Oldest Texas Death Row Inmate Executed but First Sparks Melee With Bizarre Last Words

March 1, 2019 Updated: March 1, 2019

A Texas death row inmate who murdered his estranged wife’s parents and brother was executed by lethal injection on Feb. 28.

Billie Wayne Coble, who prosecutors once described as having “a heart full of scorpions” was put to death in the state’s death chamber in Huntsville at 6.24 p.m. after an appeals court rejected a bid to delay the process.

In a bizarre last statement, the 70-year-old said: “That will be $5.”

He told the five witnesses that he selected to attend his execution that he loved them, before again saying: “That will be $5”

He then said: “Take care.”

Coble’s last words sparked a disturbance in the death chamber witness area.

Death Chamber Melee

The Daily Mail reported that Coble’s son Gordon and grandson Dalton were involved in an outburst in which they became violent, yelled obscenities, and banged on the glass of the execution chamber.

Both men were removed from the death chamber witness area, taken to a courtyard and arrested.

“Why are you doing this?” a woman asked the arresting officers. “They just killed his daddy.”

Gordon Coble and his son Dalton were charged with resisting arrest and were being held in the Walker County Jail on Thursday night, according to the Houston Chronicle.

‘End of a Horror Story’

Coble’s execution came 30 years after the August 1989 shootings of Robert and Zelda Vicha, and their son Bobby Vicha, at their homes in Axtell, northeast of Waco.

The 70-year-old gasped several times as the lethal injection took effect, then died.

“This is not a happy night,” McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson said, according to NBC. “This is the end of a horror story for the Vicha family.”

J.R. Vicha, Bobby Vicha’s son, said it will be a relief knowing the execution will have 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,” said J.R. Vicha, who was 11 when he was tied up and threatened by Coble during the killings.

Coble also tied up three other children and kidnapped his estranged wife, threatening to rape and kill her, too. He was arrested following a police chase.

Crawford Long, the former first assistant district attorney in McLennan County who helped retry Coble in 2008, said his “heart full of scorpions” description of Coble was fitting.

“He had no remorse at all,” said Long.

Delay Denied

Coble’s attorneys asked the Supreme Court to delay the execution, arguing that his original trial lawyers were negligent for conceding his guilt by failing to present an insanity defense before a jury convicted him of capital murder.

A state appeals court rejected Coble’s request to delay Thursday’s execution and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles turned down his request for a commutation.

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 attorney, A. Richard Ellis, said in his appeal to the Supreme Court.

In Coble’s clemency petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Ellis said his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his time as a Marine during the Vietnam War and was convicted, in part, due to misleading testimony from two prosecution expert witnesses on whether he would be a future danger.

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.

The execution of Coble is the third this year in the United States and the second in the Lone Star state, which puts to death the most inmates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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