Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Billings Murder Suspects Face Death Penalty

By Jessica Taloney Reporter
Published: October 12 2009 - 2:44 pm Last Updated: October 12 2009 - 3:11 pm

Florida State Attorney Bill Eddins announced Monday he will seek the death penalty for four of the seven men accused of killing Byrd and Melanie Billings during a home invasion July 9.

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Jr., 35, Wayne Coldiron, 41, Donnie Stallworth, 28 and Fredrick Thornton, 19 are named in a press release sent to the media Monday afternoon. The press release included just three sentences, and ended with "no further information can be released regarding this matter."

A teenager, Rakeem Florence, and two other men, Gary Sumner and Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Sr., are charged with murder in the case but were not named in the press release. Florida law forbids prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against 16 year old Florence because of his age.

All seven men are in the Escambia County Jail without bond. An eighth suspect, Pamela Long Wiggins, is charged as an accessory after the crime.

Investigators insist the motive of the home invasion and double murder was robbery, but thousands of pages of discovery documents released to the media in August reveal Gonzalez, Jr., the alleged mastermind of the attack, may have been hired to commit the crime.

Byrd and Melanie Billings, a couple well known for adopting special needs children, were shot to death in their Beulah, Florida home.

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