Billie Wayne Coble: Death row brawl leads to arrest of family members



In the decades following her death sentence for a triple murder, Billie Wayne Coble had plenty of time to consider her last moment of life.

There have been numerous calls to commute the death sentence against Coble following the 1989 murder of the parents of his ex-wife and his brother, a Texas police officer. And the US Supreme Court was urged at the last minute to suspend its execution on Thursday.

On the same day, Huntsville prison staff refused a lethal drug-injected drug to kill the 70-year-old man.

Coble left a long trail of wreckage on the murders and abduction of his ex-wife, Karen Vicha, whom he tied the three girls and nephew to the house before the kidnapping. Thursday night, he was asked if he wanted to give a last word, reported the Associated Press.

He did.

"It will be $ 5," said Coble, a possible reference to his nickname, Five Dollar Bill.


Billie Wayne Coble. (AP)

He told the reunited family that he loved them. "It will be $ 5," he repeated and nodded, adding, "pay attention." He began to gasp and snore, reported the AP.

The enigmatic words were still hanging in the air when chaos seized the observation room.

Coble's son, Gordon, pummeled the observation window, cursing and shouting "No!", The Houston Chronicle His son, Dalton, joined the fray with a woman described by the AP as a daughter-in-law.

The three men "screamed obscenities, raising their fists and hitting the others" before being transferred to a courtyard and handcuffed by the police, reported the AP.

"Why are you doing this?" The woman asked the police. "They just killed his dad."

As the fight continued outside the chamber, a single dose of pentobarbital affected Coble's bloodstream, AP reported. The latter's death came 11 minutes later at 6:24 pm, becoming the oldest prisoner Texas has executed since he found the death sentence in 1982.

Gordon and Dalton Coble have been charged with disorderly conduct and resistance to arrest, according to the Walker County Prison Records.


Dalton Wayne Coble, left, and Gordon Wayne Coble. (Walker County Jail)

The crash was an exclamation point at the end of a 30-year legal odyssey for a man who, according to a former prosecutor, had "a heart filled with scorpions."

Coble, distraught by an impending divorce, abducted his ex-wife before his arrest and bail, reported the AP. But nine days later, he arrived at Vicha where he handcuffed and tied up his three daughters and his nephew, J.R. Vicha.

Then, Coble went to Axtell, Texas, to see his parents, Robert Vicha, 64, and Zelda Vicha, 60 years old. He shot them, along with their son, Bobby Vicha, 39, near his parents.

He returned to Karen Vicha's home to await his return, the Houston Chronicle reported, citing court records.

"Karen, I killed your mom, your dad and your brother," he told him when he arrived, the newspaper reported. "They are all dead, and no one is coming to help you now."

He allowed her to kiss her children before she kidnapped her again, drove her to a deserted field and threatened to rape her. The agitation attracted the attention of a sheriff, who followed in a patrol car. Coble stabbed Vicha at the chin and face as he drove and crashed into a parked car in an attempt to kill himself to avoid jail time, the newspaper reported.

He was arrested at the scene and sentenced to death by decision of a jury in a McLennan County court the following year.

In 2007, an appellate court ordered the holding of a new trial, but a second jury reunited and pronounced a death sentence the following year, reported the 39; AP.

Crawford Long, former deputy chief prosecutor of McLennan County who participated in the second trial, described Coble as a man with "a heart full of scorpions," according to the AP.

Coble's lawyers criticized the outcome of the second trial, citing the state's reliance on a witness who said Coble was a threat despite good death row behavior, the Chronicle reported. Earlier this year, they begged the state to remove him from death row because of his age.

"He is now 70 years old, is in poor health and has an almost unblemished prison record for 30 years," said lawyer Richard Ellis, according to the newspaper Chronicle. "His execution would be useless."

Some family members of the victims did not agree with this idea. J.R. Vicha was 11 years old when he was tied up and threatened by Coble, alongside his cousins. He told AP that the execution had brought a sense of relief.

"Nevertheless, their way of doing things is more humane than what he did to my family. That's not what he deserves, but it will be good to know that we have as much justice as the law allows, "said Vicha.

Vicha later became a prosecutor, inspired by his father, a police officer, killed by Coble. He currently operates a private law firm and is trying to rename his father on a stretch of highway near Waco.

"Every time I meet someone who knows it (his father and his grandparents), it's a nice feeling." And when I hear stories about them, it always gives the impression that they are still here, "Vicha told the AP.

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