Texas puts Billy Joe Wardlow to death for 1993 slaying, ends 5-month coronavirus delay of executions

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A five-month delay of executions in the United States’ busiest death penalty state ended Wednesday night with a Texas inmate receiving a lethal injection.

Billy Joe Wardlow, 45, was executed at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas, and was pronounced dead at 6:52 p.m., some 24 minutes after the lethal dose of sedative pentobarbital was administered, The Texas Tribune reported.

According to The Associated Press, Wardlow was convicted in the fatal shooting of Carl Cole, 82, in his Cason, Texas, home in June 1993.

Wardlow and Tonya Fulfer entered Cole’s home intending to rob him, and Wardlow shot Cole in the head, killing him, KYTX reported.

Advocates had petitioned to halt Wardlow’s execution based, in part, on his being only 18 at the time the crime was committed, but the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene, the Tribune reported.

Wardlow was the first inmate in Texas to receive a lethal injection since Feb. 6 and only the second in the nation to be executed since the nation began reopening following coronavirus-related shutdowns, the AP reported.

Wardlow, who declined to give a final statement in the death chamber, sent a letter last month to the parole board and spoke of how death row changed him, the Tribune reported.

“I came to death row a scared boy who made poor choices; I will leave death row a man that others admire because I weathered the storms of life with the help of people that loved me,” Wardlow wrote the board. “We should all be so fortunate.”

Although he did not speak while strapped to the death chamber gurney, Wardlow did nod, smile broadly and mouth words to friends watching through the window of the adjacent witness room, the AP reported.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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