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Murder in Pensacola
Unless you live in a cave without any news, you have probably heard about the double murder that transpired here in Pensacola on July 9th, 2009, a little over a week ago from writing this entry.
The details of this case are still a little unclear. What they have released so far is this…
Byrd and Melanie Billings had 17 children, 13 adopted and four biological. Many of the kids had special needs, and one died a few years ago. Byrd and Melanie were killed July 9 during a home invasion. Security cameras caught the crime on tape. The men involved were then arrested. The motive appeared to be the large safe they stole from the house and hid near Pam Wiggins home. The Escambia County sheriff then revealed connections between the murderers and the victims, with a new possible theory, a contract killing. And I am sure more details will come out as time goes on.
But reporting this is not my purpose. It is already on every news outlet in the U.S. so for me trying to explain or cover the story is futile. My motive for writing this entry is the 2 lost soles, #301 & #302, that I discovered near each other the day after the murders.
At first I was in a hurry and dismissed them, both because I did not have time and that I already have so many from around Pensacola. But as time went on and I heard more about the murder the shoes began to make more sense in a way. In a metaphysical way you might say.
The two flips flops, one a large male flop and the other a small woman’s flop. The symbolism clicked and I went out to photograph them and dedicate the lost soles to Byrd and Melanie Billings. Victims of an awful crime. Not I am not saying they were saints. There are some pretty shady dealings they have been involved with. But even if they did screw someone over. They in no way deserved their fate. I believe the rule of Kharma let them down.
It is pretty disturbing that it happened so close. But I did take comfort in the fact that it was not a random killing. The killers went in there with a purpose, not to just rob, but to kill. It does tell me though to be careful who I piss off, you never know if there is sociopath on your Facebook page or blog that just needs an excuse to go postal.
UPDATE: Henry “cab” Tice has now been named a person of interest in the case. He has had ties to the Mexican Mafia which he admits, and admits he knew Mr. Billings pretty well. $164,000 in cash was found in the second safe in the home that was not found by the robbers. So many mysteries in this case leads me to believe the real story has yet to be uncovered, but Mr. Tice knows more than he is saying. I wonder if when Pam Wiggins goes to court that she will reveal the truth in exchange for a reduced sentence?
I have since found another great article describing the events in great clarity…
Full Article from Independent News Pensacola, by Rick Outzen
On the early evening of Thursday, July 9, seven men invaded the Beulah home of Byrd and Melanie Billings. Three men entered from the front door, two from a utility room door on the north side of the home. Within four minutes, the husband and wife were dead from multiple gunshot wounds. The intruders took a medium-sized safe and left quickly. They had been on the property less than 10 minutes, according to police reports.
In the Billings home were nine children, many with special needs. Three of the children actually saw the intruders, who were all dressed in ninja grab. After the men left, one ran to a neighbor’s house and the Escambia County’s Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene.
Thus began the investigation of two of the most horrific murders in Escambia County history. Within three days, Sheriff David Morgan and State Attorney Bill Eddins announced the arrest of Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Sr. for tampering with evidence in the Billings murder case. A red van used in the crime was found at Gonzalez’s home. Later the charge would be upgraded to two open counts of murder.
The next arrests were the alleged shooter, Gonzalez’s son, L. Patrick Gonzalez, Jr., and another accomplice, Wayne Coldiron, who had been convicted in Tennessee of killing a man. Their arrests were followed by the arrests of the other accomplices, three men and a juvenile from the Fort Walton Beach area: Gary Lamont Sumner, Jr., Fredrick Lee Thornton, Donald Ray Stallworth and Rakeem Chaney Florence. All of these suspects are charged with open counts of murder.
An eighth suspect, Pamela Long Wiggins, was arrested and charged with being an accessory after the fact for felony murder. The safe taken from the Billings home was found in Wiggins’ backyard.
The Independent News attended most of the press conferences and tried to stay up with the many twists and turns in this story.
MURDER FOR HIRE
by Rick Outzen
Sources close to suspects and persons of interests in the Billings murders allege that Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. was paid to kill Byrd and Melanie Billings. They claim that the investigators have been told this and that the contract price was between $20,000-$50,000 and whatever Gonzalez and his accomplices could remove from the Billings residence. Later a search warrant would reveal that Thornton had told investigators that Gonzalez was the sole killer.
Because of concerns over possible reprisals, my sources have asked to stay anonymous.
Our sources also allege that Gonzalez and his team had been planning the hit for several months and that much of the planning was done in the home of Pamela Wiggins, who has been charged with accessory after the fact. Wiggins was released after posting a $10,000 bond.
According to our sources, there was an earlier attempt to invade the Billings home that was done after dark, which may have only been a “dry run.” However, Gonzalez and his accomplices were frightened off by the outdoor lighting that was attached to motion sensors. The outdoor lights turned on when the vehicle went on the property and the would-be home invaders drove off. Allegedly, Pamela Wiggins was parked on the street down from the Billings residence to watch this attempt.
The failed after-dark attempt explains why Gonzalez and crew invaded the Billings residence at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 9 before sunset.
The motive for the hit on Byrd and Melanie Billings appears to be connected to Byrd Billings’ financing of used car lots in the area, according to my sources.
We did speak with Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and they will not confirm or deny this information.
POSSIBLE LINK BETWEEN BILLINGS AND GONZALEZ
Several news outlets reported that Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. told investigators that Byrd “Bud” Billings, the man who Gonzalez is accused of killing, had given him money to open a martial arts studio.
Attorney Crystal Spencer is emphatic that Byrd Billings never loaned any money to his suspected killer, Patrick Gonzalez.
“We have gone through all the company records,” says Spencer, who represents the Billings family. “We can find no record that Gonzalez ever worked for Billings or that any loans were made to him.
“Bud Billings kept records of all his loans. There is no paperwork to substantiate what the other media is reporting on this.”
We have wondered if there were any other possible connections between Gonzalez and Billings. We could find no direct link, but there is one between Gonzalez and a family who did business with the Billingses.
A review of the arrest report of Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. shows that he worked around 1999 for Hondaland Used Cars.
We went to the Web site of the Florida Secretary of State and reviewed the filings for Hondaland Used Cars, Inc. and found a resignation of registered agent by T. Harrison Duke that is copied to Wayne Peterson of Gulf Breeze and Henry Cabell Tice of Daphne, Ala., who were partners in the business.
We could find no connection between Peterson and Billings. However, we did find a business connection between Melanie Billings and Deborah Tice, the wife of Henry “Cab” Tice, Honduras Woods, Inc., and between daughter Ashley Billings and Deborah Tice, Bueno Bonito Barato Auto Sales, Inc. The documents showed changes in registered agents in both businesses from the Billings women to Tice.
Our search of the Florida Secretary of State records also found a Bueno-Bonito-Barato, LLC that has Henry C. Tice as the registered agent.
So we have Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. working for a used car sales dealership that Henry “Cab” Tice owned. We have business connections between the Billings and Tice families, of which one is a used car dealership.
According to Spencer, the attorney for the Billings children, there was a business relationship between the Billingses and Tices.
“I spoke with Ashley and this is what we know,” Spencer says. “Markham Auto Sales financed the floor plans of Henry Cabell Tice’s auto dealership. Worldco Financial Services financed the purchases of Tice’s customers.”
We checked with a couple of dealers in Car City, and Cab Tice is a well known used car dealer and wholesaler, although a few weren’t aware if he was still active in the Pensacola market. It is possible that Gonzalez may have met Billings while working for Tice.
We asked Sgt. Ted Roy, the Public Information Officer of the ECSO, if Henry “Cab” Tice was a person of interest in the Billings murders. He would neither confirm nor deny