Mother’s fight for justice pays off as long-awaited arrest is made in 2004 cold case homicide of Courtney Coco
Nearly two decades after the body of 19-year-old Courtney Coco was found inside an abandoned building near Winnie, Texas, some 200 miles from her Alexandria, Louisiana home, a man has been arrested in connection to her murder.
David Anthony Burns, 43, of Boyce, Louisiana, was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree murder, Alexandria Police announced.
The case was investigated by the Alexandria Police Department and Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office, but it was Detective Tanner Dryden who made the arrest, according to the release. He was assigned to the case in October 2018. What exactly led police to arrest Burns was not announced.
Courtney’s case has baffled many for years. She’s been featured in various true-crime shows and podcasts. Her story was featured in Dateline’s online series “Cold Case Spotlight” in 2020.
Her mother, Stephanie Belgard, has never given up the fight to get justice in her daughter’s case. She told Dateline in 2020 that she made a promise, and she intended to keep that promise.
“I know nothing can bring her back,” Stephanie during the interview last year. “As a mother, I want to fix this. Sadly, I can’t. But I kneeled at her grave and made a promise to get justice. And I’m keeping that promise. I’ll get justice and finally she’ll be at peace.”
Stephanie has been fighting to get justice for her daughter ever since she received the heartbreaking call from an Alexandria Police officer on October 4, 2004.
According to Alexandria Police Department lead investigator Tanner Dryden, Courtney’s partially-clothed body was found in an abandoned building on the outskirts of Winnie, Texas, about a three-hour drive from where Courtney lived in Alexandria.
Her body was so badly decomposed that a cause of death could not be determined, but it was ruled a homicide.
A week later, Courtney’s 1999 Pontiac Bonneville was located in Houston, Texas. Her belongings, including the white lab coat she wore to her job at a dentist office, were still inside.
The individuals in possession of the vehicle were questioned, but investigators wouldn’t comment on whether or not they believe they were involved in Courtney’s death.
Courtney was a 2003 graduate of Alexandria Senior High School and was enrolled at Northwestern State University where she was majoring in criminal investigation.
Courtney’s family told Dateline she was kind and helped everyone she met, and they don’t know why someone would have wanted to hurt her.
Courtney’s case grew cold over the years but her family continued to push for answers.
In 2019, they joined forces with retired homicide detective and “Real Life Real Crime” podcast host Woody Overton.
After a deep dive into the case with countless interviews and months of dedication, he presented his findings on his podcast.
Detective Dryden wouldn’t comment on Overton’s findings and it is not clear if any information in the podcast led to the current arrest.
On Wednesday, following Tuesday’s arrest, Courtney’s family released a statement.
“First, we would like to thank God, this arrest is an answer to MANY prayers. 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.
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. He then solved her murder in only 7 short weeks & turned over his findings to APD. We thank Detectives Tanner Dryden & Carla Whitstine for agreeing to take this case & their many hours of hard work they put in to get us here and finally make the arrest our family has been waiting on.
We have the utmost confidence that Special Assistant DA Hugo Holland will get a full conviction and Courtney will finally get the justice she deserved 16 years ago.”