In July 2009, a group of men kicked in the doors of the Beulah home of Byrd and Melanie Billings, killing the couple and stealing a small safe. Patrick Gonzalez was convicted for the murders and faces a re-sentencing hearing over the death penalty.
Gonzalez and others – Donnie Stallworth, Gary Sumner, Wayne Coldiron, Lenny Gonzalez, Pam Wiggins, Frederick Thornton and Rakeem Florence – were convicted, largely due to the testimony of Thornton and Florence who were in their teens at the time. Patrick’s father Lenny and Wiggins died in prison.
Last month, Florence filed an affidavit with the court recanting his testimony: “I wrote and gave spoken statements about and involving the murder and robbery of Byrd and Melanie Billings in July of 2009. Every statement/testimony I made was false, hearsay and strategic coercion.”
He continued, “I would like to recant all statement testimony made involving Case #2009 CF 003249H because of lies I told at the age of 16. There is also evidence to prove this to be true. I’m writing this on my own volition.”
Florence is in the Avon Park Correctional Institution. He was convicted of second-degree murder and home invasion/robbery. His release date is May 8, 2032.