Billings case: Saturday, July 11 part 3

Saturday, July 11

On Saturday while the other investigators are searching for the Dodge van, Tom Watts and Bobby Guy contact Henry Cabell “Cab” Tice, age 61, at 4337 Highway 90, Pace, Florida, the location of Bobby English Auto Sales.

Tice says Bud Billings was a former business partner. They had ended their partnership in the used car business about a year and a half ago.

He learned about the murders from Tim Higley who called about 9:15 p.m. on Thursday, July 9 saying that Bud’s son-in-law had called and told him.

“Of course, I was devastated because it was horrible, anything like that happens, especially to Melanie, you know,” Tice says

That night Tice says that he had finished up detailing a car when Santa Rosa County deputies camp up, handcuffed him. While he was being detained, the deputy told Tice that she didn’t know what was going on.

“I said well I know what’s going on because I got called twenty minutes ago and heard that, uh, Bud and his wife had been murdered. So obviously somebody thinks I had something to do with it and that’s why you guys are here.

“After about thirty minutes, they took off the handcuffs and then left. Told me that they were sorry they detained me or whatever.”


Tice tells Watts and Guy what he did Thursday night.

“I was here until six o’clock…. maybe six fifteen and at six fifteen,” Tice says.¬ “My routine is between five and six to go to Milton Chrysler Dodge to see how many vehicles had trade in. So I had a late customer and about six fifteen I got down there and waited and waited to talk with the used car manager. And finally they had traded a Durango and drove it and ended up buying it. I left there about ten after seven, maybe seven fifteen. Got back to the lot and got on the Internet.

“I called my wife at eight o’clock every night. We talk for thirty minutes every night. We talked for thirty minutes and then my partner Bobby is terrible on, on emails so he asked me to email some emails to a girl in Columbia, which I did and went in and just kind of wanted to relax before I started back on this car.

“So I probably relaxed about thirty minutes or something, then I went out and started working on the car. That was my day and evening that day.”

When the deputies found him, he was emptying some trash and was urinating in the bushes. He said when the deputy flashed the light on him, “I thought it was the mafia. It’s really what I thought. And I look and he’s got a AK47.”

The last time Tice said that he spoke with Billings was eighteen months ago. It was at the Worldco offices.

“The reason I was there was he had deposited those checks. And I went there to say, Bud, you shouldn’t have deposited those checks. Those checks were “hold” checks. Why did you do this?”

According to Tice, Bud said that he was going after him on those checks.

Tice claims that he had said, “Okay, well, you can come after me but my understanding is that you cannot take a hold check and these checks were written two months before so do whatever you gotta do.” That was their last conversation.

Tice says Tim Higley once owned Purshu Auto with Bud, but now Markham does. Higley doesn’t like Billings, even though he is “very good” friend with Markham.

Tice doesn’t know Hartsfield. They show him pictures of the red van used in the crime. Tice said he doesn’t recognize it.

They ask him about one of his former salesmen, Silvano Gonzalez. He still has contact with him and Silvano Gonzalez did deal with Bud, doing various jobs. He helped Billings collect the contracts from Hispanic customers. Also Tice believes that he did some yard work for Billings.

Tice said that he had been to the Billings residence probably three times.

When asked about Billings: “There’s just a lot of people that didn’t like him. He’s a shark and lots and lots of people have lost lots and lots of money doing business with him.”

Tice tells Watts and Guy that Patrick Gonzalez was a karate instructor who had taught him defensive tactics about twelve or fourteen years ago. Patrick had once worked for him as a salesman at one of his former dealerships, Hondaland, in an area in Pensacola known as Car City.

“We had seen each other maybe every two or three months. About six months ago he asked me to help him get a contract with the Coast Guard, training guys that actually board vehicles, close quarter defensive tactics.”

Gonzalez had someone from the Coast Guard in New Orleans come over and trained with Tice for about a month.

Watts and Tice ended the interview and asked Tice to come to the ECSO for further questioning.

At the ECSO, the investigators asks Tice more about Silvanos Gonzalez. According to Tice, the man had answered a help wanted ad in American Classifieds for a Spanish car salesman. He hired him about February or March 2008.

“He was wonderful, very dedicated, the best salesman that we had and stayed with me until we closed the dealership.” Silvanos went to work for Bud Billings helping collect on accounts with Hispanic people who couldn’t speak English.

When asked if he still had relationship with Silvanos Gonzalez, Tice said, “Yes, sir. I have. I see him about once a month. He’ll come by the lot and pick up payments that explained to you about.

Gonzalez had loaned Tice $20,000. He told Tice the interest would be $1,500. Tice committed to repaying him five or six months.

Hispanic American Auto Sales closed six weeks later. Tice still owed Gonzalez the twenty grand. And the salesman started to panic, according to Tice.

“He had previously told me he had cousins in Atlanta, but he had inferred that they were in the Mexican Restaurant business. Well, he tells me ‘they’re members of the Mexican mafia’…and,so he tells me ‘he used to work for them, these people don’t play. They gonna kill. They won’t kill you, they’ll kill your family and we got to get them this money’ …and he told Bud this same thing.”

Later Bud said to Tice, “I didn’t know that you had gotten so desperate that you would borrow money from the Mexican Mafia.”

Silvanos called Tice’s ex-wife to pressure her, telling her that her family was in danger if Tice didn’t pay back the loan.

She called Tice. “I can’t believe you put us in this kind of jeopardy. Silvanos says they’ll kill us. You need to pay this money. You need to get it back to him as soon as you can.”

Tice had $8,000 come in from sales and gave that to Gonzalez. He made later payments of $2000 a month, then $1,500 and for the last three or four months his payments were $500 each. He still owes $1,500.

Tice believes that Silvanos was in trouble for laundering money. He says that the Department of Homeland Security taped his conversations with Silvanos.

“We went over it and how he did it. And, you know, he doesn’t take it to Atlanta. He sends it to Mexico. He’s got an account that he sends it to and then they pick it up there. So he’s in real trouble with the money laundering for the mafia, so in that regard he’s connected with the mafia.”


The investigators ask about Patrick Gonzalez. Tice says that he was robbed at gunpoint and beaten up in Mexico about 12 years ago. Patrick worked for him at Hondaland as salesman.

“While he was working for me he was teaching classes, he would go make money on the weekends cage fighting.”

Gonzalez trained Tice twice a week for about two years until Gonzalez went to Costa Rica. They didn’t have contact for three or four years, until Gonzalez opened a dojo in Pace. Tice says that Bud lent him money to open the dojo. Tice started training again with Gonzalez.

Gonzalez did believe he was getting a training contract with the Coast Guard. The commander lived in Pace, but worked in New Orleans. He thinks Billings loaned him $8000-$6000 for the dojo.

Gonzalez also was teaching self-defense to kids and women. He used Tice’s computer and printer to print invitations.

On the day of the killings came by the Pace car lot to show Tice an award that Patrick and Tabitha Gonzalez had been given by a local Sertoma Club for their self-defense work with children. The plaque was the “Service to Mankind” award.

“You could never believe anything Patrick said,” Tice says. “I mean, I could never believe what was true and he kept telling me that they were up for the Sertoma and if they got it that would open up a whole new thing.”

According to Tice, Billings had asked Tice to help him collect the money that Gonzalez owed him. It was about the same time as the Coast Guard contract. Patrick said, “Tell Bud that I’ll have the money to pay him when we get his contract.”

Later Gonzalez offered to let Bud buy part of the dojo, but he wasn’t interested. The dojo eventually closed. As far as Tice knows, Gonzalez never paid Billings back.

Tice is emphatic that it wasn’t a gift. “Billings wouldn’t give you a dime, unless he got 29 cents back.”

“Bud has this soft, had this soft–he could be vicious in business, horrible, but he had this soft spot for kids.” When Bud found out Patrick was working with kids, he really wanted to help anyway he could. Patrick and Tabatha went to Bud’s offices several times. He wasn’t sure if they ever went to the Billings residence, but wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

Tice describes his relationship with Gonzalez.

“He is like the wayward child that you always want to try to be a good influence on his life. The story that had been told me about his life was that when he was young, he got in all kinds of trouble. He got sent to prison and he came back and his life has been, you know, good.

“He’s tried to do good, he’s worked hard, worked jobs, and has tried to live down that part of his life…If I can be some kind of influence in his life, it’s like my ex-wife (asked) ago, you know, why do you do this and like I said it’s like a wayward child, you know, and I’m thinking if I can keep helping, keep him from going down this way and you know…”

His ex-wife didn’t like Patrick. She thought he was manipulative, dishonest.

Tice has met Tabatha Gonzalez and thinks that she is wonderful.

“She’s just sweet and nice and kind and a great mother and very involved in all that children, services for children and you know, she’s wonderful.”

Tabatha and Patrick called Tice to wish him a “Happy Father’s Day.” Tice’s children don’t talk to him since the divorce.

“We’re close like a father and a wayward son.”

Tice says Homeland Security had asked how did Patrick makes his money? Tice told them through all the seminars and private lessons. Car dealers had donated to this charity.

Tice had never seen Patrick in the old red van. If he had, Tice said he would have said, “What are you driving this piece of crap for?”


The investigator asks Tice about Jose Sanchez. He describes him as a used car dealer with lots on W Street and in Foley, Alabama, but he adds, “I think he’s a money launderer for the Mexican Mafia.

“He goes to these car lots and pays cash for cars. He opens up a briefcase and buys $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 cars and pays cash for them.”

About two months ago, Sanchez went to the car auction and told Tice’s ex-wife, who owns a car lot in Foley, that he was buying her out. She was going out of business and he was taking over her location. .

Tice says that he called Sanchez, “Let me tell you something. She’s my ex-wife, but that’s still my family. You all are doing this to destroy their business. I’m telling you do not go down this road with me.”

Tice talked more about his encounters with the Mexican Mafia. At the car action, Tcie claims that Jorge tells him that if he ever saw him “he’d blow my fucking brains out.” Tice replied, “If you ever pull a gun on me, I’ll take it away from you and beat you to death with it.”

Somebody vandalizes Sanchez’s car and they report it to the Foley Police that it was Tice. The lot surveillance showed a 30-year-old doing the vandalizing. According to Tice, Sanchez wouldn’t return his calls. He sees Tice’s son at the auction and said, “Tell your father I didn’t do anything and I never said that and I don’t need any problems in my life.”

Tice says he had told Homeland Security about Sanchez and money laundering. Also Tice’s ex-wife tells him about two Latino stores in Foley that are producing fake driver’s licenses. Hispanics can buy cars unless they have a valid driver’s license. She says that she is losing car sales to Sanchez because he is sending them to these stores. Tice says Sanchez has one on W Street, too.


“Bud’s favorite statement was ‘You know what, over these years I have so much cash that I could not spend before I die.’

“When this whole thing happened, those words rang in my ears, ‘I have more cash…,’ and I think he was robbed. I think that whoever, everybody knew Bud Billings has a lot of money and when he’s saying that.

“When Tim Higley and I were talking about that this morning or maybe it was last night, Tim said, ‘You know when that happened, do you remember how many times he said that I’ve got more cash than I could ever spend in a lifetime.’”

Tice states that Billings carried $20,000 in his briefcase. He remembered it as being light brown. He said it was common knowledge as well as the security system at the house.

“Everybody thought, well, maybe that’s where he keeps his money. I don’t think anybody hated Bud Billings enough to kill him and nobody in Pensacola hated his wife. I mean people hate Bud Billings, but not enough to kill him.”

In his report on the interview, Guy writes that Cab had told him about his calling Patrick between 7 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. on the night of the murders for help on opening his email. Tice says that Patrick was computer literate, but Patrick never answered his cell phone. Patrick did call back the next morning, but Tice had already taken care of it.

Tice also told Guy that it was no secret that he “hated Bud Billings.”

Copyright © 2009 Rick Outzen