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Louisiana Man Arrested in Cold Case of 19-Year-Old Girl Whose Body Was Found In Abandoned Building: Police

Coco was last seen by her mother, Stephanie Belgrade, a few days earlier. Her body was found in an abandoned building in Winnie, Texas

April 24, 2021

Courtney Coco was last seen by her mother a few days before she vanished. Her death was ruled a homicide. Her parents never gave up on getting their daughter justice.

A Louisiana man has been arrested in the 2004 cold case of a 19-year-old girl whose body was found more than 16 years ago in an abandoned building in Texas, authorities said.

David Anthony Burns, 45, has been charged with second-degree murder on Tuesday for the death of Courtney Coco. According to the indictment obtained by the Town Talk, Burns killed Coco during the "perpetration and attempted perpetration of a simple robbery …even though he had no specific intent to kill and inflict great bodily harm."

Burns' arrest was made following a grand jury indictment hours earlier. He is being held without bond and has not yet entered a plea. No arraignment or court dates has been scheduled, The Talk reported.

Coco was last seen by her mother, Stephanie Belgrade, a few days earlier. Her body was found in an abandoned building in Winnie, Texas, nearly 200 miles away from her home in October 2004. Her death was classified a homicide despite her body being badly decomposed, Fox News reported.

An autopsy did not list a specific cause of death, People reported.

Coco's 1999 Pontiac Bonneville was found in Houston a week later, a report said.

In 2018, Detective Tanner Dryden of the Alexandria Police Department was assigned the cold investigation and made the arrest, People magazine reported.

The Rapides Parish District Attorney Philip Terrell said it was a challenging case due to the age of the case and the multiple jurisdictions that were involved, but said they believed "they've resolved all sorts of issues to move forward."

"It's an old case that the APD and sheriff's office have both worked very hard to bring to its appropriate conclusion."

The family said in a statement that the arrest was "an answer to many prayers," and thanked "God" for finally giving them closure. Coco's mother Stephanie has become a victim rights advocate for those whose children have been murdered.

"We have waited 16 agonizing years for this day to come," the family wrote. "To our family members and the many 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."

The family thanked the Alexandria police detectives Tanner Dryden and Carla Whitstine and made a special thank you to Woody Overton, a former detective who has the podcast "Real Life Real Crime," for his involvement. "Thank you for investigating Courtney's case when it was listed as a cold case and not being worked. He then solved her murder in only seven short weeks and turned over his findings to the APD."

The case was also featured on NBC's "Dateline," which renewed interest in Coco's death, Fox reported. Before her death, Coco had been enrolled at Northwestern State University, where she majored in criminal investigation, NBC News reported. 

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