On April 28th, 2023, The Coleman-Baker Act (formerly known as "Rhonda's Law") was signed into Georgia State Law by Govornor Brian Kemp!
The Coleman-Baker Act is named after Rhonda Sue Coleman and Tara Louise Baker, a former University of Georgia Law student murdered in 2001 in Athens, GA, who's case also remains unsolved.
Originally an idea proposed in the Fox Hunter podcast by host Sean Kipe, "Rhonda's Law" gained support and traction from listeners, legislators and State Representitives alike. Petitions were singed, numerous versions of the Bill (House Bill 88) were drafted, and the Coleman Family united with the Baker family to pull their recources together.
On Wednesday, March 29th, the Georgia General Assembly unanimously passed the Bill, and 1 month later, it was signed into LAW. This is monumental, as it is the FIRST law of it's kind at the State level in our Nation's history. Several other states are now working to follow in Georgia's footsteps with their own versions of the Coleman-Baker Act.
THANK YOU to everyone who played a role - large or small - in making this a reality. The Coleman-Baker Act is proof that together, we CAN make a difference in the world.
And a very special thank you to the following who worked tirelessly to take this law from idea to reality:
Rep. Houston Gaines, Rep. Bill Werkheiser, Rep. Alan Powell, Rep. Clint Crowe, Rep. Stacey Evans, and Rep. Marcus Wiedower, Sen. Randy Robertson, Sen. John Albers, Sen. Blake Tillery, Sen. Bo Hatchett, Sen. Bill Cowsert, Sen. Mike Dugan, and Sen. Lee Anderson.
Both Rep. Bill Werkheiser and Sen. Blake Tillery represent Jeff Davis County and were instrumental in helping to secure the appropriated $5.4 million dollars for the GBI’s new cold case unit.
Additional Thank You's are owed to:
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation
The Coleman Family
The Baker Family
WE DID IT!
What is The Coleman-Baker Act?
The Coleman-Baker Act requires state and local law enforcement agencies to develop procedures to initiate a review of unsolved homicides to determine if a full reinvestigation of the case could lead to new evidence or the identity of the killer. The law further provides an avenue for families that disagree with the findings of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to have an administrative law judge to review the case.
The Act is named for Rhonda Sue Coleman, who was tragically murdered on May 17, 1990, in Hazlehurst, Ga. and Tara Louise Baker, a UGA student who was murdered in 2001 in Athens, Ga. Rhonda’s story was featured in Fox Hunter, a true-crime Podcast series hosted by Sean Kipe and Imperative Entertainment on the Cumulus Podcast Network. Fox Hunter brought renewed world-wide attention to Rhonda’s case and inspired the creation of the Coleman-Baker Act.
Milton and Gayle Coleman, Rhonda’s parents, said that they “are beyond grateful to the Georgia General Assembly for passing this historic piece of legislation. It was Rhonda’s desire to spend her life helping others and, while she was never able to fulfill her dreams, her legacy will live on through this upcoming law and help other families receive the answers they so desperately deserve. Justice and closure will become more accessible than ever to many Georgia families.”
The passage of the Coleman-Baker Act is a significant step in Georgia's ongoing efforts to reduce the number of unsolved homicide victims statewide. Previously, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had launched a “Cold Case Homicide Unit” that consisted of retired agents who reviewed cases on a volunteer basis. In conjunction with the Coleman-Baker Act, the General Assembly appropriated $5.4 million dollars to create a fully staffed cold case unit that will employ 10 full-time agents devoted to solving unsolved homicides.
The passage of the Coleman-Baker Act is a pro bono project of former State Senator Scot Turner of Eternal Vigilance Action, who was inspired to help the Coleman family after listening to the Fox Hunter podcast. Turner said that the project saw “collaboration with the legislature, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Sheriff’s Association, Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia, Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, Georgia Defense Attorneys Council, and the Georgia Police Chiefs Association to bring this legislation to passage.” Turner hopes that “this work will result in seeing justice secured for families across the state.”
The Act also requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report the number of unsolved homicides in their jurisdiction to the Carl Vinson Institute each year. This will allow the legislature to obtain an accurate picture of how many homicides remain unsolved statewide and to determine if additional resources are needed to combat the problem. The Act further allows the state to withhold the cause of death on a death certificate if its release would hinder the investigation.
The Coleman-Baker Act is modeled after the Homicide Victims’ Families Rights Act which was recently passed by Congress and signed into law. The federal legislation is designed to combat the ever-growing number of unsolved homicides being investigated by the FBI.
The signing of this Law will ensure that families have access to the most advanced techniques and resources to investigate cold case homicides. The Coleman family and all families of unsolved homicide victims in Georgia can now have hope that justice will be served.