A Louisiana man has been charged in the 2004 cold case murder of a college student whose body was found in an abandoned building in Texas, police said.
David Anthony Burns, 43, of Boyce, was arrested Tuesday on a second-degree murder charge in the death of Courtney Coco, whose body was found in an abandoned building in Winnie, Texas, roughly 200 miles from her home in Louisiana, police said.
Coco, 19, was last seen by her mother at her Alexandria home two days before her body was found. An autopsy could not determine a cause of death due to the condition of her body, but investigators ruled it a homicide, KALB reported.
Alexandria police Det. Tanner Dryden, who picked up the cold case in 2018 after it stumped authorities in Louisiana and Texas, made the arrest following a grand jury indictment Tuesday, the station reported.
“This has been a very difficult case, it has been a tough case, it’s an old case that the APD and sheriff’s office have both worked very hard to bring to it’s appropriate conclusion,” Rapides Parish District Attorney Phillip Terrell said.
Terrell acknowledged that pressure to solve the case, especially after Coco’s family worked with a retired detective on a podcast examining her death, helped renew interest in the slaying.
“I can’t really talk about specifics of the case,” Terrell said. “I don’t want to do anything to compromise the integrity of the case. We waited so long and worked so hard to get it to this point.”
Coco’s mother, Stephanie Belgard, told NBC’s “Dateline” last year that she vowed to get justice for her daughter.
“I know nothing can bring her back,” Belgard said last year. “As a mother, I want to fix this. Sadly, I can’t. I kneeled at her grave and made a promise to get justice.”
Dryden told NBC News Coco’s partially-clothed body was found in the abandoned building. Her Pontiac Bonneville was then discovered a week later in Houston, along with her belongings, including the white lab coat she wore as a dentist office employee.
Coco was enrolled at Northwestern State University, where she majored in criminal investigation, NBC News reported.
Her relatives previously told “Dateline” she was kind to everyone she met, leaving them baffled as to why anyone would hurt her, according to the report.
In 2019, Coco’s family got together with retired detective Woody Overton, who detailed her case in his “Real Life Real Crime” podcast on “Who Murdered Courtney Coco.”
Dryden declined to comment on Overton’s podcast and it’s unclear if any information revealed in the episodes led to Burns’ arrest, NBC News reported,
Coco’s family, meanwhile, praised Overton for solving the case in “only 7 weeks” before turning his findings over to Alexandria police.
“First, we would like to thank God, this arrest is an answer to MANY prayers,” her relatives said in a statement. “We have waited 16 agonizing years for this day to come. To our family members and the many supporters who have NEVER given up on helping us fight this very long, hard journey for justice, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts, we love you.”
It’s unclear if Burns has hired an attorney, KALB reported.