Green Mile Countdown
Final Chapter Oct. 9
By Teresa Holloway
HUNTSVILLE – How must it feel to know the last day of your life is less than one day away?
If convicted murderer Barney Fuller were allowed to speak publicly, he could answer the question.
Fuller is slated for lethal injection on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
The 58 year old Fuller was convicted of multiple murders in Lovelady in 2004. Fuller pled guilty to the murders of his neighbors Nathan and Annette Copeland. Annette was 39 and Nathan was 43 when their lives were violently ended.
Fuller has spent the last 12 years on death row. Fuller worked as a laborer at the time of the murder.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division, summarized the incident, “Summary of Incident: On 05/14/2003 in Houston County, Texas, Fuller entered the residence of his neighbors, a forty-three year old white male and a thirty-nine year old white female and fatally shot both of them multiple times. Fuller then fled the scene on foot.”
The story had more history than the summary could contain, however, and several facets of the continuing conflict between Fuller and his neighbors were brought to light under both investigative and media scrutiny.
The case caught statewide attention. Tanya S. Dohoney was an assistant district attorney for Tarrant County and weighed in with her opinion in a 2008 article for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.
“Barney Fuller found happiness with a warm gun,” Dohoney wrote. The ADA from Tarrant opined Fuller was “so fond of shooting on his rural Houston County property that his pastime repeatedly peeved his neighbors, including the Copeland family.”
The victims had filed terroristic threat charges against Fuller after he “shot the Copeland’s electric transformer to smithereens,” the article stated.
The transformer shooting was preceded by numerous complaints against Fuller by several neighbors for the constant firing of weapons in the populated area.
According to the article, when a Houston County district court notified Fuller of the terroristic threat charges and pending case, he “first sought solace with firewater, then firepower,” the TDCAA article stated.
Fuller received the letter on May 13 and began to drink heavily, according to investigators. About 1:30 a.m. on May 14, Fuller left his home, walked to the Copeland’s home, and began his assault on the family.
The article stated that Fuller went to the Copeland home with several weapons, including an AR-15 rifle.
According to the TDCAA article, about 60 rounds, or three magazine changes, were fired into the side of the Copeland’s home.
Fuller traded his AR15 for a handgun, broke into the house from the rear and shot Nathan Copeland in the back of the head first, then shot him three more consecutive times.
Annette Copeland made it to the master bathroom with the cell phone and called 911. “After entering the house, Barney hunted down the Copeland adults and killed them,” Dohoney wrote. “The 9-1-1 operator heard ‘Party’s over, b—-,’ then a popping sound, right after Mrs. Copeland called.”
Annette was shot three times in the head.
Brutally murdering the Copeland adults wasn’t enough for Fuller and he sought out the victims’ two children -the killer stalked into the bedroom of the 14 year old son, Cody, asking repeatedly why Cody had lied on him in court.
Fuller shot at Cody at least three times, hitting him twice in the shoulder. He sought out 11 year old Courtney next, but was unable to find her in the dark and left the house.
Courtney Copeland waited roughly five minutes before leaving her hiding place. She checked on her brother and located her parents, both of whom she found dead.
Cody attempted to call 911 first, but the landline was unserviceable. Courtney retrieved her mother’s cell phone and the children notified law enforcement and her grandparents.
Both children played dead in case Fuller came back before law enforcement arrived.
SWAT arrived on the scene and Fuller surrendered to them later that day, reports indicated.
The TDCAA article indicated Fuller called his father several times before his surrender. His father notified a member of the family serving as a criminal defense attorney, Steven ‘Rocket’ Rosen.
According to the TDCAA article, about the same time as Fuller’s arrest, Rosen faxed the sheriff to notify him that he (Rosen) represented Barney. The fax admonished the authorities not to interview Barney without his attorney present.
Neither the interviewing Texas Ranger nor Fuller himself received Rosen’s faxed admonishment before appropriate waivers were signed and Fuller’s statement was videotaped at the Houston County Sheriff’s Office.
On the morning of his trial, according to the article, Fuller pled guilty to the charge of capital murder. His plea was accepted by the court and Fuller was found guilty.
After nine days of courtroom hearings, the jury sentenced Fuller to death by lethal injection.
In May of 2008, appeals courts rejected Fuller’s appealed death sentence. In his appeal, Fuller claiming 44 points of trial error, including claims his trial court lacked authority to impose the death sentence because there was no jury verdict form finding him guilty.
The Messenger will attend the lethal injection procedure at the Walls Unit in Huntsville on Oct. 5.
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