Former GBI agents tell the true story of the Cocaine Bear

Feb. 23—The real story of the "Cocaine Bear" isn't quite stranger than fiction, but the former Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents who worked the case in the 1980s will tell you it's far more fascinating than the sensational horror-comedy film that will hit screens Friday.

"Cocaine Bear," directed by Elizabeth Banks and starring Ray Liotta in one of his last films before his death in May, is about a 500-pound bear named Cokie that ingests a "staggering amount of cocaine" and goes on a "coke-fueled rampage for more blow ... and blood," according to a synopsis of the film.

In reality, the bear (a female) weighed 175 pounds, ingested a relatively modest amount of cocaine and collapsed shortly after its final meal in the North Georgia mountains in Fannin County.

On Dec. 22, 1985, the Associated Press reported that "GBI investigators searching for cocaine dropped by an airborne smuggler found a ripped-up shipment of the sweet-smelling powder and the remains of a bear that apparently died of a multimillion-dollar high."


Agents found 40 packages totaling 88 pounds valued at as much as $20 million.

They initially believed the bear "ate several million dollars worth of the cocaine," but an autopsy later found that the binge was more akin to a bump. Kenneth Alonso, the state's chief medical examiner at the time, said the bear absorbed 3-4 four grams of cocaine into its blood stream, though it could have eaten more.

A souvenir-style shop in Lexington called Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall claims that their mascot, a taxidermied bear named Pablo EskoBear, is the real Cocaine Bear found in 1985.

But Fran Wiley, a former GBI agent based in Gainesville who sent the agents who found the bear, said it had been dead for several months and was badly decomposed. Wiley, of Gainesville, also said its teeth and claws were taken out for examination.

"I think it's just evil," she said of the mall profiting from the Cocaine Bear.

"That is a total farce," said Paul Loggins, one of the GBI agents Wiley sent to the site. He said he's the one who put the bear in a bodybag and brought it back to the crime lab. "The stench of that rotting bear just permeated the GBI crime lab."