IT HASNâT SUNKEN IN
Friday, July 10
The Pensacola News Journal reports on its front page that âa Beulah couple who adopted 12 children and owned several local businesses were found shot to death in an apparent home invasion Thursday evening.â
In December 2005, the daily newspaper had featured the Billings family. At the time, they were the proud parents of 16 children. Twelve were adopted — among them, children of drug users, children who were sexually abused and children with developmental disabilities. Six of the 12 had Down syndrome. Two had died.
There was some confusion of the actual number of the children that the Bud and Melanie had adopted over the years. It took a few days before the media got the correct count of 18 children. Since the 2005 article, Bud and Melanie had adopted their granddaughter, Kristyn Billings.
Eight children, ages 8 to 14, were in the house when the shootings took place. The full magnitude of the story doesnât sink in.
National media shows some interest. CNN reports it on its website with the title, âCouple who adopted 12 children slain.â CBS News reports âParents of Sixteen Slain.â
âNO WAY, NO WAYâ
The Investigators split up Friday morning.
Investigator Chris Baggett is requested to assist the investigation. He obtains a recorded statement from Ali Stanley, who is registered nurse and a specialist in child disability interviews. Stanley had been called in by Guy and Watts to interview some of the Billings children.
Stanley interviewed Jacob âJakeâ Billings, age 10, who had been in the living room with his parents when the intruders broke into the Billings residence. Jacob has Downâs syndrome, is autistic and communicates mainly through sign language.
Jake tells her that the intruders had black masks that covered their faces. He also says that they had flip flops on.
According to Jake, he was in his dadâs bedroom and his dad was in the bed snoring. Someone knocked on the door and dad got up, went out and there were two bad men that said, âYouâre going to die.âÂ The man counted to three before he shot both mom and dad.
He says his dad kept screaming, âNo way, No way!â
Jake doesnât recognize the men and they didnât speak to him.
Jake tells Stanley that the bad guy was yelling and talking at his dad before he shot him.Â His dad grabbed one of the guyâs neck.
Stanley tells Baggett, âHe reenacted that with his sister there, so I guess the dad got into a physical fight with the guy before he shot him.â
Stanley asked if his parents screamed anybodyâs name. She said that Jake said he remember his dad said a name and Jake signed the letters âB-J-A.â
The child disability specialist also interviewed Matthew, age 9, who has not speech impediments. Matthew said that he was upstairs in his bed when he heard a knock on the door. He heard seven booms.
Matthew said that he went out into the hallway to the balcony and heard his mom scream. He stayed upstairs until the police came.
Adrianna, age 11, told Matthew that she had seen a red vehicle drive very slow up the driveway before the shots were fired.
Stanley says that kids told her that all the dogs were in the house, but not one of them barked.
âHEâS PROBABLY LYINGâ
Investigators Bobby Guy and Tama Barber meet Cambre Lee, age 18, in the parking lot of OâCharleyâs Restaurant. Lee tells Guy that she was suppose to have a date with Justin Billings last night, but he had called and told her that his parents had been murdered.
Lee and Billings had been discussing their date all day. They were to go out after Justin finished dinner with Greg Clearâs grandparents. She was dressed and ready to go when Billings called her at 8:13 p.m., according to her cell phone records.
âHey, sweetie, Iâm sorry I canât go out tonight. Both of my parents were shot.â
Lee didnât believe him at first. Justin told her that he would have to all her later and explain what happened.
Justin calls back later crying. He tells Lee that his dad was shot in the head six time, his mom was shot 23 times and that the safe was taken. He also says that he was helping the deputies check the surveillance in the house.
Lee also said that Billings had called her again that morning. According to Lee, Justin said that Lee and his friends might be in danger and that he thought his parentsâ murders might be a hit.
Lee has doubts about what the boy who she has known since fifth grade was saying.
âJustin is the type of guy that will say something to make himself sound cool,â Lee says. âItâs not really exaggeration. Itâs just Justin was kind of picked on all throughout school, so I guess he feels the need to act like he knows it all and that heâs got all the details and stuff that. So yeah, heâs probably lying.â
CAB TICE HAS RED VEHICLE
At 11:30 a.m., Investigator Lee Tyree contacts Sgt. Mustin with the Santa Rosa County Sheriffâs Office to obtain details about Henry âCabâ Tice the night of the murders.
Mustin reports that 9:39 p.m. on Thursday she had been told by her dispatch that a home invasion/double homicide had occurred in Escambia County and a unit was requested to drive past at residence at Bobby English Auto Sales on Highway 90 in Pace. The unit was not to make contact but to check and see if a red F150 or red Ford Explorer was present at the residence. She was told the name of person at the location was Henry Tice.
Mustin sent Santa Rosa County Deputy Brian Miller to the car lot. Miller was unable to see either vehicle from the road so he parked on a side street and approached the residence on foot. The deputy saw a red 4-door sedan with all four doors open and the interior lights on parked next to the building. No one was in or around the vehicle.
Mustin called for additional deputies to search the vicinity for additional victims. Tice was found at the wood line at the edge of the property. Tice told deputies that he was disposing of some garbage. The deputies left Tice at the used car lot.
FORENSICS AND CRIME SCENE TECHS RETURN
Sgt. Stan Wehmeier and Crime Scene Techs Christy Percell, Jennifer Jones and Wayne Wright return to the Billings residence. In a secondary search of the home, an additional skull fragment from Bud Billing is found in the corner of the master bedroom near where the others were found last night. They observe for indentions in the carpet in the master bedroom closet where the safe was stored.
They process for latent prints on all walls and doors leading from both the front door and the southeast entry door. Lifts are made on two spindles on the staircase banister, door knob to the study room, brass on inside of the front door, door knob of the laundry room and the frame around the pantry door. One lift is made on the brass on the interior side of the northeast entry door. Additional lifts are made on a rotating light and a glass globe on the dresser in the master bedroom.
They collect rugs from the master bedroom hallway where Melaneâs body was found, entrance to the master bedroom, outside the front door and outside the southeast entry door.
FIRST PRESS CONFERENCE
PHOTOS OF RED VAN RELEASED
At his first press conference Sheriff Morgan releases surveillance photos of a red van used in the murders.
The surveillance video from the house was all intact. Morgan tells the reporters that about 7 p.m. Thursday night, three people arrived at the couple’s Mobile Highway home in a late 1970s or early 1980s red van. They forced their way into the house through separate doors and shot the couple. Deputies were called to the scene about 45 minutes later
âBoth victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds,â Morgan says. Eight children, ages 8 to 14, were in the home at the time of the murder. One of the children discovered the bodies and called a neighbor, who called 911, Morgan said.
âNone of the children were harmed, thank goodness.âÂ He adds that the children were staying with family members in an undisclosed location.
The sheriff says he has the utmost respect for the victims and admires their efforts to give a better life to abused, neglected and disabled children.
âWe’ve received a lot of phone calls and e-mails today from members of our community,â Morgan says. âByrd and Melanie Billings, I believe, exemplified what is good and decent in society.
âI think that only adds to the hatefulness and senselessness of this act.â
The sheriff declines to answer many specific questions at the about the case, citing concerns about hindering the homicide investigation.
âWe are taking great pains to ensure the information we release does not compromise this case, nor does it compromise the following prosecution once we catch the individuals that committed this crime.â
When asked about possible motives for the murders, Morgan says, âHome invasions can lead to murder. It can be anything from drugs to robbery. We would be speculating at this point.â
Copyright Â© 2009 Rick Outzen