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‘Nobody Is Talking to Us’: Mississippi Authorities Search for Answers as 18-Year-Old Allegedly Murders Mom’s Fiancé Just Hours After Graduating from High School


Justin Robert Coggins appears in a mugshot

Hours after graduating from high school, a Mississippi teenager was arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of his mother’s fiancé.

Justin Robert Coggins, 18, stands accused of murder.

According to the Lowndes County Sheriff, the incident occurred sometime on Saturday, May 21, 2022. Coggins had just graduated from Caledonia High School earlier that same morning.

Lowndes County Sheriff Eddie Hawkins told Columbus, Mississippi, CBS affiliate WCBI that the shooting occurred during a domestic dispute.

According to Tupelo, Miss. NBC affiliate WTVA, deputies arrived at the residence on Richard’s Lane in Caledonia, Miss., some 15 miles north-northwest of Columbus, after the county’s 911 dispatch received a call around 7:00 p.m. regarding “a disturbance where a subject was shot.”

There, authorities found 33-year-old Dustin Hoffpauir dead from a gunshot wound. The deceased man’s identity was confirmed by Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant. An autopsy on the victim is slated to be performed by the State Medical Examiner’s Office.

Details about the deadly violence are currently scarce. The exact contours of that alleged domestic dispute have not been made public as of this writing. Similarly, law enforcement have not ventured a motive for the defendant beyond the domestic dispute allegation.

The sheriff later elaborated, in comments to The Dispatch, to say investigators believe the dispute was related to domestic violence.

“We don’t know exactly what happened,” Hawkins told the paper on Monday morning–saying it was unclear whether the shooting could have been in self-defense. “Nobody is talking to us right now, not the mother or the suspect. They both asked for an attorney, and we’re waiting for the attorney to arrive this morning.”

According to Gulfport, Miss. Fox/NBC/CW affiliate WXXV, the victim became engaged to the defendant’s mother in November 2021.

Hoffpauir lived in Columbus and originally hailed from Hancock, Miss.. He owned and founded a HVAC company called Stella Air, LLC.

According to the Sun Herald, Hoffpauir can be seen in Facebook photos at Coggins’ graduation, “who was wearing his cap and gown.”

The paper noted that numerous tributes to the slain man known to his friends as “Dusty” have since been posted on social media.

“I love you lil brother,” the deceased’s brother, Ryan Ladner, wrote in one such post.

Others remembered Hoffpauir as a baseball player.

“Life is too short for some,” one friend wrote on Facebook. “literally was sitting yesterday talking about how hard of hitter and ball player you were man! Rest Easy Dustin Hoffpauir.”

He was also remembered fondly by one of his teachers:

When you teach and coach as many years as I did, you lose students for a variety of reasons. It’s my own fault, but I was one of those “caring” teachers. I mentored my students 24 hours a day if need of “my” students…”my kids,” was murdered at only 33 years young. I hurt every time I lose someone, but this one hits hard. Please Pray for the family of Dustin Hoffpauir. I love you, man! I will see you again one day at the reunion!!! Go Rocks!!!

“Such an amazing person gone way too soon,” another friend wrote. “My heart hurts for the family and my mind instantly goes to old memories.”

Coggins is currently being detained in the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center. The defendant’s initial court appearance was Monday, May 23, 2022. His bond was set at $250,000, WCBI reports.

The case is still under investigation.

[Image via Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office]

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