Billy Coble is a triple-murderer. He will be given a lethal injection tonight in Huntsville, Texas, for those murders. His lawyers’ attempts at a delay have been rejected.
The Huntsville Item reports on this case:
Court records state that Coble was married to his third wife, Karen Vicha, and lived in a house across the street from her parents.
“The marriage quickly disintegrated and, after a year, Karen told Coble to move out and that she wanted a divorce,” court records state. “Coble attempted to talk Karen out of this decision and would randomly call her and show up at her work place.”
Testimony shows that Coble then kidnapped Karen as a further effort to dissuade her from divorcing him by hiding in the trunk of her car while she was at a bar with a girlfriend. When Karen started to drive home, Coble folded down the back seat and “popped out of the trunk with a knife.” Records state that he jumped over the console, halfway into the front seat and struck the victim with the knife against her ribs.
“Coble stated that if he couldn’t have her, then no one else could,” testimony shows.
Coble would let Karen go, but was later arrested for kidnapping at the urging of Karen’s brother Bobby. Nine days after Coble was released on bond he returned to Karen’s house where he handcuffed her three daughters, tied up their feet and taped their mouths closed. Then he left to shoot Karen’s father, mother and brother as each of them came home.
Records state that Coble returned to Karen’s house after the triple homicide and waited for his wife to come home from work. He told the children, “I wish I had blown you away like I intended to.” When Karen arrived, Coble came out of a bedroom with a gun and said, “Karen, I’ve killed your momma and your daddy and your brother, and they are all dead and nobody is going to come help you now.”
Testimony states that Coble then told Karen that she was lucky and that he hadn’t molested her daughters, and told her to kiss them good-bye. Karen talked Coble into leaving the house, taking her with him, where he had planned to torture her for a few weeks.
Coble drove Karen to a deserted field in Bosque County, where he threatened to rape her. However, shortly after dark, Coble drove passed a sheriff’s patrol car, which turned around and followed them. The suspect then grabbed a knife and started stabbing Karen’s chin, forehead and nose as he was driving. He stated that he didn’t want to die in prison, so he “floored it” and rammed into a parked car. Both Coble and Karen were injured in the crash, with authorities having to cut the car door open to get her out. The suspect was found with Karen’s father’s watch and wallet along with two revolvers.
The newspaper article included a fact I left out of the above: Coble is 70 years old, a point the news media is sure to make as they describe Coble as the oldest person Texas has put to death since the modern era of the death penalty began in the 1970s, according to prison data.
That’s not what is wrong about this story or even that it involves capital punishment. What’s wrong is that Coble was convicted of three murders nearly 30 years ago in 1989. Coble is one of nearly 30 inmates who have lived on Texas’ death row for more than 25 years. Is it any wonder death penalty opponents submit capital punishment isn’t a deterrent. How can it possibly be when the penalty is not imposed swiftly, often because of interminable appeals, unnecessary when guilt is an absolute certainty.
J.R. Vicha was just 11 years old when Coble murdered his father, Bobby Vicha, and grandparents, Robert John and Zelda Vicha. While J.R. was restrained in a bedroom with a rope or handcuffs (he can’t remember) Coble shot and killed Robert John and Zelda Vicha and Waco police officer Bobby Vicha inside their own homes.
“I was a prosecutor for eight years, so every day I dealt with criminals. A lot of bad cases, a lot of bad people,” J.R. told KXXV. “I’ve never dealt with anybody that I thought was as bad or as evil as he is. The last time they brought him here to set his execution date, he refused to come out of his cell which was a change. All the court appearances before that over the last 29 years he would come out smiling, stare at people like it was a show.”
J.R. will attend the execution.
“Knowing this whole time that he’s still alive and having a life, even though he’s in prison he has a life,” J.R. said. “So I guess finally knowing that he’s not there anymore, that will help.”
In an e-mail this week J.R. said, “Just as there are many men who have died that deserved to live, there are some who live that deserve death. Mr. Coble is without question one of those that deserves death. Although this justice has been delayed for nearly 30 years, it still needs to be done and I’m glad it’s a step closer.”
Karen Vicha will also be at the execution, driving in from San Antonio. She’s disappointed with a justice system that took so long to put Coble to death.
“I wish it worked differently and I certainly don’t think he should’ve been alive this long,” Karen said. “We’re glad to see that it’s finally coming to an end.”
Billy Coble needed to die. It should have happened a long time ago.