Small towns like Hazlehurst, GA are the backbone of America. They are the places of unsung heroes, of hard-working middle-class men and women. But sometimes, these very same small towns hide the deepest and darkest of secrets. Such is the case of 18-year-old Rhonda Sue Coleman, who was abducted in May of 1990 after a senior class party and found three days later in a neighboring county. She had been murdered, her body dumped in a wooded area and burned in an attempt to conceal any evidence. There were dozens of suspects - classmates, ex-boyfriends, and even members of the police force. Despite many people in the community still claiming to know who really killed Rhonda, the lack of hard evidence has caused the case to remain open.
Now, more than 30 years later the Coleman family and the community of Hazlehurst, GA still want answers as to who is responsible for Rhonda Sue Coleman's death. The family worked with Sean Kipe and Imperative Entertainment to produce the "Foxhunter" podcast to re-examine the evidence, unearth new leads, and investigate the role that Law Enforcement may have played in the death of Rhonda.
This investigation has revealed damning evidence that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has failed to follow up on significant leads in the investigation, refused to allow the new District Attorney to review the case file, allowed former DA unfettered access to the case file along with her investigators but is now blocking the new DA, privately admitted to making mistakes in the case, and have actively refused to provide Rhonda's parents with any substantial information regarding their daughter's murder. It was only when Sean Kipe was able to obtain confidential internal emails through open records that the truth was revealed. Significant questions remain as to why the GBI does not want anyone to know, including the new District Attorney, what is in that case file. What are they hiding?
The biggest travesty of the case was discovered by the family in 2017 when it learned that the Jeff Davis County Sheriff's Department was in possession of fingernail clippings that had never been processed for DNA. Because of the substantial failures of law enforcement, the family was forced to hire their own private investigator who learned of the fingernail clippings through interviews with former agents and investigators. It wasn't until the family began making "significant waves" in the community that the clippings were retrieved by the GBI and submitted for analysis. The family later learned that, circa 2010, a former Sheriff and his investigator had requested that the clippings be processed by the GBI. No action was taken until the family learned about the unprocessed evidence.
While Rhonda's death may never be solved, we don't want her death to have been in vain nor have another family suffer the indignity of not knowing what happened to their loved one. Thus, the family is calling on the Georgia General Assembly and its legislators to protect the rights of victim's families and to hold the GBI and other law enforcement accountable for their failure to follow up on significant leads that could lead to the successful prosecution of those responsible for the death of a loved one.
The family is asking for the public to join them in asking the Georgia General Assembly to amend Georgia's law and provide for the following:
1. An independent review board composed of law enforcement agents be empaneled to review homicide investigation case files that have remained unsolved for a period of more than 5 years to ensure that the GBI and/or Law Enforcement have taken any and all measures available to solve said case and to ensure that all evidence has been processed for forensic evidence. To also ensure that no GBI or Law Enforcement official has violated their oath of office by failing to follow up on leads or process relevant evidence.
2. When a homicide case remains unsolved for a period of 20 year or more, the immediate family of the victim shall have the right to review the entire case file with no redactions to learn about the death of their loved one. There shall also be an agent or investigator present during the review who is familiar with the case to answer any questions that the family may have about their loved one's case.
3. That Georgia law provide that a District Attorney shall be granted unfettered access to any and all active homicide investigation case files to ensure that no lesser and included charge becomes time barred due to a statute of limitation and to ensure that the GBI and local law enforcement are not impeding an investigation by their failure to follow up on any and all leads in a case or process relevant evidence.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FAMILY'S FIGHT FOR JUSTICE FOR RHONDA, LISTEN TO "FOXHUNTER" ON YOUR FAVORITE PODCAST APP.