Texas executes oldest man in state’s modern history of death penalty

An undated file photo from the year 2000 shows the death chamber inside the Huntsville Unit in Huntsville, Texas. EPA-EFE FILE/PAUL BUCK

WASHINGTON.- The state of Texas on Thursday executed a 70-year-old man who was sentenced to death for the murders of his wife’s family members nearly 30 years ago.

Billie Coble was pronounced dead at 6.24pm local time (0024 GMT on Friday) after receiving a lethal injection at Huntsville prison (near Houston), according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Coble was the oldest of 560 prisoners executed in Texas since the reinstatement of the death penalty over 40 years ago.

According to local media, Coble’s son and a friend were expelled from a viewing room after yelling and assaulting other witnesses.

In 1989, Coble had been married to his wife, Karen, for a little over a year when she told him that she wanted a divorce.

Shortly thereafter, on Aug. 28, Coble killed Karen’s parents – Robert and Zelda Vicha – and her brother Bobby, who lived in two houses in the small town of Axtell, near Waco, in central Texas.

When Karen returned home from work that day, she found her four children tied up by Coble, who told her that he had just murdered her relatives.

He then kidnapped her at gunpoint in his car before a police patrol began to follow Coble, who ended up crashing the vehicle.

At the trial months later, it became clear that Coble had a long history of violence and sexual abuse against his ex-spouses and young girls, and evidence of a traumatizing childhood was heard. The jury sentenced him to death.

Coble became the second prisoner executed this year in Texas and the third in the country.

Since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in the US in 1976, a total of 1,493 prisoners have been executed in the country, most of them in Texas.

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