Saturday, August 15, 2009

Slain Florida Couple: Seven Indicted in Billings Murder, Safe Held $164,000

By Beth

Byrd and Melanie Billings, the slain Florida couple shot in their home last month are reported to had a safe in their home containing $164,000 in cash at the time of the murders. Seven have been indicted in the Billings murder by a Florida grand jury. Read more below and see a mugshot and video.

The Byrd and Melanie Billings murder gained national attention because the couple was known for adopting special needs children. At the time of their deaths, they had 16 children, 12 of them adopted. We wrote about the crime at the time. Since then, seven men have been arrested and charged with the murders.

On Tuesday, August 11, 2009, an Escambia County, Florida grand jury indicted the seven men of the robbery and killings of the Florida Panhandle couple. They were shot to death in their home on July 9, 2009. The suspected motive was robbery and a contract hit.

The killers left with one safe that had little financial value for them. It contained prescription drugs and some jewelry. The family’s attorney, Robert Beasley has confirmed that there was a second safe in the house that contained $164,000 in cash, some antique jewelry and legal documents.

The suspects are Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Jr., 35-years-old. He is thought to be the organizer of the crime and the other suspects point to him as the lone shooter. The others are Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Sr., 56; Wayne Thomas Coldiron, 41; Gary Lamont Sumner, 30; Fredrick Lee Thornton, 19; Donald Ray Stallworth, 28; and Rakeem Chavez Florence, 16, who was charged as an adult, authorities said. All seven are being held without bail and will possibly face the death penalty if convicted.

Another suspect, Pamela Wiggins, 47-years-old, has been charged as an accessory after the fact, but was not included in Tuesday’s indictment. The safe the suspects took from the Billings home was found in her back yard.

Court papers indicate that all of the suspects believed they were going to the Billings’ home for a robbery and that only Gonzalez, Jr. and one other who hasn’t been named, planned to carry out a contract hit on the couple. Any motive behind the hit has not been disclosed.

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