Texas prison authorities escort Gordon, Dalton and Nellie Coble from the prison where the Billie Coble met his fate for killing three in-laws in 1989.
Up until then, this had been a non-eventful execution day, with the condemned making jokes and the state going about its business of carrying out a McLennan County court’s orders.
Journalist Holly Stouffer stood just feet away from where the drama suddenly erupted.
Holly Stouffer says, “It just erupted on that other side and it’s just a thin wall.”
“Can you see into that room at all?”
“No. I was standing here, the wall was beside me, and all of what was going on we could only hear it and feel it because that thin wall you could feel the vibrations, you could hear the muffled screaming and you could tell the screaming was at the top of this man’s lungs and the glass that he was beating against, it’s shared glass, so our panel was shaking and as soon as that happened, you could just feel everyone on the victim’s side, just immediately tense up.”
Prison officials say they instruct families what to expect in an execution, and call outbursts like this, “unusual”.
“Is this at all shocking or surprising to you that this would happen?”
Texas Department of Corrections Jeremy Desel says, “It’s certainly an unusual… It’s certainly an unusual. I can tell you that there was nothing that appeared overly different in Mr. Coble than other typically anxious offender witnesses who do appear ahead of time.”
In the end, Texas carried out the death penalty and the victim’s family got the closure they sought.
Coble’s Ex-Wife Karen Vicha says, “We ask that just as you have kept us in your prayers, you pray for peace for everyone affected today. While we grieve the amazing lives that were lost too soon, we find joy in the blessings of love that we have in our family. It is well with our soul.”
But as Stouffer observed, the Vicha family had a clean opinion of Billie Coble.
Holly Stouffer says, “The only moment that stood out, was when the doctor came out to check Coble’s heart and really pronounce him dead. One of the female witnesses in the room one of the younger women, she said ‘he doesn’t have a heart’.”
Huntsville police booked Gordon and Dalton Coble into the Walker County Jail on charges of resisting arrest and could face other charges.
Coble is the third inmate put to death this year in the US and the second in Texas.