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article imageSuspects Arrested in Slaying of Parents of Special Needs Kids

By Carol Forsloff     Jul 13, 2009 in Crime
The parents of special needs children were found dead after a robbery in their home. Police in Florida are uncovering an extensive plot involving people who knew the Billings' history.
On July 9 a wealthy Florida couple were reported killed at their home in Escambia County Florida. Authorities in Florida were said to have arrested two men on Sunday and expected to arrest others in the slaying of Byrd and Melanie Billings.
Wayne Coldiron and Leonard P. Gonzalez Jr. will appear in court today on murder charges. Gonzalez's father, Leonard P. Gonzalez Sr., has also been charged with involvement in the case by trying to repaint the red van that was said to have been used in the murder-robbery.
Byrd and Melanie Billings had 16 children, 12 of them adopted and many with special needs that included autism, mental retardation and developmental problems. Eight of the children were in the home at the time of the killings and reported unharmed.
Sheriff David Morgan of Escambia County declared police authorities were shocked at the “rapidity of the crime”and went on to say to the Associated Press: "It suggests experience to me, the rapidity of this crime - in and out."
News reports stated the Florida family had a sophisticated surveillance system in their home. It was that system recordings that showed three criminals move swiftly in and out of the house before subsequently leaving in a red van.
Investigators are examining a variety of motives for the slaying of the Billings, although some have observed there may be multiple motives including business ties, robbery and other possibilities. Morgan was quoted on Good Morning America and the Today Show on Monday as saying:
“It began as what we thought was a home invasion. At this point because of the complexity and the ties this family had through the business community, we’re moving many other directions. Could be money, could be a whole host of things."
Residents of Escambia County are said to be grieving over the death of Byrd and Melanie Billings because of their remarkable service to children. They were interviewed in 2005 by the Pensacola News Journal, maintaining they wanted to share their good fortune with children in need.
"It just happened," Melanie Byrd told the newspaper. "I just wanted to give them a better life."
More about Florida couple killed, Special needs children, Suspects arrested
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