Texas Executes Killer with 'Heart Full of Scorpions' Feb 28, 2019 22:33:00 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Feb 28, 2019 22:33:00 GMT -5
Texas Executes 70-Year-Old Killer with 'Heart Full of Scorpions'
A Texas death row inmate once described by a prosecutor as having “a heart full of scorpions” was executed Thursday evening for killing his estranged wife’s parents and brother. Billie Wayne Coble was condemned to death for the August 1989 shooting deaths of his in-laws, Robert and Zelda Vicha, and their son, Bobby Vicha, who was a police officer, at their homes in Axtell, northeast of Waco.
Asked to make a final statement, Coble commented: “That’ll be $5.” He told the five witnesses he selected to be in attendance that he loved them, then again said: “That’ll be $5.” Coble nodded to the witnesses and added, “Take care.” He then gasped several times and commenced snoring.
As Coble was finishing his statement, his son, a friend and a daughter-in-law became emotional and violent, yelling obscenities, hitting and kicking at others in the death chamber witness area. Officers stepped in and the witnesses, who continued to resist, were eventually moved to a courtyard and the two men were handcuffed. “Why are you doing this?” the woman asked. “They just killed his daddy.”
While the witnesses were being subdued outside, the single dose of pentobarbital was being administered to Coble. He was pronounced dead 11 minutes later at 6:24 p.m.
Coble, 70, was the third killer put to death this year in the United States and the second in Texas, which is the nation’s busiest capital punishment state. His attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay the execution, arguing Coble’s original trial lawyers were negligent for conceding his guilt and failing to present an insanity defense before a jury convicted him of capital murder. But the court rejected the last-day appeal, clearing the way for execution.
At age 70, Coble is the oldest inmate put to death by the state of Texas since capital punishment was reinstated in 1982.
A state appeals court also rejected Coble’s request to delay the execution and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles turned down his request for a commutation of his sentence to life imprisonment. Coble “does not deny that he bears responsibility for the victims’ loss of life, but he nonetheless wanted his lawyers to present a defense on his behalf,” his lawyer, A. Richard Ellis, said in his appeal to the Supreme Court.
In Coble’s clemency petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Ellis claimed his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his time in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and was convicted, in part, due to misleading testimony from two prosecution expert witnesses on whether he would present a danger in the future.
J.R. Vicha, Bobby Vicha’s son, said it will be a relief knowing the execution has finally taken place after years of delays. “Still, the way they do it is more humane than what he did to my family. It’s not what he deserves, but it will be good to know we got as much justice as allowed by the law,” he added. Vicha was 11 when he was tied up and threatened by Coble during the murders.
Prosecutors said Coble, upset over his pending divorce, kidnapped his wife, Karen Vicha, after which he was arrested, but freed on bond. Nine days later, he went to his wife’s home, where he handcuffed and tied up her three daughters and son, J.R. Vicha. He then went to the homes of Robert and Zelda Vicha, 64 and 60, respectively, and Bobby Vicha, 39, who lived nearby, and fatally shot them all. After Karen Vicha returned home, Coble abducted her and drove off, assaulting her and threatening to rape and kill her. He was arrested after wrecking his vehicle in neighboring Bosque County following a police chase.
Coble was convicted of capital murder in 1990. In 2007, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial on punishment. On retrial in 2008, a second jury sentenced him to death. “He had no remorse at all,” Crawford Long, who assisted in the retrial, said.
J.R. Vicha, 40, still lives in the Waco area. He eventually became a prosecutor, a career choice inspired in part by his father, who was a police sergeant in Waco when he was killed. His grandfather was a retired plumber and his grandmother worked in the office of a podiatrist. Now in private practice, Vicha is working to have a portion of a highway near his home renamed in honor of his father. “Every time I run into somebody that knew [his father and grandparents], it’s a good feeling,” he explained. “And when I hear stories about them, it still makes it feel like they’re kinda still here.”
Sources: KTVT and KTXA, February 28, 2019.