East Texan who killed Lovelady couple, shot their son set for execution Wednesday

East Texan who killed Lovelady couple, shot their son set for execution Wednesday
Nathan and Annette Copeland (Source: KTRE Archive)
Nathan and Annette Copeland (Source: KTRE Archive)
2003 crime scene (Source: KTRE Archive)
2003 crime scene (Source: KTRE Archive)

LOVELADY, TX (KTRE) - Thirteen years after Nathan and Annette Copeland were killed in their Lovelady home, their killer is just hours from being executed.

Barney Fuller, 58 of Lovelady, will be killed by lethal injection in Huntsville on Wednesday night. Fuller was convicted of the murders in 2004 and was given a death sentence by a Houston County jury.

"I remember I got a call in the early morning hours and it was in reference to a shooting," Houston County Sheriff Darrel Bobbitt said. "When I got on scene I found out it was the Copeland house and they were killed. I did not know them by face but I knew them by name. they were good people and were involved in the town and in the church."

Bobbitt said the murder happened after Fuller got angry with the family who filed multiple complaints to the sheriff's office. Bobbitt said 60 rounds of ammunition were unloaded by Fuller outside of the home and then dozens of more rounds inside the home. Bobbitt said the investigation showed the Copeland's son was shot four times and the daughter escaped unharmed by hiding under clothes.

"You can only imagine being in dispatch and hearing the 911 call where you can hear everything happening," Bobbitt said. "It was a day that changed the lives of many in Houston County."

Mike Molnes works with Bobbitt now as an investigator but in 2003, Molnes was building the case against Fuller while he was an investigator for the Houston County District Attorney's office.

"The only way I can describe it was totally atrocious," Molnes said. "It was like a war zone; shots fired through the house, distruction everywhere."

Molnes said the event is in his mind just like if it was yesterday.

"The thing I remember most was Annette had a phone she called 911 with and on the phone you can see her imprint in blood from her calling the office," Molnes said.

Molnes said it was easy to tell the hate Fuller had for the family of four.

"I remember on the call his last comment that was to Mrs. Copeland at the time was, 'The party's over *@!#$ and then you hear a gunshot and that is it,'" Molnes said.

Molnes said Fuller never registered on the radar before the incident with the Copeland's.

"We really didn't learn who he was until after the murder," Molnes said. "We  learned more than I ever wanted to know about him. He was a revolutionist. He had a supply of things in his home when all the computer fears happened in 2000. He really kept to him self. it wasn't a surprise that he had guns."

When Fuller killed the couple, it didn't take long for word to spread around Lovelady.

"Lovelady is small town, typical East Texas town," Council member and mayor Pro-tem Kevin Fritze said. ""Everybody knows everybody else. It has a population of about 650 people. We are a family... you don't think this could happen until it actually happens."

Fritze knew of the family but was not considered a close friend. He described them as a very involved family in the community. Annette worked for the school district and the two children were very involved in the community and in the Antioch Baptist Church outside of town.

"This is one of those things that takes time to sink in," Fritze said. "Even looking at this case all these years later it is amazing how tragic it was. It may be the worst case of murder around here."

Since their death, the family has not been forgotten. Antioch Baptist Church has named the new Family Life Center after the couple. The family also has members who live in town and try to carry on the good name.

"They were good people," family friend and church deacon David Jeffus said. "They were just the salt of the earth. They certainly didn't deserve anything like this. I wish there was something that could have been done to stop this. We lost good people."

Fritze acknoloweged  that the talk lately  has been centered around the execution of Fuller but he hopes the future will be around the Copeland's.

"This whole thing is about the Copeland's," Fritze said. "It always will be. They're the ones that matter in this. Their children are the ones who matter. They have a grandson now that they will never get to meet."

Molnes will always have the crime scene in his memory but hopes over time the wounds can heal for the town of Lovelady.

"I hope this is the end of the chapter," Molnes said. "This has been an ongoing thing. The Copeland's are now deceased. Their lives were ended that day. His life has been going on. Emotions are brought up all the time so I think once this is taken care of there will be closure."

For more detail into the crime, Click here.

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