Maybe we just didn't understand it. Why else would Legal Pub ignore questions from readers why we have not covered the Pensacola, Florida murders? There are now seven men arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of Byrd and Melanie Billings, a couple known for adopting special-needs children. One more suspect is being sought. The couple cared for cared for 16 children over the years which were not their biological children. (Ashley Markham was the biological daughter of Melanie Billings but not Byrd. Ashley told the press that over the years the couple has cared for 17 children. Each parent had two biological children but none together. Three have died. Nine children were present at the time of the slaying.)
The seven in custody will face murder charges. One of the suspects is a 16-year-old. The eighth person will likely be charged with aiding and abetting the crime. Currently all we know is that the couple was killed during what has been labeled as "a home invasion robbery. "Sheriff description. The seven suspects are as follows:
- Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Sr., 56
- Wayne Thomas Coldiron, 41
-Leonard Gonzalez Jr., 35
- Gary Lamont Sumner, 30
-Donald Ray Stallworth, 28
- Fredrick Lee Thornton, 19
- A juvenile, 16, believed to be Rakeem Florence (To be charged as an adult per Escambia County State Attorney Bill Eddins.)
Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., a former National Guard member, is believed to have organized the crime. Gonzalez, Jr. was also an ex-convict that taught self defense classes to women and children. While it has been said that the crime was "very well-planned and methodical," it was captured on surveillance. Watch surveillance video. Stallworth also has military experience as a staff sergeant with the 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, based at Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Gonzalez, Sr. had worked at the Billings' home through a pressure washing business that he owned. Gonzalez, Sr. had hired Coldiron and Coldiron had been to the Billings’ property. Coldiron was basically a day laborer who had already served time in prison for murder.
The video shows five people dressed in black and wearing masks entering the home through two entrances. Drivers apparently remained in both of the vehicles involved in the incident. The couple were shot multiple times. Items were taken from the home consistent with robbery. For Melanie Billings' description of the loving couple watch this: Markham.
7-16-09 Update: The plot thickens: Pamela Long Wiggins will be charged with accessory after the fact of felony murder. Wiggins -- who was previously identified as Pamela Laverne Long was arrested Wednesday in Orange Beach, Alabama. Wiggins apparently rented property to Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., and was the suspect's family friend. The exact reason for the charges is not currently known. The DEA is investigating the suspects not the victims. The most likely motive is simply robbery. The safe has been recovered as has a gun believed to be used in the shootings.
Keep in mind all suspects are innocent until otherwise proven in a court of law.
After completing the story, one still wonders "why?"