Investigator Terry Hardy arrives on the crime scene at 9:05 p.m. Sgt. Rusty Hoard has been named the lead on the case. Hardy, Tyree and Guy are to assist him.
After being updated by Hoard, Hardy is asked to interview April Spencer, who lives in a trailer on the Billings property. She tells him about Adrianna Billings knocking on her trailer door and what Spencer saw when she entered the Billings residence.
Spencer doesn’t know anyone who might want to hurt the Bud and Melanie Billings. When asked if Bud Billings kept large amounts of money in the house or if there was a safer, she tells the investigator about the safe upstairs in the camera room.
Spencer helped Melanie take care of the children and is familiar with the camera system and how it includes cameras in the kids’ bedrooms and other rooms of the house as well as the outside of the house on the front and rear of the residence. She says that the oldest son, Justin Billings, who also lives on the property, knows how to operate the system.
When Hardy asks about the other adult Billings children, Spencer says that Kristyn Billings had moved out of the house about three weeks ago under “bad terms.” Kristyn was actually Bud’s granddaughter, the daughter of his natural daughter, Melissa, and that Bud and Melanie had adopted Kristyn earlier in the year.
“She’s 18. She moved in from Arizona about two years ago. She was 16, mom wasn’t doing too well.” Later Spencer contacts Hardy to correct herself–Kristyn is 19 and has lived in the house three years.
According to Spencer, Kristyn had wanted to move in with her boyfriend Joseph Chauncey and her parents were opposed to it. Kristyn moved out any way and in with Chauncey. Spencer tells Hardy there were still hard feelings about it.
WHERE WAS JUSTIN BILLINGS
Investigator Hardy returns to the Billings residence and questions Greg Clear who had arrived with Justin Billings and was standing with him in the driveway. Clear says that Justin and he are staying at Clear’s parents’ house, who are out of town. They had eaten dinner at Clear’s grandparents’ house and Justin had gotten a phone call from Ashley Markham, his sister, not long after they had returned back to his parents’ house.
When they got in Justin’s truck to head towards the Billings residence, Ashley called again to tell Justin that their parents had been shot. Justin was upset and started driving crazy the rest of the way to the Billings house. Clear states that he had only known Bud Billings since October and couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt him.
Hardy then goes inside the house to see the crime scene. He is with the other investigators when they view the video footage. He and Investigator Tyree are tasked with contacting neighbor Cynthia Ice, who lived west of the residence across the street.
Ice tells them that she had seen an older red van parked on her street, Magnolia Springs Road, near the intersection of Mobile Highway, which runs in front of the Billings home. It had been parked there about 4:50 p.m. Ice didn’t see anyone in or around the vehicle.
Upon returning to the crime scene, Hardy joins Investigator Bobby Guy who is interviewing Ashley Markham, who had arrived and was standing in front of the house. Ashley says that she believes Justin may know something about what happened and may know who is on the surveillance tape.
When asked if she knew anyone who might want to hurt her family. Ashley says that a Cab Tice owed her father a lot of money and that her father was trying to get him prosecuted. She tells Hardy and Guy that there were “hard feelings” between the two.
Ashley also says that her father carried large sums of money in a briefcase because of business, as much as $100,000. She doesn’t know how much might currently be in the briefcase because her father had pulled back from the business and was letting Ashley and her husband run it. According to her, lately her father wouldn’t come into the office much. When he did, he would just go get on the computer.
She tells the investigators that there was a small safe in the master bedroom closet that had adoption papers, photos and some of the children’s medications. The black briefcase should also be in that closet.
Guy and Hardy know that both the briefcase and safe are missing from the closet.
MEDIA ARRIVES ON THE SCENE
The newspaper and television reporters arrived on the scene. Escambia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Ted Roy handles them.
Roy tells that at around 7:30 p.m. Escambia deputies responded to 9717 Mobile Highway to a “shots fired” called. Upon arrival two adults, male and female, were found shot dead inside the residence.
Roy would not confirm the identity of the victims. Family members and neighbors would tell the reporters that Bud and Melanie Billings had been killed.
“There were children in the home,” Roy tells the reporters. “They are all accounted for and safe.”
Roy says deputies found several children at the home ranging in age from an infant to 11 years old. “The deputies had to wake some of the children.”
The public information officer says deputies are searching for three men in a red van in connection with the homicide and the suspects forced their way into the home.
Investigators are examining surveillance tapes from the home. Roy says the vehicle the suspects were in may have been captured on tape.
JUSTIN’S FIRST STORY
Investigators Tom Watts and Bobby Guy go to the Escambia County Sheriff’s office to interview Justin Billings. The 20-year-old Billings tells a story that matched what his friend Clear had told Guy earlier at the Billings residence.
Justin tells them that he hadn’t lived in the house since he graduated from high school, but that he did live on the property in a travel trailer. He confirms that there was a small safe in the master bedroom closet. The investigators ask him if he had called anyone while at the crime scene and tell them the safe was gone.
Justin says that he hadn’t, but a female friend Cambre and several other friends had called him to see if he was okay. He didn’t mention to safe to any of them.
He also confirms April Spencer’s story that Kristyn Billings had moved out of the house three weeks prior after a falling out with his mother. Kristyn moved in with her boyfriend Joey, with whom she worked at Fountain Engineering. He doesn’t know where Joey lives.
Justin says he doesn’t like Joey. “He has a shady figure about himself. He doesn’t talk much about his past. He doesn’t like talking period. He got that bully look to him.”
Justin had helped the investigator replay the surveillance footage at the house. Guy asks him about the emblem on the back on one of the suspects caught on the video.
“It looks like to be the emblem of the Beulah gang,” Billings says. “It’s a ‘B’ with a snake on it.” He tells investigators that he had a friend when he was a freshman at Tate High School that was part of the Beulah gang and wore such an emblem on his jacket. He has no clue why someone wearing gang colors would show up at his parents’ house.
Guy asks if his dad talked to him about any problems that he might have with anybody.
“My dad doesn’t talk to me about problems,” Justin says. “Me and him aren’t on, weren’t on good terms the last time me and him talked.”
Justin and his father had gotten into an argument the prior Friday, July 3, over the son not taking care of his Nissan Frontier. The cables on the spark plugs popped off when the truck hit a pot hole. Bud Billings had called him an idiot for not fixing it himself.
“Over the years, we’ve had out bickering and all that issues,” says Justin. “We weren’t like mad, mad at each other. It’s just that we weren’t talking, like we were just, kind of just, at the point of like we’d say, ‘Hi, I love you’ and all that.
“It’s just that we didn’t want to sit down and talk…it’s just feuding, family feuding, I guess you could call it.”
Copyright © 2009 Rick Outzen