The interviews by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office with dozens of witnesses give the picture of a horrible, grisly double homicide that defies the motive a simple robbery.
Seven men invaded the Billingsâ home and while some may have thought the motive was robbery, the investigatorsâ reports give a far more brutal picture of the crime.
On early evening of Thursday, July 9, a red van pulled in the front yard of the large home owned by Byrd âBud â and Melanie Billings. Friend and neighbor April Spencer had left the residence about 90 minutes before after helping Melanie bathe two of her daughters. Bud Billings was watching TV and Melanie was getting dinner ready in the kitchen as Spencer walked out the door.
Around 7:30 p.m. Adrianna Billings was pounding on the Spencerâs door, yelling, âCome, Mom and Dad are dead.â Leaving the young girl at her home with her daughter, Spencer ran to Billingsâ residence to find the laundry room door, which is on the north side of the house, kicked in.
Jake Billings, a 10 year old with Downs Syndrome was standing in the living room pointing to his parentsâ bedroom. Jake canât speak and communicates only through sign language.
Spencer walked into the master bedroom and found Bud lying in front of the dresser, face down in pool of blood. He was dressed in blue shorts with no shirt. Melanie was lying in a hallway that led out of the master bedroom towards a nearby study, face up. Both had been shot multiple times. Spencer grabbed Jake, ran to her house and called 911.
The forensic report revealed that Bud had been shot in the backs of his right and left legs. He had been shot twice in the back of the head with exit wounds to the forehead and above his left eye. Billings was also shot twice in the front of the face on the right and left sides.
Melanie Billings was shot twice in the chest. Her white Elton John shirt was covered with blood. She was also shot three times in the face and head. She had an abrasion to the left side of her nose and bruising near her left eye.
Ballistic evidence showed that the Billings were shot with a 9mm.
Ali Stanley, a specialist in child disability interviews, assisted the investigators in questioning some of the Billingsâ children. Jake told her that his dad, Bud, was in the room sleeping when he heard a knock on the door. Jake signed to Stanley that two âbad menâ wearing masks that covered their faces said, âYouâre gonna die, one, two, threeâ and then he heard, âNo way, no way.â
Jake also told Stanley that his dad grabbed one of the suspects by the neck and âmom got shot in the shirt.â He remembered a name being called out, but he could only sign âBJAâ and told Stanley that he could pronounce the name.
When Wayne Coldiron was arrested and questioned about the robbery/murders, he said that on the day of the crime he was with Leonard Gonzalez, Sr. when Patrick Gonzalez drove up in a red-mini van with four black malesâDonnie Ray Stallworth, Gary Lamont Sumner, Rakeem Florence and Frederick Lee Thornton Jr.âwho were following in a tan or gold Explorer. All were dressed in blackâin garb that Sheriff David Morgan would describe at later press conferences as ninja-like.
The red mini-van was driven to location across the Alabama-Florida border. Patrick Gonzalez and Coldiron were dropped off behind a church near the Billingsâ home. Gonzalez Sr. drove a red Dodge van to the front of the house with three of the black males inside. Stallworth stayed in the Explorer driving up and down the road.
Patrick Gonzalez and Coldiron ran across the backyard. Gonzalez was armed with a 9mm. Gonzalez and Coldiron enter through the laundry room door. The three black males entered through the front door. Bud Billings was shot immediately in the legs by Gonzalez and dragged into the bedroom where Coldiron says Gonzalez killed both Melanie and Bud.
The robbers grabbed a medium-sized safe and a small briefcase, ran to the Dodge van parked in front of the house and drove off the property. The van entrance and exit from the property, as well as Coldiron and Gonzalezâs running across the backyard, were captured on a camera surveillance system. The photos were released to the media in the days after the crime.
The safe, briefcase and weapons were switched to the red mini-van. The Dodge van was taken to the home of Leonard Gonzalez and was later recovered when neighbors called the police about the vehicle fitting the description of the van in the videos. Gonzalez Sr. was arrested and his interviews led to the arrests of his son, Coldiron and later the other home invaders.
Those arrested linked Pamela Long Wiggins to the crime. Her husband, Hugh Wiggins, told investigators, after being granted limited immunity, that the safe had been hidden under bricks in the backyard of their residence in Gulf Breeze. He said that his wife had told him that a 9mm handgun had been hidden in the backseat of their 1971 Buick Gran Sport Convertible that had been taken to a repair shop and hidden under a tarp. Both the safe and the murder weapon were recovered in the places identified by Wiggins.
When asked about the other weapons used in the crime, Wiggins admitted that he dropped the guns off near Moss Point, Miss. with a friend, Ed Denson. Special agents of the ATF found Denison and recovered 2 Mossberg .12 gauge shotguns, a MAK 90 assault rifle, a Ruger mini-14 and a .223 cal AR variant rifle along with several magazines and ammunition for the various rifles
When Patrick Gonzalez was arrested, Chief Deputy Bill Chavers interviewed him in the Santa Rosa County Jail before he was transported to Escambia County. Chavers knew Gonzalez as Pat Poff â the last name of his stepfatherâ and had taken karate classes with him in the 1980s.
During the course of the interview, Gonzalez denied any involvement in the Billingsâ murders. However, he did tell Chavers that he was involved in something âvery deepâ and that he and his family was in danger. He said that he had been used in the past by several Pensacola car dealers to âwhack folks.â
Then Gonzalez mentioned that the car dealers didnât like Billings and had met a couple of times to discuss the problem that they were having with Bud Billings. He said that Cab Tice came to him and indicated that the group wanted Billings âwhacked,â but he refused the job.
Gonzalez isnât the only person to mention Tice and his possible involvement with the murders. The Billingsâ son-in-law, James Markham, told investigators that Tice owed Billings more than $100,000. The eldest son, Justin Billings, told them that Cab Tice had âdouble crossed my dad with car business or something.â
Tice told WEAR TV 3 that Patrick Gonzalezâs remarks are those of a desperate man.
Leonard Gonzalez, Patrick Gonzalez, Donnie Ray Stallworth, Gary Lamont Sumner, Rakeem Florence and Frederick Lee Thornton Jr. have all been charged with first-degree murder. Pamela Wiggins has been charged with a first-degree felony of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.
I spent most of the afternoon and evening pouring through the over 700 pages of reports. I will have more later.