Billings case recap: Early Thursday Evening, July 9

I’ve been reviewing the various reports on the home invasion and murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings and have put together a narrative of the first eights days of the case, including the events of that tragic night and the subsequent arrests. The narrative is divided into days and in few instances subdivided further based on the events of the day. I will post the segments over the next few days. If you have anything that you want to add, please email me –


On early evening of Thursday, July 9, 2009, an old red van pulls onto the front yard of the large home owned by Byrd “Bud” and Melanie Billings. April Spencer, who helps Melanie take care of the nine disabled kids that lived in the home, had left the residence about 90 minutes earlier after helping Melanie bathe two of her daughters.

Bud Billings is watching TV and Melanie is getting dinner ready in the kitchen as Spencer walked out the door to her trailer on the Billings’ property.

Around 7:15 p.m. Adrianna Billings, age 11, pounds on Spencer’s door, yelling, “Come, Mom and Dad are dead.” Leaving the young girl at her home with her daughter, Spencer runs to Billings’ residence to find the laundry room door, which is on the southeast side of the house, kicked in.

Jacob “Jake” Billings, a 10-year-old with Down’s syndrome, is standing in the living room pointing to his parents’ bedroom. Jake can’t speak and communicates only through sign language.

Spencer walks into the master bedroom and finds Bud lying in front of the dresser, face down in pool of blood. He is dressed in blue jean shorts with no shirt. Melanie is lying, face up, in a hallway that leads out of the master bedroom towards a nearby study. Both have been shot multiple times. Spencer grabs Jake, runs to her trailer and called 911.

There is panic in her voice when Spencer calls. The Escambia County Sheriff’s 911 dispatcher does her best to clam the woman down:
Spencer (shouting): “The mom and dad, I live next door and the daughter came over and said the mother and father been shot and they’re dead……..”

Dispatcher: “She, She said they been shot?”

Spencer: “Yeah.”

Dispatcher: “Hold on.”

Spencer: “I gotta go get the kids, there’s kids in the house.”

Dispatcher: Where’s she at?

Spencer: “They’re in the bedroom, ma’am, they’re dead…..Please come.”

Dispatcher: “Ma’am, I’m trying to get someone there, you said the mother and father both had been shot?”

Spencer: “YES!”

Dispatcher: “Okay, I’m going to get someone there, I’m trying to get some information…..What is your name?”

Spencer: “This is……”

Dispatcher: “I’m sorry?–(To a patrol car) They’re supposed to be signal seven, both of them she is saying.–Ma’am what’s your last name? Ma’am, Ma’am, I’ll get somebody on the way, okay, they’re already on the way I’m just trying to get some information. What’s your first name?”

Spencer: “I gotta go find the kids, the kids are ……”

Dispatcher: “How old are the kids?……”

Spencer: “Ages from four years……”

Dispatcher: “How many kids are supposed to be in the house?”

Spencer: “Please help! Ma’am, I gotta go be with these children, but I don’t know…”

Dispatcher: “Ma’am, I don’t want you to be in any danger, okay?”

Spencer: “Ma’am, Ma’am I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Please come.”

Dispatcher: “Ma’am, Ma’am, I need you to take a deep breathe for me, okay. You there? Hello?” (To her fellow dispatcher) “She hung up on me. She said she’s gonna go in and find the kids.”

Spencer: “Ma’am?”

Dispatcher: “Ma’am, You there?”

Spencer: “Yes.”

Dispatcher: “I thought you hung up. I didn’t know…… Okay, I’ve got several officers on the way to you.”

Spencer: “Hurry.”

Dispatcher: “I need to know how many kids are supposed to be in the house?”

Spencer: “It’s nine children.”

Dispatcher: “It’s how many children? Ma’am your phone’s cutting out. Ma’am?”

While Spencer is calling 911, the Billings’ oldest daughter, Ashley Billings Markham, is doing the same. She had called the Billings home shortly after the intruders had left. Adrianna got on the phone, but Ashley couldn’t understand with the young girl was trying to tell so she tells Adrianna to run and get Spencer. Markham calls 911 and her brother, Justin Billings, who she asked to get to house and find out what is wrong.

Markham fights back tears as she makes her 911 call:

Dispatcher: “Sherriff’s 911, this is Jeff.”

Markham: “Hi, I need someone to got out to my parents house, I is on the phone with my sister and trying to get in touch with them and she said they are on the bathroom floor and there’s nobody there, um, she said they are dead and I don’t know what she is talking about.”

Dispatcher: “What’s the address? And what’s your name ma’am? And your phone number? And what’s her name?”
Markham: “Melanie and Bud Billings.”

Dispatcher: “And you said Billings?”

Markham: “Billings, B-i-l-l-i-n-g-s.”

Dispatcher: “Okay, and you said they’re down in the bathroom?”

Markham: “Yes, that’s what she said, I kept telling her to take her the phone, and she said I can’t, she’s on the floor and she’s dead. I didn’t know what she’s talking about and we have a neighbor and I tells her to over and get the neighbor….”

Dispatcher: “Can you hold on a second ma’am?”

Markham: “Okay.”

Dispatcher- to a patrol car: “Three eighty. I’m on the phone with the other part. Ten-four. It’s gonna be a possible thirty two (dispatch code for shooting) victim. We have two callers on the phone. …The caller advised that her sister advised her that there are two subjects down on the bathroom floor, possibly Melanie and Bud, not twenty six (dispatch code for suspicious person) on what’s going on but are on the phone with another complainant.”

Markham: “Did somebody else call?”

Dispatcher—to a patrol car: Can you be enroute to back? Ten-four, car seventy twenty six? Ten- four.” (To Markham) “Okay. Ma’am.”

Markham: “Uh, huh.”

Dispatcher: “O.K.”

Markham: “Did somebody else call?”

Dispatcher: “Yes Ma’am, are on the phone with somebody else, hold on one second.”

The Escambia County Sheriff’s deputies arrive at the 9717 Mobile Highway residence at 7:26 p.m.–sixteen minutes after the red van had pulled off. Spencer meets the eight deputies and yells, “They’re in that house.”

The deputies find seven children still in their rooms, Nicholas (age 8), Ricky (9), Victoria (8), Emma (4), Ethan (5), Kaitlyn (7) and Matthew (9).

After the children are removed to Spencer’s trailer and the house is secured, Deputy Walter Johnson records in his offense report that he observed two bullet casings and two bullet holes on the floor in the hall on the first floor. There is a large amount of blood on the floor near the holes in the floor. When Johnson walks into the master bedroom, he sees the bodies of Bud and Melanie Billings. Their bodies are cool to the touch.

Crime Scene Technician Wayne Wright arrives on the scene about 25 minutes later. As he drives up the long driveway and past the wooded area that obscures any view of the Billings residence from the heavily traveled highway, Wright sees tire tracks in the front lawn.

In his report, Wright notes that he observed vehicle tracks that led from the driveway to an area just in front of the house. There is a set of spin out marks and tire tracks that looped back toward the driveway.

Wright describes the Billings house as a two-story predominately brick structure. Three entry doors to residence face the front lawn and driveway. The door on the northeast corner is unlocked and opens to a study room. That door didn’t appear to be damaged. The main front door, located near the center of the front of the house, appears to be forced open, as does the third door on the southeast end.

The crime scene technician enters the house through that third door. It leads into a short hallway with a laundry room on the right side. Small spots of blood are on the wall near the laundry room door. Turning right at the end of the hallway, he walks into the kitchen and living room areas. A motion sensor turns on the hallway light as Wright walks down the hall.

Wright sees the same shell casings that Thomas noted. The casings are later determined to be PPU 9 mm Luger shells. A trail of blood leads from the living room into the bedroom.

Just inside the master bedroom door, Wright finds Bud Billings lying face down with a large pool of blood under his head. He sees a bullet wound in his lower right leg. When Wright and M.E. Investigator Emily Mack roll over Billings’ body, they see a plastic zip tie wrapped loosely around his left wrist. Under Bud’s left leg is a framed photograph of Melanie’s daughter Nicole, who had died last year. Three shell casings are just right of Bud’s legs. Two are on the floor near his head. There are broken Mardi Gras beads on the floor near the door to the master bedroom.

Wright finds skull fragments on the floor in nearly a straight line about eight feet from Bud’s head. Blood splatter is on the wall right of the bedroom door, near Bud’s feet.

Melanie Billings is lying face up in hallway that leads from the master bedroom to the study room, where the unlocked entry door is on the northeast corner of the residence. On both sides of that hallway are large walk-in closets. A smaller closet is on the right side of the hall in the corner nearest the master bedroom.

That closet door is open and Melanie is lying directly in front of it. She is wearing a white Elton John T-shirt that is covered in blood and grey shorts. Her right Xhilaration sandal is off her foot and laying in the corner right of her body. Blood is on her chest and around her head. Skull fragments are a few feet about her head. One shell casing is on the floor between Melanie’s body and the open closet. Two more are found on the floor inside the closet.

All the shell casings found in the master bedroom are PPU 9 mm Luger brand and matched those found in the living room area. Spots of blood are observed on the carpet between the bodies of Bud and Melanie.

A few droplets of blood are found on a closet door to the left of staircase that is in the foyer between the front door and the living room. The rest of the residence appears unremarkable, according to Wright’s report.

While Wright and the Crime Scene Unit are processing the crime scene, the ECSO investigators arrive on the scene. At 8:02 p.m. Sgt Rusty Hoard receives a text message about a death investigation at 9717 Mobile Highway. He calls Patrol Sgt. Murphy who tells him that two adults, male and female, bodies had been discovered inside the residence, who appeared to be homicide victims. The patrol deputies had finished clearing the house of additional persons, including several children with various disabilities.

Hoard calls Investigators Tom Watts, Lee Tyree, Bobby Guy and Terry Hardy to respond.

Hoard and Tyree put on protective footwear and enter the house. Investigator Lee sees inside the master bedroom a television mounted in the room that appears to have a video feed of surveillance from inside the home. A large safe and the DVR recorder for the home surveillance system are found in a small room upstairs. Neither the safe nor the DVR recorder appears to have been disturbed.

Outside Investigator Bobby Guy is introduced to Justin Billings, who tells Guy that he is very knowledgeable on to work the home security system. Justin also tells the investigator that there are two safes in the house, a large one upstairs and a smaller one in a small closet near the master bedroom. The investigators later discovered that smaller safe and a briefcase, which was also in the closet, are missing.

Investigator Zack Ward focuses on the surveillance system. Donald Dunbar of TSI Security, who installed the system, is called in to help view the footage from the system.

Watching the video, the investigators learn what created the tracks in the lawn. They see a beat up red van drive up to the residence at 7:06 p.m. Three masked suspects exited the van and entered the home. Two are armed with long guns, one of which appears to be a shotgun. The third is armed with a pistol.

Less than five minutes after entering the house, the suspects jump in the van which speeds off the property. The investigators have their first clue to the identity of the killers

Copyright © 2009 Rick Outzen