Day Laborers Killed Adoption Couple: Police | NBC New York

Day Laborers Killed Adoption Couple: Police

At least one person did work around Byrd Billings home and may have orchestrated robbery and murder

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    AP
    Byrd and Melanie Billings with their children, 10 adopted and two biological, at their home in Beulah, Fla. Melanie is holding a photograph of their late child, Bailey.

    Three more people were arrested Tuesday and charged with the murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings, the wealthy Panhandle couple that was killed in their home last week.

    The men in custody appear to have a common thread -- they all either knew each other from their days as day laborers through either a pressure washing business or a car detailing group.  Investigators were still looking for at least one more person in the case and at least one of the suspects in custody may have done work at the Billings home. Among the people arrested Tuesday was a juvenile. State Attorney General Bill Eddins suggested more arrests may be imminent.

    The plot gets even deeper once you look at some of the suspects' backgrounds. One man has military special forces training, while another has already been convicted of homicide. Investigators believe the group practiced the home invasion for at least a month before attempting to pull off the caper.

    "We're dealing with a group of folks with rare exception — of course, there's a couple of people who are not — that again are basically day laborer sorts, folks that get odd jobs, part-time jobs and they drift," Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said. "With the exception of Mr. Stallworth you don't have any career-minded people in this group."

    Police believe the only motive was robbery and revealed that a safe was taken from the house along with other items.

    Morgan called 35-year-old suspect Leonard Gonzalez Jr. a "pivotal person" in organizing the crime, but stopped short of identifying him as the mastermind. He was charged Sunday with murder.

    In court Tuesday, he read a statement proclaiming his innocence.

    "The sheriff intentionally thrust me into the public's eye without any charges being filed and also intentionally placed me in a suicide ward to make me look even guiltier," Gonzalez said.

    Surveillance video from the Billings' home captured parts of the home invasion and clearly showed three armed, masked men arriving in the red van, entering through the front of the house and then returning to the vehicle. Others dressed in what the sheriff called "ninja garb" went in through an unlocked utility door in the back. They were in and out in under 10 minutes.

    The robbery took place while the Billings' nine children were asleep in the house. The Billings, who were prominent business owners in the Pensacola area, adopted 13 children to go along with four of their own.