The man who committed suicide after kidnapping and assaulting three women in Statesboro Sunday had two pending court cases in Pickens County — one for methamphetamine possession and another for child molestation.
The body of Bradley Justin Cochran, 40, who has lived in Cherry Log, Ellijay and other areas near Jasper, was found Monday morning after he apparently hung himself in a lot beside an abandoned house in Metter.
Cochran reportedly kidnapped three women Sunday night at Food World on Fair Road in Statesboro. One of the victims escaped and ran to Gnat’s Landing on South Main Street, where she called police, while Cochran forced the remaining two girls to drive him to a remote dirt road in Candler County, where they escaped after he sexually assaulted them, police said.
After their escape, Cochran drove their car to Metter, where he set it on fire and later killed himself, according to police.
Cochran faced two upcoming court appearances in Pickens County for cases filed in 2017.
The methamphetamine case, in which he had a co-defendant, Laken Bridget Padgett, stems from a May 2016 arrest for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of more than 4 grams of methamphetamine and four counts of possession of drug-related objects.
Cochran reportedly had in his possession methamphetamine, baggies to repackage the drug for resale, digital scales for weighing drugs, a glass pipe for smoking meth and a syringe with which to inject the drug, according to copies of indictments the Statesboro Herald obtained Wednesday from the Pickens County Clerk of Court Office.
He was also charged with being a recidivist, meaning that he was a repeat offender, with a prior conviction for violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act in 2005.
In the second pending 2017 case, Cochran was indicted on three counts of child molestation, three counts of sexual battery against a child under 16 and a recidivist charge (for the 2005 drug conviction), according to the court documents.
The indictment stated he was accused of inappropriately touching a female child under age 16 and also fondling himself at the same time, on more than one occasion. The indictment states Cochran was to not be in contact with two of his juvenile children, one of whom was the victim in this case. The court agreement allowed him supervised visitation “with his other juvenile children,” but to not be allowed to be around anyone else under age 18.
Cochran had been ordered by the court to a facility in Statesboro — Journey to Sober Living, located on Carmel Drive. A man who identified himself as Robert Wheeler answered a phone call to the facility but said he did not wish to talk about the incident involving Cochran and hung up on a reporter when asked whether it was a licensed facility.
Statesboro police Community Information Specialist Madison Warren said Cochran “checked himself out” of the Journey to Sober Living facility on his own accord Sunday.
Investigation continues in spite of suspect’s death
Although Cochran is deceased, the Statesboro Police Department is still looking into what happened, and “the investigation continues into the circumstances surrounding the crime,” Warren said.
When he left the Journey to Sober Living facility Sunday, Cochran checked into Quality Inn on South Main Street. About nine hours later, he found himself at Food World on Fair Road, where he used a knife to coerce the three victims into taking him to an ATM, she said.
“The Statesboro Police Department had not had any contact with Cochran since his arrival in Statesboro in 2017,” Warren said. “Cochran did not know his victims and apparently chose them at random.”
Cochran forced the girls to drive, but one jumped out of the moving vehicle near Gnat’s Landing and called police. She told officers Cochran had given them his name and said he was staying at a local hotel.
Police, using that information, checked with area hotels and learned Cochran’s identity, Warren said.
Officers were able to track the vehicle for a short time, “pinging” the girls’ cellphones until the phones were abandoned between West Jones Avenue and Country Club Road, Warren said.
Cochran reportedly forced the girls to drive to Baggett Farm Road in Candler County, where he sexually assaulted them before they were able to escape by running through a cotton field to a farmer’s home, where the homeowner called 911.
Candler County sheriff’s deputies and Statesboro Region 5 Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents were at the scene when Metter police received word that a vehicle was burning on East Lillian Street.
Investigators determined Cochran had left Baggett Farm Road and drove to Metter, set the car on fire and later hung himself. His body was found Monday morning after someone reported a suspicious person on Ronnie Street.
In a post on their Facebook page Monday night, Statesboro police praised the actions of the victims.
“Our officers were amazed by their strength and bravery. These women were just minding their own business, trying to leave the parking lot, when a stranger threatened them with a knife and forced his way into their vehicle,” the statement read. “Despite being in a terrifying, and potentially deadly, situation, these women kept their wits about them. They were able to create a diversion so one of them could escape, from a moving vehicle, to get help … and most likely saved their lives.
“This investigation could have very easily ended in tragedy, but these women fought for their survival with every tool they had. … These women are survivors, warriors.”
Anyone with information concerning this case is asked to contact the Statesboro Police Department at (912) 764-9911.
Tips also may be made online at www.tipsoft.com or by sending the text “TPSSPD” followed by the message to 274637 (CRIMES). All information is strictly confidential.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.