Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

The Deaths of Byrd and Melanie Billings

The details of the murder of the wealthy Pensacola, Fla., couple that had adopted many disabled children were so shocking, they recalled Truman Capote's In Cold Blood: after their home was invaded by men in black ninja-style clothing, Byrd Billings, 66, was shot three times in the head and once in the leg, and his wife, 43, was shot twice in the head and twice in the chest — all in front of their nine young children. (In all, the Billingses had 17 kids, 13 of them adopted and most with disabilities like Down Syndrome.) The alleged killer was Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., a failed karate instructor, who the local sheriff said may have been part of a conspiracy to get rid of Byrd Billings, who ran a loan company. Six other men were also charged with capital murder. Like Gonzalez, they pleaded not guilty. Investigators said Gonzalez's accomplices fingered him as the sole gunman.