released more details Tuesday about a harrowing triple kidnapping in Statesboro
Sunday night that ended with two of the victims being sexually assaulted in a
The women were all found safe after escaping their captor, who fled in a victim’s car and hung himself after setting it on fire.
The case was multi-jurisdictional, starting with the abduction and robbery in Statesboro, followed by the assault and escape in Candler County and ending with the car fire and suicide in the city of Metter.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Region 5 office in Statesboro was called to investigate, as well as Statesboro and Metter police and the Candler County Sheriff’s Office.
The abduction took place sometime around 8:30 p.m. Sunday night at Food World on Fair Road, a well-lit and usually busy location popular with Georgia Southern University students for its proximity to campus. The three victims were female GSU students, police said.
Bradley Justin Cochran, a 40-year-old man whose Facebook accounts state he is from Cherry Log, Ellijay and Fairmount, Georgia, but was rumored to have been staying most recently in Statesboro, approached the three women with a knife in hand and forced his way into the red RAV4 they were driving. He commanded the driver to take him to an ATM, where he allegedly had them withdraw cash, then directed them to drive on, said Madison Warren, Statesboro police community information specialist.
One victim was able to escape just a few minutes later, jumping from the moving vehicle near Gnat’s Landing on South Main Street, she said. That young lady sought help in the restaurant and someone called 911. By this time, it was around 9:07 p.m.
Speaking with the first victim, police were able to get information about the vehicle, the other two victims and the suspect, including a description.
“We were able to track the car through the girls’ cellphones” until the phones were tossed near West Jones Avenue and Country Club Road, she said.
A lookout was posted for the vehicle.
Into Candler County
As police in Statesboro scurried to locate the red RAV4, other local law enforcement agencies were placed on alert as well, including the GBI, who “got the Eagle Alert” from GSU when everyone else did, said GBI Statesboro Region 5 Special Agent-in-Charge John Durden.
GSU sent out the alert via text to students, faculty and others, including descriptions of the car and suspect, making note that the incident happened off campus.
Durden said the Candler County Sheriff’s Office requested their assistance around 10:30 p.m. – two hours after Cochran took the victims hostage.
Candler County Sheriff John Miles said his office responded, along with Candler EMS, to Baggett Farm Road around 10:30 p.m., where the other two victims had escaped Cochran.
“We secured the scene” and awaited GBI agents to come investigate, he said.
Durden said it appeared Cochran was unfamiliar with his surroundings and possibly had been seeking a spot to stop. It is believed the route they took was along Pulaski Highway. The suspect and two remaining victims ended up on a remote dirt road, Baggett Farm Road, between Pulaski Road and Rosemary Church Road in Candler County.
That is where Cochran reportedly sexually assaulted the two victims, holding them at knife point, he said. First one woman, then the other, fled from the vehicle into a cotton field, then ran to a farmer’s home, where he called 911.
As investigators spoke to the victims and processed the scene, a call came through minutes later about a vehicle fire on East Lillian Street in Metter. Metter police also responded to that call and found the burning RAV4 in a field behind the Growers Supply store.
“It didn’t take us long to figure out the two calls were connected,” Miles said.
The manhunt continued with police seeking Cochran as others questioned the victims and gathered evidence.
Monday morning, someone called Metter police to report a “suspicious person,” said Metter police Capt. Kevin Wadley. Around 10 a.m., Metter police found Cochran in an open area near an abandoned house, where he had hung himself, he said.
According to information gleaned from Cochran’s Facebook posts, he had at least two children, one of whom has organized a Gofundme account to help pay the cost of his father’s funeral.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.