Coble death row (copy)

Billie Wayne Coble was executed Thursday after being sentenced to death in the 1989 killings of his wife’s parents and brother in Axtell.


Triple murderer Billie Wayne Coble is likely headed for the execution chamber at month’s end after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this week rejected his request for a stay of execution.

In a three-page order issued Thursday, Texas’ highest criminal court found that Coble’s application was an abuse of the writ process and declined to halt his scheduled Feb. 28 execution.

Coble, 70, was convicted of capital murder and twice was sentenced to die in the 1989 slayings of his brother-in-law, Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha, and Vicha’s parents, Robert and Zelda Vicha, at their homes in Axtell. He has had several stays of execution over the years.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Coble in October, which paved the way for 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson to set his execution date. Court officials say they expect a similar outcome should Coble file an 11th-hour request for a stay of execution through the federal court system.

Coble refused to leave the courtroom holding cell at a hearing in October at which Johnson set his death date, telling deputies he had a right not to leave his cell.

Upset at the failure of his third marriage, Coble killed the Vichas, tied up four children and kidnapped his estranged wife, Karen Vicha Coble. He drove her to Bosque County, where he said he was going to rape and kill her, but before he could carry out the threat, he had a wreck during a high-speed chase with authorities.

J.R. Vicha, a Waco attorney and former prosecutor who was 11 at the time, was one of the children Coble tied up, along with three of Karen Vicha’s children. Vicha, Bobby Vicha’s son, and other family members have said they have grown impatient waiting almost 30 years for Coble’s execution.

“The Court of Criminal Appeals did the right thing denying the claims and not issuing a stay,” J.R. Vicha said. “These are the same issues that have already been ruled on many times. Hopefully, the federal courts will make the same determination and (Gov.) Greg Abbott will turn down his request for judicial clemency and we can get this done on the 28th.”

Coble spent 17 years on death row before his death sentence was overturned and he was awarded a new punishment trial because of changes in the special issues posed to jurors trying to determine whether the death penalty or a life sentence is more appropriate.

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