Crime & Safety

Georgia Southern students abducted in parking lot; suspect found dead

STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) - A man wanted for kidnapping Georgia Southern students at a grocery store and sexually assaulting them was found dead in Metter on Monday of an apparent suicide.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), on Sunday, Bradley Justin Cochran, 38 of Statesboro, forcefully entered a vehicle occupied by three female students at Food World.

GBI says he was armed with a knife.

One student was able to escape the vehicle in Statesboro. But Cochran reportedly forced the other two women to drive into Candler County where he sexually assaulted them.

GBI says the victims were able to flee on foot to a house nearby to call 911. Cochran drove off in the stolen vehicle.

An Eagle Alert from Georgia Southern stated the abduction occurred just after 9:00 p.m. By about 10:40 p.m., the university sent an update saying the victims were located.

According to Josh Ayer, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the GBI Region 5-Statesboro office, the stolen vehicle was found abandoned and set on fire in the middle of the night.

On Monday around 10:20 a.m., Metter police located Cochran dead of an apparent suicide. Ayer said he was found in the backyard of an abandoned property. It appears he hanged himself.

Ayer said there is no information at this time that indicated Cochran knew the students. It appears he acted alone and that there is no threat to the Bulloch or Candler counties.

“These girls were together, there were three of them and it happened. They were doing the right thing," Ayer said. "They were buying groceries going back to school on a Sunday night. It’s just an awful situation that we hate happened.”

The Statesboro Police Department released a statement regarding the "strength and bravery" of the victims:

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.

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. She was able to give law enforcement vital information that led to the identification of the suspect and helped locate the other two women, and most likely saved their lives.

The investigation could have very easily ended in tragedy, but these women fought for their survival with every tool they had. And they won.

These women are survivors, warriors, their strength, intelligence and courage is what should be recognized and remembered in regards to this incident.

Ayers says the GBI will continue to work with Georgia Southern to make sure the students get any help or counseling they need.

Cochran's body will be taken to the GBI Medical Examiner's Office in Savannah to determine the official cause and manner of death.

GBI, Candler County Sheriff’s Office and the Statesboro Police Department continue to investigate.

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UPDATE: Candler Country Sheriffs Office reports Bradley Justin Cochran has been located. He was wanted for a series of incidents in Bulloch and Candler counties including the possible abduction of three females in Statesboro who have been found and are now safe.

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Officers are seeking a white man in connection to this incident. He was last seen wearing khaki shorts and a white shirt and has tattoos on his forearms. He was driving a red RAV4 with a green frog sticker on the back.

If you have any information, call 912-764-9911.


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