TYLER — A Texas man on death row since 1995 has been scheduled to die for the murder of an elderly East Texas man. According to our news partner KETK, Billy Joe Wardlow, 45, will be executed by the state on April 29, 2020. Wardlow, was 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 in the head and stuffed his body in a closet, before stealing Cole’s truck.
The couple then 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.” 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 the link. http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/17/17-70029.0.pdf
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. Back in November, a Tyler man, Dameon Mosley, was sentenced to death for the 2017 murder of Billy Stacks. Mosley shot Stacks while he was robbing the gas station he was working at. The jury deliberated less than one hour before sentencing him to die. Back in October, a Eustace man had his execution halted less than two weeks before he was set to die after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.