Executions · Newspaper clippings · Virginia

Former police officer executed for the robbery, beating, and murder of woman

August 10, 1982
Richmond, Virginia
Frank Coppola is executed in the electric chair for the robbery and murder of a woman

Coppola was a police officer in 1978 when he and accomplices gained entry to Muriel Hatchell’s home under the false pretense of selling roses. They then restrained her with the cord of a Venetian blind and repeatedly smashed her head against the floor. Her beating was so severe police found five of her teeth scattered throughout the house. Muriel’s husband Peyton interrupted the robbery and was beaten, choked, and restrained as well. Coppola and his accomplices fled with approximately $3,100 in cash and some jewelry. Once Peyton freed himself, he was able to call 911, but his wife had already died of brain hemorrhaging and asphyxiating on her own vomit

Coppola and his accomplices — Karen Evans (his wife), Joseph Miltier, and Donna Mills — were arrested and convicted, though only Coppola received a death sentence. Evans, who drove the getaway car and had no part in the murder, was given a 20-year sentence. Miltier and Mills each received life sentences.

Though Coppola maintained his innocence until his execution, he dismissed his attorneys and waived his rights to appeals, wanting to spare his family from the “tremendous hardship” of the legal process. According to a lawyer present, Coppola’s execution required two 55-second jolts. The second jolt produced a burning odor, caused Coppola’s head and leg to catch fire, and filled the execution chamber from floor to ceiling with smoke from his body.


Chicago Tribune. August 15, 1982

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