TITUS COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – A second East Texas exeuction has been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Billy Joe Wardlow, 45, was set to be put to death on April 29 for the murder of an 82-year-old man more than 25 years ago. Titus County prosecutors agreed to delay the execution until July 8 due to the coronavirus.
The Texas Court of Criminal appeals already ordered three executions temporarily halted, including Tracy Beatty from Whitehouse. He was set to die in March for the strangling death of his mother in 2003.
Wardlow, 45, was just 18-years-old when he and his girlfriend Tonya Fuller robbed 82-year-old Carl Cole at his Cason home in 1993.
Wardlow shot him right between his eyes, stuffed his body in a closet, and stole his pickup truck. They drove up to Madison, Nebraska, where they sold it. The next day, both were arrested in Madison, South Dakota.
While waiting for trial, Wardlow wrote a confession to the sheriff investigating the murder. Part of it read:
“Being younger and stronger, I just pushed him off and shot him right between the eyes. Just because he pissed me off. He was shot like an executioner would have done it. He fell to the ground lifeless and didn’t even wiggle a hair.”BILLY WARDLOW CONFESSION LETTER
He later recanted this confession, saying that the gun went off during a struggle. The medical examiner testified after an autopsy that contradicted his claim.
After being convicted of the crime in 1995, Wardlow sent a letter to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that he did not wish to pursue any appeals to his case. Before the official deadline was reached, a lawyer for Wardlow filed an appeal anyway.
However, the Court granted Wardlow’s wishes that his appeal be ignored before the lawyer submitted the application and Wardlow never informed the court that he had changed his mind.
In October 2018, Wardlow filed a motion in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule the state court, but it was denied. The court found because Wardlow never filed a notice to the court that he had changed his mind, it did not matter that his lawyer had filed an application.
To read the court’s full decision, click here.
This will be the first execution in the history of Texas that someone will be executed for a crime in Titus County. Wardlow is from the Fort Worth area and has been on death row for more than half of his life.