Condemned killer of 3 near Waco in 1989 loses federal appeal

Staff Writer
Stephenville Empire-Tribune

HOUSTON (AP) — A 69-year-old prisoner on Texas death row for almost three decades for the slayings near Waco of three people — including the parents of his estranged wife — has lost a federal court appeal, moving him a step closer to execution.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says unreliable and fabricated testimony from two expert prosecution witnesses at the 2008 punishment retrial of Billie Wayne Coble was not unconstitutional and didn't harm his case. In 2007, the court threw out Coble's original death sentence and ordered a new punishment trial.

The former electrician was convicted of capital murder in the 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged wife's parents, Robert and Zelda Vicha, and his wife's brother, Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha, at their homes in Axtell, northeast of Waco.