Saturday, August 15, 2009

Grand jury convenes

Kris Wernowsky

A grand jury is meeting this morning to determine charges for the eight people connected to the murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings.

In Florida, grand juries meet to decide whether to charge criminal defendants with first-degree murder, a capital crime punishable by a mandatory life sentence or the death penalty.

The proceeding, scheduled for two days, will result in fresh indictments for the eight suspects connected with the July 9 home invasion at the Billingses' sprawling Beulah house.

This morning, investigators Barry Brooke and Tommy Tucker with the State Attorney's Office have left the courtroom on the fourth floor of the M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building.

Escambia County homicide investigators Buddy Nesmith, Chris Baggett and Lee Tyree are all waiting to testify. The investigators thumbed through large white binders of arrest reports and court documents as they await their turn to testify.

Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public and those who testify are not allowed to speak about what is said inside the courtroom.

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