Friday, February 5, 2010
35-Year-old Murder Solved with 2 Arrests
You heard it here first:
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two men and charged them with the Feb. 3, 1975 murder of a man on Meadowbrook Drive in Richmond County.
Bronzi Leon Peppers (25 at the time of his death) was found shot once in the head in his front yard on 2921 Meadowbrook Drive.
In August 2009, sheriff's investigators received a letter from a person claiming to have information in an unsolved murder that occurred in the early to mid 1970s. Investigators interviewed the person, who had some first hand information, but was unable to provide exact dates, locations or times. The individual was able to provide some details, to include how the murder occurred and who the suspects were.
Investigators were unable to find any file or report about the murder in the files of the Sheriff’s Office. A flood in the old courthouse, where the criminal investigative division used to be located, had completely destroyed many files from that era, and it is suspected that any file concerning the investigation of this case was also destroyed. Details were not specific enough for investigators to find coroner’s reports or news articles.
As investigators made efforts to verify the validity of the information, one of the suspect in the case was located and interviewed and made a subsequent admission to his involvement in the case. The suspect was able to provide greater detail, and two days after his admission, Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten was able to locate a Coroner’s Report concerning the murder.
That report provided details and leads that allowed investigators to confirm that this was indeed the murder in question. Since that time, many witnesses have been interviewed and a great deal of evidence gathered.
This morning, the police in Marietta, Okla., arrested 58 year old William “Butch” Lawrence Coffey III (bottom mug) on a Richmond County murder warrant for his involvement in this case. The extradition process will now begin and it is not yet known if Mr. Coffey will fight extradition.
At 12:30 pm today, Richmond County investigators arrested 53 year old Mark Anthony Hill (top mug) at his residence on Roberson Road in Augusta. Mr. Hill has been committed to the Richmond County Jail on one count of murder.
Another suspect, Tony Ray Ouzts, died in a car accident in Columbia County in the early 1990s. He would be 69 today, had he survived.
There are two other potential suspects linked to the case, however their identities are being withheld at this time. Other arrests are possible, authorities said.
According to Lt. Scott Peebles, the investigation into the case revealed the following information regarding the case:
"Tony Ouzts was believed to be a drug dealer during the time period of this case. The victim, Bronzi Leon Peppers, stole a large quantity of drugs from Mr. Ouzts. Mr. Ouzts and four other conspirators then devised a plan to kidnap the victim and hold him for ransom until the stolen drugs were returned. On the night of the incident, the group of five suspects went to the victim’s residence, and caught him in the front yard. The suspects began a struggle with the victim, which forced the victim to the ground. At some point during the struggle, Ouzts shot Peppers one time in the head. The suspects fled the scene, and until now have gone about living their lives."
Lt. Peebles said this case is significant on many levels, including:
1. This is the first case investigated by the newly formed “Cold Case” Division of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
2. The sheriff's office hopes the arrests will send a message to anyone who’s ever participated in a homicide and thought they got away with it, that no longer how long ago, there is a very real likelihood that they will someday be brought to justice.
3. For the loved ones of the victims of unsolved cases, the sheriff's office hopes that this reassures them that someday their loved ones case will be solved and the suspect will be brought to justice.
4. Finally, there were a large handful of people in this case who had information, which could have brought the case to a closure long ago. For those who have information in other unsolved case, we hope that this will give them the courage to come forward with the information that they have and help bring closure to the families of murder victims.