death penalty news—–TEXAS

Aug. 25


Coble murder retrial begins

Testimony continued Monday afternoon in the capital murder retrial of
convicted murderer Billie Wayne Coble, 59. The case is being heard in
Judge Matt Johnsons courtroom in 54th State District Court.

Coble spent more than 17 years on death row before a federal appeals court
overturned his death sentence but left intact his conviction in the deaths
of Robert and Zelda Vicha and their son, Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha in
August 1989.

Following this morning's testimony, 3 more women, including two former
neighbors and Coble's niece testified that he displayed inappropriate
sexual behavior toward them in the 1970s.

His niece said besides inappropriately touching and kissing her, a family
member caught Coble peeking into the niece's window after she took a
shower and was getting dressed.

The 3 women who testified Monday afternoon were all in their early teens
at the time that Coble's inappropriate sexual interest was directed at

Earlier today, Cobles former sister-in-law and his 1st wife testified
against him regarding inappropriate sexual behavior.

The sister of Cobles first wife testified this morning in his capital
murder retrial that Coble acted inappropriately with her on at least four

Patricia Woolley, whose sister Pam was married to Coble for 10 years, said
the first instance was when she was 13. Her sister had not yet married
Coble, but while they were in the back seat of a car returning from a
trip, Coble rubbed her thigh, she said. Patricia Woolley said she slid
away from Coble after his advance.

The next time was when she was 15, she testified. She and Coble had
pretended to wrestle, but then he fondled her breast.

One year later, while swimming in Lake Waco, Coble touched her
inappropriately, she said.

Patricia Woolley then recounted a time when she was 17 or 18 and taking a
shower at home. She said Coble slid open the shower door, made lewd
comments about her body and then held the sliding door open and wouldnt
let her close it.

She also told the court she was struck by Coble once when he came to pick
up his son, Gordon. Coble wasn't allowed inside the house and Patricia
Woolley said she blocked his path at the gate. Coble, she said, grew
agitated and hit her in the mouth, busting her lip.

During earlier testimony her sister, Pam Woolley, told jurors that she
still considers Coble to be "dangerous."

Pam Woolley, who was married to Coble from 1971 to 1981, was the 1st
witness called by the prosecution.

Pam Woolley said the beginning of their marriage was fine. Coble had a job
at Texas Ironworks and they later co-managed the Circle Drive-in for 2
years. But she also described him as very possessive; he constantly called
to check on her whereabouts.

She said he abused her, recalling one time that Coble threw a baseball and
hit her in the back while she had an arm around her son. The impact made
her lungs swell and she sought medical treatment at the hospital, she

"We were just scared of him all the time," Pam Woolley said.

She said Coble would apologize after the abuse but would it say it was her
fault the abuse occurred.

In opening comments, McLennan County District Attorney John Segrest said
Coble seems to be a good guy until things go wrong for him. Then he
transforms into an abusive, violent individual, Segrest said, adding that
the prosecution will present evidence from Coble's 3 failed marriages to
show that.

Segrest said testimony will be offered that Coble sexually abused 4 young
girls during his 1st marriage, including his 13-year-old sister-in-law and
16-year-old cousin.

That marriage lasted 10 years, the prosecutor said. Coble then married an
18-year-old when he was 35. During that 4-year marriage, Coble sexually
assaulted his niece, Segrest said.

Coble's 3rd marriage, to Karen Vicha, was in July 1998. Coble married into
a close-knit family and Karen already had 3 daughters, ages 15, 13 and 9,
who thought the marriage was too good to be true, Segrest said.

But that relationship soon soured, Segrest told jurors, and Karen Vicha
filed for divorce. Coble was arrested kidnapping his wife in August 1989
and her brother, Bobby Vicha, was one of the arresting officers.

"The thing that (Coble) wanted was Karen Vicha and the thing that stood
between him and her was Bobby Vicha and the Vicha family," Segrest said.

Coble then hatched a plot to kill the family to get Karen back, Segrest

Coble's defense attorney, Alex Calhoun, asked the jury to consider the
full measure of the man. Calhoun noted that the prosecution was talking
about actions many years in Coble's past, and he plans to show jurors the
man Coble has been the past 18 years and who he is becoming.

(soource: Waco Tribune)


Convicted Killer's 1st Wife Describes Abuse

The ex-wife of convicted triple killer Billy Wayne Coble testified Monday
about the abuse she suffered during the marriage as testimony got underway
in Coble's sentencing retrial.

Coble, 59, was convicted in 1990 in the shooting deaths of his ex-wife's
parents Robert and Zelda Vicha and her brother Bobby Vicha, who was a Waco
Police sergeant.

Pam Woolley was Coble's 1st wife, and she was the 1st witness to testify
Monday in a trial that will determine whether Coble returns to death row.

In sometimes emotional testimony, she told jurors about the abuse she
suffered both during and after her marriage to Coble.

When asked if she is still scared of Coble, she said, "Yes he still scares
mehe's still a danger."

She and Coble were married for 10 years and divorced a decade before the
triple killing.

Coble was waiting at the home of his estranged 3rd wife, Karen Vicha, when
her daughters returned from school on Aug. 29, 1989.

He handcuffed and tied up her 3 children and 1 of their cousins, cut the
phone lines and then went down the street to the home of his
brother-in-law, Waco police officer Bobby Vicha, whom Coble shot in the
neck after a struggle.

Next, Coble went to the home of his estranged wife's parents and shot both
of them to death.

Then, when Karen Vicha arrived home he handcuffed her, put her in her car,
and drove off, assaulting her during the drive.

He was arrested that night after a major manhunt and a brief high-speed
chase that ended when the car Coble was driving crashed into a parked

The Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Coble's death sentence in
August 2007.

(source: KWTX News)


Prosecutors seeking death penalty in Hurst Putt-Putt employee slaying

3 store surveillance cameras captured the robbers at Putt-Putt Golf &
Games on Oct. 16, 2006, where assistant manager Jonas Paul Cherry begged
for his life before he was fatally shot in midsentence.

The bandits took 2 of the tapes in the cameras.

But they missed one, and that ultimately led police to former Putt-Putt
employee Paul David Storey of Fort Worth.

According to arrest warrant affidavits, the holdup netted Storey about

On Wednesday, Storey, 23, goes on trial for his life in Criminal District
Court No. 3. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Accused of being an accomplice is Mark Porter, 22, of Fort Worth, also
charged with capital murder in the case. His trial is scheduled for next

The background

According to police and arrest warrant affidavits, Cherry was a Paschal
High School graduate who had worked at Putt-Putt for 12 years. Cherry, of
Keller, had been married just 11 months before he was killed. He was also
scheduled to open a bar with a friend in Fort Worth the week he was
fatally shot.

What happened

Cherry, 28, arrived to work at Putt-Putt the morning of Oct. 16, 2006, and
answered a buzzer at a back door.

2 robbers rushed in, grabbed Cherry and forced him to an area known as the

2 surveillance tapes were retrieved from an office as the robbers forced
Cherry to open a safe and fill a bag with cash.

As he was kneeling and pleading for his life, Cherry was shot in the back
of the head. He was then shot several more times.

The robbers then fled.

After the holdup

Video surveillance showed a maroon two-door Ford Explorer leaving
Putt-Putt, and images were released to the media.

A tipster told investigators that the vehicle belonged to Storey.

Storey first told police that he and a passenger had truck trouble and
stopped to get help but fled when they heard gunshots, the affidavit

But he later changed his story, telling investigators they had gone to the
business to rob it, according to the affidavit.


Death penalty sought in Hurst business slaying

A former Putt-Putt Golf & Games worker goes on trial Wednesday in the 2006
slaying of the company's assistant manager.

Paul David Storey, 23, is charged with capital murder in the shooting
death of a Jonas Paul Cherry. Mr. Cherry, who managed the Hurst amusement
center, was killed on Oct. 16, 2006 during a robbery.

Mr. Cherry, 28, was still holding his keys when he was found.

The safe was open and several spent casings from a 9mm firearm were found

Mr. Story was arrested after he was found on videotapes from the business.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Mr. Storey.

Testimony begins Wednesday in Criminal District Court No. 3.

(source for both: Dallas Morning News)


Mount Vernon's support carries man through darkest days

In a world of 18th-century antiques, gilded gold frames and polished
crystal, perhaps the most utilitarian object at The Veranda Bed &
Breakfast was an unadorned black plastic box sitting atop a dresser in
Warren Butler's master bedroom. Robert Whiteside's ashes rested inside.

Waiting, really, for Warren to be able to say it's over. Only then, he had
resolved, could they be scattered across the 68 acres of East Texas pine
needles that had been Robert's quiet kingdom.

Warren had fought through months of depression. He had resisted the urge
to run away and had stayed in Mount Vernon, a 55-year-old gay man alone in
the rural Texas Bible Belt.

But the case against Robert's attackers just seemed to drag one month into
the next with little sign of progress, an inescapable voice in the back of
Warren's mind.

Mark Aaron Rains, a 22-year-old local drug user, had confessed 3 times,
escaped once and sat under maximum security at the Franklin County jail,
trying to figure out how to bust loose again. He was the one who pulled
the trigger that October night, leading a group of 3 in a botched robbery
targeting Robert's jewelry workshop.

It was up to Franklin County District Attorney Martin Braddy to decide
whether to try to put him to death.

"This is the most difficult decision since I've been here," the district
attorney said from his office inside an old green 2-story home in Sulphur

"I've had more than 1 person come to me and say, 'Why don't you just give
this guy life without parole. Surely the victims will be OK with that,'
sort of suggesting you can't be gay and be for the death penalty."

The district attorney, who grew up in a small town nearby and presided
over some of the smallest counties in Texas, said issues like sexuality
and race had no place in his office.

"I can't speak about what it was in the past, but it's not that now," he

Robert, in fact, was the first murder victim Mr. Braddy had known
personally. For a wedding anniversary, he had taken his wife to The
Veranda for dinner, deeply impressed by both the place and the fact they
were sitting next to chicken mogul Bo Pilgrim and his wife.

And in the months that followed Robert's death, he had watched Mount
Vernon embrace Warren.

"What appears to have happened with Warren is that this tragedy … has
now made him one of theirs."

At home

As Warren peeled back the veneer from Mount Vernon, it was quickly losing
its appearance of homogeny. He had spent six years isolated from the town
after leaving Dallas to live with Robert, but now his inroads grew deeper
and more varied. Once a week, there was the domino club, a gossipy
gathering of multigenerational Mount Vernonites and relative newcomers. On
another weekend, there was the culture club, comprising likeminded
straight and gay couples from across East Texas. Plus, Warren had taken
over Robert's place as a director of Mount Vernon Music, organizing
occasional concerts.

In town, where Warren spent an increasing amount of time, strangers still
approached at the grocery store, post office and bank, just checking in or
offering kind words of support. After a particularly robust local harvest,
a neighbor showed up at his door with 4 plastic bags full of corn, shucked
and cleaned.

Slowly, this was becoming home.

Then in October, at a birthday party for one of the domino club members,
Warren met Mark Ramsay, part of a storied, deep-rooted Mount Vernon

Mark's dad, Tom Ramsay, was a longtime Texas state representative who ran
a prominent real estate business and had part of Highway 37 named after

Mark was 33 and gay. He had left Mount Vernon for college in Waco where he
had first come out about his sexuality. He later lived in New York and
Dallas, but returned home after hard times and an emotionally abusive

He and Warren hit it off. They listened to the same kind of music and
watched the same classic movies and sitcoms.

"I'm out here in a gay wasteland, and here's a guy who was smart who had
seen the world. And also, you know, I was hurting and he was hurting and
we were able to be there for each other," Mark said.

Over the following months, they became the best of friends. Mark
accompanied Warren to pretrial hearings, and Warren helped at Mark's
accounting business during tax season. But on most nights, they would just
sit in the living room or out on the wrap-around porch and talk over gin
and cigarettes.

In the winter, Tom Ramsay asked his son and Warren to serve on the chamber
of commerce board, hoping to revitalize the group with some fresh blood.
Both agreed.

Still, Mark and Warren knew they walked a fine line in town.

It was the line between being out but not too far out. Neither, for
instance, would consider holding hands with another man downtown or
engaging in public displays of affection.

But having Warren in the community, especially after the murder, could
only help make people more tolerant, Mark believed.

"I think it makes people aware that the loss of a partner in a gay
relationship is the same as the loss of a partner in a straight
relationship," he said.

Financial reality

After months of living in a fog, Warren grew stronger week by week.

He mastered the tractor, although it got stuck in the mud a few times.
When he needed help with machinery or advice on clearing trees, he'd often
call his younger brother, Bill Butler. Bill, who worked for a liquor
distributor and was an outdoorsman, had never considered Warren
comfortable with manual labor. As a child, he'd always seen him in his
element inside: making clothes, cooking, painting. He even made Barbie
clothes for his sister Ramona's dolls.

"That's a side of my brother I've never seen. Warren with a wrench in his
hands would be like me sitting at a sewing machine," he said. "To see him
take off and go like he's gone, it's just unbelievable."

But despite Warren's best efforts, The Veranda wasn't making much money.

As the financial crunch deepened, Bill and his older brother, Jim, came
from Waco for a heart-to-heart.

"Warren, are you keeping this because of Rob's memory or are you staying
here because you want to stay here?" Jim asked.

The truth is that it was both. It was Robert's legacy and Warren's
therapy. After months of deep darkness, he was beginning to feel at home.

And just like in town, he was growing closer with his family. One night,
after talking about the finances of The Veranda, he and Jim and Bill sat
around and talked and drank gin martinis and Johnnie Walker. The
conversation turned to lifestyle. Warren explained to Bill that being gay
isn't just a physical thing. It's about companionship. Love.

"That's when I started to look at the deal a whole lot different," Bill

"It makes me be more accepting of people for what they are and the way
that they are. I mean, it just made me stop and think all the years I was
prejudiced. All the slang terms I used over the years loosely. Just like
Warren said, it's not just a physical thing. It's the companionship. You
look at how many people who go through life and never find true love."

Jim later said: "I don't feel real comfortable talking about it, but
unfortunately for our family it took this for us to acknowledge Warren's
lifestyle … for us as a family to all sit down and talk about it."

< The criminal case

Warren approached a banker he knew and took out a loan. He could not quit
yet. He had to prepare for a trial.

"It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop," he said in the winter. "At
some point, I'm going to have to go through all this again."

Mr. Braddy, however, remained on the fence about the death penalty.

For the district attorney, a young and religious family man, it came down
to this:

Was Mr. Rains evil or just badly broken?

In April, the district attorney got his answer. Mr. Rains was recorded
talking with his mother during a jail visitation.

"I'm not worried. You know I'm lucky as hell when it comes to [stuff] like
this. …"

"I'm just on a vacation."

Mr. Braddy decided that Mr. Rains would never live again as a free man. He
would offer him life without the possibility of parole. If he refused, he
would seek the death penalty.

On most days, Warren tried to keep his mind off the trial, but he often
couldn't. He struggled through the uncertainty while preparing emotionally
for a trial he knew would force him to relive the trauma. He joked with
friends that his backbone was slowly morphing into a steel rod.

In June, at a pretrial hearing on the admissibility of Mr. Rains'
confessions, he watched a video of the killer recounting the murder
without emotion or remorse, coolly smoking a cigarette.

Warren's blood pressure spiked. He suffered headaches pounding behind his
eyes. His doctor put him on blood pressure medication. Sleeping pills at
night helped take the edge off.

Mr. Braddy set a final deadline for Mr. Rains to take a deal: June 30.

The week before, Warren had left on vacation. He was in a Canadian grocery
store when he got the call. With 2 hours on the clock, Mr. Rains decided
to plead guilty. He agreed to testify against the other 2 suspects.

"I'm just still in that stunned phase," Warren said from Canada. "It's
kind of a surreal feeling when you're prepared for it to go one way and
today it's over. It's almost like Christmas."

He stopped to cry.

"I haven't had time to emotionally process all this news yet."

Formal statement

After returning from Canada to Mount Vernon in the days leading up to a
final court date, Warren insisted that he did not want to address Mr.
Rains. He didn't want to acknowledge his existence.

But on the morning of July 8, the day of Mr. Rains' sentencing, Warren was
strangely more relaxed than the previous days. He woke at dawn to add a
few lines to a formal statement. He said he was thinking about reading it
in court after all.

Asked why, he shrugged his shoulders and said it was his prerogative to
change his mind. That was all.

At 8 a.m., he entered a small unremarkable courtroom attached to the jail.
Mark was there, among other friends. Minutes before the hearing began,
Warren told Mr. Braddy he wanted to address Mr. Rains.

The end was near.

"You OK?" Mr. Braddy asked Warren before they approached the judge.

Warren shook.

"Actually, I think I want you to do it."

Mr. Braddy stood next to Warren and read his statement into the record.

"This confessed killer sits here now in front of us facing a sentence of
life in prison without parole," he read. "I sit here with three life
sentences: the rest of my life without my partner, Robert King Whiteside;
the memory of my discovering Robert's body lying dead face down in a pool
of blood which I will live with the rest of my life; and a life forever
changed emotionally, financially and with a lost sense of security due to
a cruelty and total disregard for human life."

With that, it was over.

2 paths

What went unsaid, however, was how profoundly the last 21 months had
transformed Warren.

Robert's death had also been his coming out: out of Robert's shadow, to
his family and in town.

When he looked at his future, it was his again. He could decide the future
of The Veranda, sell Robert's remaining jewelry and even think about
dating again.

"I thought, if I did sell the property, would I stay in the area or not?
That's become more of a valid question in the last couple of months
because I'm becoming more and more ingrained now in the community and with
the people that I know out here. I mean, this has become my home," he

"It's really sad that it took what happened with Robert for that to
happen. "

Robert, however, had always loved his parcel of East Texas. Warren knew it
was where he would rest forever.

Out in the woods, there are two trails that weave between the pine trees,
pond and meadow. Every morning, Robert would wake up and travel one with
his dog Rachael and a walking stick, surveying his territory and
meditating on the day ahead.

He would start these days like a gleeful child in a new world, slowly
maturing into an adult over the next 12 hours. Then the next morning it
would start again, always in the woods with his morning communion, that
daily act of rebirth.

Soon, the box on the dresser will be empty. Robert is going home.

Warren is ready to let go.

(source: Dallas Morning News)