistant District Attorney Dan Hiatt and Chief Assistant District Attorney Marie Broder prosecuted the case. Fayetteville Police Investigator Shawn Albea was the lead investigator.
The defendant was convicted of stabbing his uncle, David John Quincy, over 75 times on March 24, 2014. The jury did find that the defendant had a mental illness at the time of the crime, but that he was responsible for his actions.
District Attorney Coker said, “this was a challenging case, and I am proud of Dan, Marie, and our Fayette County team for their hard work. This is a good result for the victims and for the community as a whole. We hope now that the victims can find some peace and begin the healing process.”
This morning, I had the pleasure of hosting a group of youth under the supervision of the Department of Juvenile Justice for a visit to the Fayette County Justice Center. During this visit, I, along with Superior Court Judge Ballard, spoke with the kids about the court process. I explained my role in court proceedings and discussed particular cases that have been prosecuted by my office. I encouraged these youth to overcome challenges that they have faced, to work hard in their classes, and to strive to become productive and successful citizens. The youth also witnessed criminal proceedings in Judge Ballard’s courtroom, and the Fayette County Clerk of Court, Sheila Studdard, took them on a tour of the courthouse.
With so much negativity in the media recently, my sense of hope in the future is bright today. These kids were insightful, smart, and eager to learn more about our system. Despite facing unspeakable things in their past, they have the drive to succeed. I’m thankful to have met them today.
Last week, the Spalding County District Attorney’s Office completed the trial of the State of Georgia vs. Sean Evans. Assistant District Attorneys Kathryn Lenhard and Donna Gopaul tried the case for the State. The case was tried in front of the Honorable John C. Carbo, a visiting Senior Judge. A Spalding County jury convicted Evans of multiple counts including: Voluntary Manslaughter, Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, and multiple counts of Violation of Criminal Street Gang Act. He was sentenced to a total of 50 years in prison.
The defendant was convicted of shooting and killing Ares Mayes on May 30, 2016. Mayes, and two other men, were driving from a club in the city of Griffin. The defendant was traveling in a different vehicle when he shot multiple rounds in the victim’s car, striking the victim. The motive for the shooting was an altercation at the club with a friend of the victim. The defendant was also convicted of being a member of the “Crips,” a criminal street gang in Spalding County.
ADA Lenhard said of the case, “I would like to thank my office, especially my trial partner Donna, the witnesses in the case and law enforcement for their tireless work in bringing this defendant to justice for the senseless shooting of the victim in this case. It took many hours, over 20 witnesses, and 9 days for the jury to deliver a verdict, but the verdict was a clear message to those that engage in gang violence. This community will no longer tolerate it.”
District Attorney Coker added, “Gangs have become a big problem in our community and are responsible for the majority of violent crime and drug crime. Gang cases always pose challenges for law enforcement and prosecutors, but my team faced challenge after challenge with courage, and I could not be prouder of them. My office will not relent in our pursuit to end gang violence in this community. Along with law enforcement, we will continue the fight to keep Spalding County safe.”
The Spalding County District Attorney’s Office tried the State of Georgia vs. Franklin George Gebhardt beginning last Monday. A Spalding County jury returned a verdict yesterday of guilty on Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Aggravated Battery, Aggravated Assault, and Concealing the Death of Another. The Honorable W. Fletcher Sams sentenced the defendant to Life plus 30 years in prison. District Attorney Benjamin D. Coker and Chief Assistant District Attorney Marie Broder tried the case on behalf of the State. The trial lasted seven days, over 20 witnesses testified, and over 160 pieces of evidence were presented to the jury.
The jury convicted Gebhardt of brutally stabbing and slicing Timothy Coggins over 34 years ago in a field off of Minter Road. The original investigation was closed after two months. Special Agent Jared Coleman with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Captain Mike Morris with the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office opened the case in December of 2016 and conducted hundreds of interviews. These two agencies, along with the Spalding County District Attorney’s Office, and the Fire Department used a Hydrovac system to excavate a well on the defendant’s property. It was the first time in the State of Georgia that such a system was used for well excavation. In the well, a white tank top, shoes, a chain, and a knife were some of the items recovered. This evidence was presented to the jury.
District Attorney Coker said of the result, “I am beyond proud of my office and my team, particularly my Chief Assistant Marie Broder, who prepared the case for trial, for the hard work they put into this case. We have spent countless hours working with the GBI, the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, and the witnesses to prepare and present this case to a jury. This was a challenging case filled with hurdles and obstacles, but we never faltered in our resolve to bring justice to Timothy Coggins and his family. We asked the jury to right the wrongs of the past with this case, and they did just that.”
May 21, 2018 -- Fayette County
Three defendants were sentenced to Life without the Possibility of Parole for a Murder and Home Invasion occurring at a home in Lake Horton Landing on June 23, 2017. Travione Reynolds, 21, Kavion Tookes, 22, and Jeffrey Wallace, 23, all from Atlanta, entered non-negotiated guilty pleas this morning to an indictment charging them with multiple counts including: Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Home Invasion, Armed Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Kidnapping, Firearm Charges, Burglary, and Theft by Taking. Tookes and Wallace also pled guilty to Fleeing and Attempting to Elude Police Officers. Tookes pled to an additional charge of Attempted Removal of a Weapon from a Public Official. These three defendants will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
District Attorney Ben Coker, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Warren Sellers, and Assistant District Attorney Dan Hiatt represented the State. The surviving victim and members of the deceased victim’s family gave victim impact statements to the Court.
Deputy Chief Assistant Sellers said of the pleas: “through very determined and excellent work on the part of law enforcement, the three defendants responsible for this murder were apprehended. Their work coupled with the courage and cooperation on the part of the victim’s family enabled the case to be successfully prosecuted. At the sentencing hearing the victim’s wife described the night her husband was killed in their home as a ‘nightmare’ and testified that ‘images’ of the attack ‘continue to play in her mind.’”
District Attorney Coker stated: “I am proud of my office, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the surviving victim, and family members for standing up against evil during the investigation of this case. Today, good prevailed over evil in the courtroom. A person’s home should be their castle, and everyone should feel safe in his or her home. This case was a nightmare for the victims, and it represents the nightmare of each and every citizen in this Circuit. These three defendants showed no mercy on the victims on June 23, 2017, when they violently entered their home, committing murder and stealing property. My office, along with law enforcement, will not tolerate such a callous disregard for human life. Let this sentence be a statement. As a team, law enforcement, my office, and the citizens of this Circuit will not stand silent and tolerate such crimes. We will continue to fight as a team for justice to be handed down in the form of the harshest sentences available in order to keep the citizens of Fayette County safe.”
Assistant District Attorney Kathryn Lenhard and Chief Assistant District Attorney Marie Broder with the Spalding County District Attorney’s Office tried the case of the State of Georgia vs. Harry Hasty and Patricia Schafer last week. The jury returned a verdict on Friday, April 27th. The jury convicted Patricia Schafer of four counts of Aggravated Battery, eight counts of Cruelty to Children in the First Degree, and one count of Cruelty to Children in the Second Degree. The Honorable Scott Ballard sentenced the defendant to 95 years with the first 60 years to be served in prison. The jury acquitted Harry Hasty.
Schafer was convicted of inflicting multiple injuries to her six week old son, Harry Schafer, including: fractures to his right leg, fracture to the left leg, multiple rib fractures, an injury to his brain, puncture injuries to his mouth, and bruising to his body.
District Attorney Ben Coker said of the verdict, “this was a difficult case for all involved parties. I’m proud of Marie and Kate and my entire office for the hard work that they put into this trial. Our office could not have reached this result without the help of law enforcement and the medical personnel that worked with us. Those who pray on the most innocent of our society deserve sentences like this. We will continue our efforts to protect children in our community from those who seek to harm them.”
On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, an Upson County jury convicted 37 year old, Quincy Lamont Johnson, of Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute, Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Crime and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Chief Judge Christopher C. Edwards sentenced Johnson to 40 years with the first 20 years to be served in prison.
Assistant District Attorney, Michael Rogers tried the case for the State. The Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon charge was tried after the Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute. Both trials occurred over the course of two days. The jury deliberated for approximately twenty minutes on each case before returning the guilty verdicts.
District Attorney Ben Coker said of the guilty verdict, “I am extremely proud of ADA Michael Rogers, my Upson County Staff, the Upson County Sheriff’s Office, Thomaston Police Department, and citizens of the jury for their time and effort involved in this prosecution. This verdict and sentence sends a message to drug dealers who arm themselves with weapons, poison our community with drugs, and place our citizens and law enforcement at risk. The consequences of this conduct will be severe. Our office will continue to partner with law enforcement and fight this evil that invades our communities and destroys families.
Karen Price entered a non-negotiated guilty plea last Thursday, April 12th in front of the Honorable Christopher Edwards. She pled guilty to one count of Racketeering and was sentenced to 20 years with the first 5 years to serve in prison. She is also required to pay restitution in an amount of $133,000. As a special condition of her probation, she is required to disclose any federal and state convictions to any potential employer.
Price was an employee of what was then called Cooper Lighting. During a company transition to Eaton Corporation in November of 2013, an internal audit flagged some irregularities. Price was confronted with these irregularities and admitted stealing approximately $7,000.00 from the company. She was terminated. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted an extensive audit and discovered that between March 3, 2010 and October 22, 2013, on 47 occasions, Price made unauthorized cash advances on a corporate credit card. She also filed for fraudulent undeserved expense reimbursements on 68 occasions. In all, Price stole $133,683.05 from the company. The case was investigated by Sgt. Gary Meier with the Peachtree City Police Department and the financial investigation department with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Price did have a prior federal conviction, from 1994, out of the Middle District of Georgia for Embezzlement of funds from Robins Federal Credit Union.
“Employee theft such as this one cripples businesses throughout our community. This sentence should serve as a warning to the thieves hiding in Fayette County. We will work hard with law enforcement to ensure that you are prosecuted.” District Attorney Ben Coker said of the plea. “I am proud of my office and law enforcement for the hard work that they put into this case.”
The Spalding County District Attorney’s Office had a trial calendar in front of the Honorable John C. Carbo, a Senior Judge. The State presented the case of the State of Georgia vs. Aaron Szalanski to a Spalding County jury. Szalanski was charged with two counts of Aggravated Assault, Criminal Attempt to Commit Rape, and Battery. The jury convicted Szalanski of Aggravated Assault and Battery. He was sentenced to 15 years in a State penitentiary. Assistant District Attorneys Ashton Fallin and Kate Lenhard tried the case for the State.
Szalanski was convicted of beating the victim about her head, neck, and body with his fists causing lacerations and extensive bruising on August 18, 2018. Szalanski was previously convicted of Aggravated Assault against his mother in Gwinnett County.
Earl Cherry entered a guilty plea to Malice Murder and was sentenced to Life in Prison. Cherry, a 51-year-old man, pled guilty to brutally beating his wife, Sandra Cherry, with his fists and a frying pan, causing 58 injuries to her body and breaking her neck on February 22, 2018.
Beatrice Lyons entered a guilty plea to Voluntary Manslaughter for the death of Mechele Underwood on December 10, 2016. She was sentenced to 20 years with the first 15 years to be spent in prison. She pled guilty to stabbing the victim one time in the neck, killing her.
Ben Coker, District Attorney said of the week, “I am proud of the Spalding County office and how hard they worked on this trial calendar. These convictions stand as proof of their dedication to keeping Spalding County safe. Thanks to those law enforcement officers who worked with us to bring about these results.”