DA Wants Death for Four Accused of Slaying Florida Couple

DA Wants Death for Four Accused of Slaying Florida Couple

Published October 13, 2009

Florida prosecutors say that four of the seven suspects accused of slaying a couple in a panhandle community in July should be put to death.

State Attorney Bill Eddins said the state is seeking the death penalty against Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., Wayne Thomas Coldiron, Donnie Ray Stallworth Jr. and Frederick Lee Thornton Jr. They have been charged with first-degree murder and home-invasion robbery in the July 9 shooting deaths of Byrd and Melanie Billings in Beulah, a Pensacola suburb near the west end of Florida's panhandle, CNN reports. The elderly couple was know for adopting special-needs children.

Authorities say that Gonzalez, 35, organized the brutal murders, and two co-suspects fingered him as the lone shooter, according to court documents.

Three other men – Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Sr.; Gary Lamont Sumner; and Rakeem Chavez Florence – face the same charges as the four, CNN reports. Florence, 16, was charged as an adult, authorities said. All seven suspects pleaded not guilty.

An eighth suspect, Pamela Wiggins, is charged with being an accessory after the fact, according to CNN. Police said a safe belonging to the Billingses was found in Wiggins' back yard. That safe contained prescription medications, some jewelry and family documents. A second safe, containing $164,000 in cash, antique jewelry and legal documents, was in the home at the time of the slayings but was not taken. Family members said the money was a reserve for Byrd Billings' financing business.

Written by BET.com Staff


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