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Man Charged In 2004 Cold Case Murder Of College Student Who Was Studying Criminal Investigation

David Anthony Burns has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2004 killing of Courtney Coco.

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Man Charged College Student's 2004 Cold Case Murder
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Nearly two decades after a Louisiana college student’s body was found in an abandoned building in Texas, investigators have arrested the man they believe killed her.

David Anthony Burns, 43, of Boyce, was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged him with the second-degree murder of Courtney Coco, 19, the Alexandria Police Department wrote in a statement. Burns was taken into custody following a grand jury indictment.

Coco was last seen by her mother at her West Sandy Bayou home in October 2004. Her body was discovered two days later in an abandoned building in Winnie, Texas, local outlet KALB reports. While a medical examiner could not determine the Coco's exact cause of death, they did conclude that she was murdered. 

A motive in the case hasn't been disclosed.

Alexandria Police Det. Tanner Dryden took over the cold case in 2018. He made Tuesday’s arrest, police noted. 

Coco’s death was profiled in the investigative podcast “Real Life Real Crime” for a 2019 episode entitled “Who Murdered Courtney Coco.” During that episode, the Coco's family got together with retired detective Woody Overton as they dove into the case. The podcast resulted in a renewed public interest in the case.

The family thanked the podcast in a Wednesday statement. 

“Our family would like to thank Woody Overton with Real Life Real Crime for investigating Courtney's case when it was listed as a Cold Case and not being worked,” the statement read. “He then solved her murder in only 7 short weeks & turned over his findings to APD."

When asked about the podcast’s effect on the break, Rapides Parish District Attorney Phillip Terrell told KALB that he wasn't able to talk about the specifics. 

“I don’t want to do anything to compromise the integrity of the case,” he said. “We waited so long and worked so hard to get it to this point. It was a very old case, the evidence was old. It’s a tough case. The Alexandria Police did a phenomenal job in staying the course and waiting until the appropriate time to make the arrest.”

Coco’s mom, Stephanie Belgard, told NBC’s “Dateline” last year that the slain teen was majoring in criminal investigation at Northwestern State University when she was killed. She was a good student, played softball, and was on the cheerleading team, according to the podcast. The podcast also detailed how the teen's father died when she was just 8 and how she picked out his casket and gravesite, as well as her own future gravesite. 

The family also thanked Dryden and other officials for spending time on the case. They wrote that they're confident that “Courtney will finally get the justice she deserved 16 years ago.”

“We have waited 16 agonizing years for this day to come,” they stated. “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 an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

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