The used car business is a closed society, a private club that doesn’t like outsiders. Since the murders of Bud and Melanie Billings, I have tired to gather information on two figures tied to the used car business – Bud and Cab Tice.
No one will go on the record, but several have been willing to talk, if I kept their names out of it. The pictures that I get of the two men is filled with contradictions — but few of us are all good or all bad.
Bud Billings loved his children that is widely agreed. One business associate told me that Bud would load up the car and take five of the kids to Disney World for week. Then he would come home and load up the car again to take the rest of them to Disney World for a second week.
However, Bud never got into a business deal that he didn’t win. He would set up someone in a car business –someone who had little money or assets– and if the business was too successful, then Bud took it away from him.
“Bud was ruthless and had no conscience when it came to business,” a business associate told me. “He did everything legal, but he would cut anybody out of a deal when it was to his advantage.”
The used car business is feast or famine. A used car lot can be a cash cow or money pit. Dealers are millionaires one day and paupers the next.
“Used car dealers are always dreaming,” said one former sales manager. “Everything is going to hit.”
He also added, “What you might think is stealing, we call it doing business.”
Cab Tice isn’t as respected as Bud Billings.
“Cab Tice is the worst human being I’ve ever known,” says one former dealer. “He stole from everybody that’s done business with.”
He explains, “There are two kind of people in the world–people who do it the right way and those were don’t. Tice is incapable of doing it the right way.”
In 1990s, Tice was the co-owner of Quality Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Olds, Cadillac, GMC Trucks, Inc. in Brewton, Ala. but lost that dealership. He has been involved with several used car lots here.
While “Tice” is name is that first came to mind when people in Car City heard of the murders, that are mixed feelings whether Tice had any involvement in the murders or contract killing.
His former attorney Barry McCleary told me, “I think you off on this.”
His ex-wife Deborah Tice wrote me, “He has been living like a penniless person, working for a dinky used car lot, detailing cars as I have been told by numerous people…since Hispanic-American folded (18 months ago)…and the likelihood that he could have financed anything is at the best ‘LAUGHABLE’.”
As I reported earlier, Byrd Billings was aware of the missing vehicles from Tice’s Hispanic-American Auto Sales lot and believed that Tice may have sold them in Mexico. It was Billings that helped Deborah Tice, who was locked in a bitter divorce battle with Cab, file a lawsuit in 2008 against her estranged husband. In the suit she claimed that Tice had committed acts which were illegal and fraudulent to his creditors, i.e. Billings. Deborah Tice later dropped the suit and settled on the divorce.
However, others aren’t has confident that Tice isn’t involved. They believe Bud Billing had evidence that Tice was stealing from him was about to turn him into the authorities.
“That’s why his name is on everyone’s mind,” says one source. Deborah Tice even told the News Journal that Tice would be the first person the authorities would go to when Bud Billings was killed. And according to various news reports, Tice was questioned by ECSO the night of the murders.
What about Tice’s relationship with the suspected murderer, Patrick Gonzalez?
Sheriff David Morgan has described their relationship as father-son. Deborah Tice disputed that claim in her interview with the PNJ. She told the daily that her ex-husband had only reconnected with Gonzalez when Tice started taking martial arts lessons from him.
Others agree with Morgan:
“Cab was a better father to Patrick than his own son.”
“Gonzalez would have done anything for Tice. Cab had tremendous influence over him.”
“Cab and Patrick have been close since Gonzalez worked for him at Hondaland. They were always together.”
Over the next days, weeks and months we will learn about all the persons touched by this case. None of it is dull.