HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS (KTRE) - A 58-year-old Lovelady man who killed Nathan and Annette Copeland in their home and wounded their son in May of 2003 became the seventh convicted killer to be executed in Texas this year on Wednesday evening.
Barney Fuller Jr. was taken from his holding cell at 6:02 p.m. At 6:22, he was asked for a last statement.
"I don't have anything to say, you can proceed, Warden Jones," Fuller said.
About one minute later, he said, "You're about to put me to sleep now." Then he smiled and closed his eyes.
According to the execution recording, the process was completed at 6:56 p.m., and he was pronounced dead at 7:01 p.m.
There no one was on Fuller's family side. An AP reporter, over on the victims' family side, said that although they didn't want to make a statement, one of the family members said, "The party is over now, [expletive]."
This was a response spurred by Fuller's saying a similar statement just before shooting one of the victims.
Prior to his execution by lethal injection, Fuller had asked that all of his appeals be dropped to expedite his death sentence, according to the Associated Press.
Fuller was convicted of the murders in 2004, and a Houston County jury sentenced him to death.
"I remember I got a call in the early morning hours, and it was in reference to a shooting," said Houston County Sheriff Darrel Bobbitt. "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 about him to the sheriff's office. Bobbitt said Fuller went over to their house, fired almost 60 rounds of ammunition into the Copelands' home, changing his magazine three times. He also shot dozens of more rounds inside the home in the process of hunting the couple down and killing them, according to an article on the Texas District & County Attorneys Association website.
Bobbitt said their investigation showed that the Copelands' son was shot four times. Their daughter escaped unharmed because she hid under some clothes and Fuller couldn't turn the light on in her bedroom.
According to the Associated Press and the TDCAA website, Fuller was armed with a shotgun, an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, and a pistol when he went to the Copelands' house.
"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."
Fuller surrendered to SWAT team members at his home later the day of the murders.
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, destruction 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 b----, 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 himself. it wasn't a surprise that he had guns.
Fuller pleaded guilty to capital murder.
"He declined to appear in court at his July 2004 trial and asked that the trial's punishment phase go on without his presence," the Associated Press story stated. "He only entered the courtroom when jurors returned with his sentence."
According to the Associated Press, Fuller asked that nothing be done to prolong his time on death row. The AP story said he wrote to Jason Cassel, his attorney, and said, "I do not want to go on living in this hellhole.
"A federal judge in June ruled Fuller competent to drop his appeals," the AP story stated. "He had testified at a hearing that he was 'ready to move on.'"
The Associated Press story said that Fuller had a reputation for irritating his neighbors with frequent gunfire, and he was summoned to court in 2003 to answer to a charge that he had made a threatening call to the Copelands in 2001. The call was in regard to complaints the couple made after Fuller shot out an electrical transformer that provide power to their home.
"Happy New Year," he told Annette Copeland in the Jan. 1, 2001, call. "I'm going to kill you."
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," said family friend and church deacon David Jeffus. "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."
Lovelady mayor pro-tem Kevin Fritze, who knew of the family but was not considered a close friend, acknowledged that the talk lately has been centered around the execution of Fuller, but he hopes the future will be around the Copelands.
"This whole thing is about the Copelands," 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."
For more information on the crime, click this link.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.