In a murder case that drew widespread attention, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday turned down an appeal by a Death Row inmate who was convicted of killing an Escambia County couple during a 2009 home-invasion robbery.
Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Jr., and four other men entered the home of Byrd and Melanie Billings with plans to steal a safe that the men thought contained $13 million. Byrd and Melanie Billings died after each being shot multiple times. A circuit judge in 2011 sentenced Gonzalez to death in both murders. Gonzalez challenged the convictions and sentences in his appeal to the Supreme Court, raising numerous arguments. Those arguments included that there was not enough evidence to support a sentencing factor dealing with whether a murder is “heinous, atrocious or cruel.”
In rejecting that argument, the Supreme Court described details of the murders.
“In the case of Mr. Billings, Gonzalez shot him in one leg, repeated the request for money, and then shot him in the other leg when Mr. Billings was still not forthcoming about the money,” the ruling said. “Gonzalez then placed Mr. Billings in a headlock and dragged him into the master bedroom where he shot him in the side of the face. Only after Mr. Billings was terrorized and endured repeated non-fatal shootings did Gonzalez finally shoot him in the head. As to Mrs. Billings, although her actual shooting and death occurred fairly quickly, she was aware of her impending death and probably fearful of suffering multiple gunshot wounds, having witnessed her husband being shot and suffer. She was then shot in the face, while looking at her attacker and knowing that her children were probably also in grave danger.”
source: The News Service of Florida