Billie Wayne Coble, 70, was executed by lethal injection on 28 February 2019 in Huntsville, Texas for the abduction of his estranged wife and murder of her parents and brother.
Coble married his third wife, Karen Vicha, in July 1988. They lived in a house in Axtell, a village east of Waco, across the street from her parents and down the street from her brother. After a year, Vicha told Coble she wanted a divorce and told him to move out.
On the evening of Friday, 20 August 1989, Vicha visited a bar with a girlfriend. Coble waited for her in the trunk of her car. When she started to drive home, Coble folded down the back seat and entered the passenger compartment. He then held a knife to Vicha's ribs and told her to keep driving until they came to a field. When she stopped the car, Coble told her that if he couldn't have her, no one else could. He then pulled out a roll of black electrical tape. Vicha kept talking, however, and after about two hours, she told him that she would reconsider her decision to divorce him. He then let her go unharmed.
Vicha told her brother, Bobby Vicha, who was a police officer, about the kidnapping. She reported the incident at his urging, and Coble was arrested.
After Coble was released on bail, Bobby got his sister a German shepherd for protection. A few days later, Coble told Karen, "That's a big mean dog you've got." Soon after, Karen found the dog lying dead in front of her house.
On Tuesday, 29 August, Coble, then 40, went to Karen's house and waited for her to come home from work. When Vicha's three daughters came home from school with Bobby's son, J.R., Coble handcuffed them, tied their feet, and taped their mouths closed. The children's ages ranged from 10 to 16. Coble then cut the phone lines to the house.
Next, Coble went down the street to Bobby Vicha's home. After a struggle, Coble fatally shot Bobby, 39, in the neck. He went back to his wife's home and waited some more, then went to her parents' home. There, he fatally shot Robert and Zelda Vicha, 64 and 60, respectively. He also cut the phone lines to their house.
Coble went back to Karen's house and waited some more. When Karen came home from work, he told her he killed her parents and brother and told her that Bobby shot him. He told her to kiss her children goodbye, which she did. He then handcuffed her, placed her in her car, and drove her out to a rural area.
Before Karen and Coble left the house, Bobby's girlfriend dropped by and saw that Karen was in handcuffs. She went to Bobby's house, saw the home in disarray, with furniture out of place and blood everywhere, and called the sheriff's office. Deputies then came to Karen's house. They freed the four children and spoke with them and found the bodies of the three murder victims. They then started looking for Coble.
While Coble was driving, Karen managed to free one hand from the handcuffs. She grabbed at the steering wheel, making the car swerve into a ditch. She grabbed one of his guns and pulled the trigger, but it did not fire. Coble then pistol-whipped her. An alarmed passer-by shouted at Coble, so he drove out of the ditch. He threatened to kill Karen, but also rubbed his hand between her legs.
Coble drove to a deserted field in Bosque County and threatened to rape Karen. A sheriff's patrol car then spotted them and began following them. Coble grabbed a knife and started stabbing at Karen's head while he continued driving. A high-speed chase ensued, which ended when Coble crashed into a parked car. He was arrested with Robert Vicha's watch and wallet in his possession and carrying .37 and .38-caliber revolvers. He and Karen were taken to a hospital for treatment. Coble told various staff and police officers at the hospital that he had killed three people.
Karen testified that when she came home from work, Coble met her 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." As proof, he showed her Bobby's gun, $1,000 in cash he had taken from her mother, and he pulled the curtains so she could see her father's truck parked behind the house. Coble said Karen was lucky he hadn't molested her daughters. He expressed regret that he did not kill the children, who were still bound and gagged.
Coble told her Bobby Vicha "put up one hell of a fight." He also told her that he "really hated to do that to your mom. But when she found out about your dad, she just went crazy."
Karen further testified that while she was in the car with Coble, he complained to her that his reputation was ruined because she had him arrested and his name was in the papers. He said he crashed the car during the police chase because he did not want to die in prison. After the crash, he turned to her and said, "I guess now you'll get a new car."
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