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Georgia man sentenced to life in black man's 1983 racially-motivated murder

GRIFFIN, Ga. — A judge ordered a white Georgia man to serve life plus 20 years in prison immediately after he was convicted Tuesday in what prosecutors have said was the racially motivated slaying of a black man 35 years ago. Frank Gebhardt, 60, was convicted on charges including murder in the killing of Timothy Coggins, news outlets report. 

Witnesses said Coggins was stabbed 30 times and dragged behind a pickup truck in a killing driven by racial hatred.

Prosecutors have said Coggins was killed because he was dating a white woman. The case remained unsolved for decades.

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Frank Gebhardt sits at the defense table waiting for a verdict during his murder trial at the Spalding County Courthouse on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 in Griffin, Ga.  Hyosub Shin /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool

The jury's verdict, reached after about six hours of deliberation, was delivered amid heavy security in the courtroom, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

"Hopefully, sir, you have stabbed your last victim," Judge Fletcher Sams said as he sentenced Gebhardt.

Witnesses said Gebhardt and his brother-in-law, Bill Moore Sr., stabbed Coggins and dragged his body, which was found along a rural road in Spalding County on Oct. 5, 1983. Moore is also charged in the case and is awaiting trial.

Gebhardt was stoic as the verdict was read, but members of Coggins' family sobbed and hugged each other and prosecutor Marie Broder, the newspaper reported.

Gebhardt's lawyer told the jury his client was "racist" and "mean," but he argued the state relied heavily on witnesses who are in custody and testified in hopes of lowering their own sentences. But prosecutors countered that many of those witnesses relayed information that only the killer would know.

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