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Murder suspect hospitalized in Jesup

Friends, colleagues mourn, believing that Coker is victim of foul play

William Coker, Sr.

William Coker, Sr.

The Jones County woman wanted for the murder of a man believed to be Henry County businessman William G. “Doug” Coker, was in a hospital in Jesup, Ga., being treated for a drug overdose.

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Pamela Carole Moss

Jones County Sheriff Butch Reece, said the alleged assailant, Pamela Carole Moss, formerly known as Pamela Frye, was taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital from her sister’s home in the southeastern part of the state.

“Last night [Monday] she took an overdose of pills,” said Reece. “She took the pills at her sister’s house, she overdosed, and we suspect they were sleeping pills.” He said her sister called for an ambulance after Moss took the pills.

“I suspect [Moss] realized that we were actually closing in. Through phone records, we knew she had contacted her sister early on in the case,” said Reece. “Last night[Monday], we recovered his [Coker’s] car in Griffin, and her car from a shopping center parking lot in Hinesville. Our investigator received that information after she went to the hospital; undoubtedly, the sister must have told investigators where her car was.”

Reece said Moss is being guarded by Wayne County Sheriff’s deputies, and Jones County Sheriff’s Office investigators, Capt. Earl Humphries, and deputy Calvin Pitts.

Moss was driving a 1992 Subaru Legacy, according to the sheriff.

The missing car Coker was last seen driving, a gray Dodge Avenger, was found on Eighth Street, near Griffin-Spalding County Hospital, according to Humphries.

“We are 99.9 percent sure that the body found at the River North subdivision at Moss’ house, is that William ‘Doug’ Coker,” said Reece.

Henry County Police Maj. Jason Bolton also said the victim found in Jones County “is believed to be Mr. Coker.”

The body was found Sunday night at 149 Old Ridge Road. The two-story house has a Macon mailing address, but is located in Jones County. According to Henry County Police Sgt. Joey Smith, Coker had been missing from Henry County since March 13.

“We had been talking to U.S Marshals and Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, they were trying to help us locate Ms. Moss,” said Reece.

In Jones County, investigators said they were led to believe Moss would surrender, but she had not.

Authorities said Moss spoke with her former attorney, Frank Hogue, who represented her in a Bibb County murder case in November 1997. Moss pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, after being charged with murder, in the death of her mother, Barbara Sherman Frye, 64.

“I represented her then and I will represent her now, if she needs me,” said Hogue. “I spoke with her recently in anticipation of her coming back to Jones County to face these charges.”

“She spent seven years prison, and did three years on parole,” Hogue added.

A family member expressed concerns about Coker’s whereabouts after the 67-year-old failed to return home following a reported business meeting at a fast food restaurant in Macon a week ago.

“We know he had a cup of coffee at the McDonald’s on Bass Road — [a] video shows Mr. Coker was alone and walking out of the door,” said Lt. Sean Defoe, of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.

Henry County police have been working with the Bibb County Sheriffs investigators regarding the missing person report filed on Coker. Humphries said it was two investigators from Bibb County who found the body.

Humphries said Moss was not at home when the body was discovered in her backyard around 11:30 p.m., Sunday night.

“She [Moss] was a person of interest from the outset,” said Humphries. The Bibb County investigators went to talk with her, at her home, and then noticed an odor coming from the rear of the house, according to the captain.

“She ... has not been to the home for a few days, we understand,” said Humphries.

He said Henry County police notified his office of the circumstances involved in the case, adding that “we took over because of the apparent crime scene is in Jones County.”

Coker’s family and friends searched for him through Saturday of last week, after hearing that his cell phone had “pinged” on a cell tower in south Monroe County, said family spokesman, A. J. “Buddy” Welch. They also distributed a missing person flyer.

Welch, who said he has been Coker’s friend for 35 years, said a Monday search was called off after family members were informed a body was found that was believed to be that of their friend.

Coker has been in business in Henry County for a number of years, said Welch. He is a graduate of Southwest DeKalb High School, DeKalb Tech and he was a member of the McDonough Presbyterian Church. He and wife of 28 years, Judy Cook Coker, are the parents of Kim Phillips, Dawn Anderson, Doug Coker, Jr., and Kally Phillips. He was a member of the Henry County Rotary Club and Henry County Chamber of Commerce.

“It is a great loss to our community,” Welch said. “It is a terrible thing for his wife and family to go through, but the people that have turned out for the search parties and their efforts to help the family proves that this is a tight-knit community willing to lay down their day-to-day lives to help the Coker and the Cook families. The turnout to help locate Doug has just been unbelievable. Hundreds of people volunteered their time and effort. The Coker and Cook families are very grateful.”

Monday morning, Kay Pippin, president of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, issued this statement: “It is indeed with a heavy heart that I share with you the news that missing Henry County businessman, Doug Coker, has been found, deceased and on property in Jones County. On behalf of all Chamber members and staff, I extend our profound sympathy to Doug’s widow, Judy, and the family. May the love of God, family and friends, comfort them in the days ahead.”

Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer described the Coker case as, a “tragedy” for the Coker family and the community.

“[Coker] was a well-respected business leader in Henry County and he will leave a void that may not be able to be filled,” said McBrayer. “It is a sad situation for the family, friends and those of us who knew him. He will be missed and those who committed this terrible crime should be punished. To that end, we have and will continue to assist all law-enforcement agencies in bringing the person who took his life to justice.”

Johnny Jackson, Jason Smith, and Peter Scott contributed to this article.