Photo: Byrd and Melanie Billings with some of their children.
(Pensacola News Journal )
NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Six of the seven suspects charged in the shooting deaths of a Florida Panhandle couple known for taking care of special needs children were part of a hastily thrown together group recruited by the group's 'mastermind' Leonard Patrick Gonzales Jr., 35, according to documents recently released by prosecutors.
Leonard Patrick Gonzales Jr. and six other men: Leonard Patrick Gonzales Sr., 56; Wayne Coldiron, 41; Donnie Ray Stallworth, 28; Gary Lamont Sumner Jr., 30; Frederick Lee Thornton Jr., 19; and Rakeem Florence, 16; have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in last month's slaying of Byrd and Melanie Billings, who raised 17 children, 13 of whom were adopted with developmental disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy.
Prosecutors believe Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr. asked a few friends to drive a getaway car for a robbery, according to documents, and apparently called one of the men 13 times the day of the murders asking for help.
Gonzales' stepmother, whose name was not published, told investigators that he finally convinced his father, Leonard Patrick Gonzales Sr., to drive the getaway car by telling him that the children in the house were being sexually abused. The documents also reveal other links among the suspects, although the details of how they were each recruited remains unclear.
Booking photo of Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr.
Surveillance video is set to be released Tuesday that reportedly captured men wearing ninja garb and black masks entering the Billings' sprawling house, stealing a safe that had little in value in it and leaving in under four minutes.
PREVIOUSLY ON CRIMESIDER
August 18, 2009 - Adopted Son Watched as Gunmen Murdered Billings
August 10, 2009 - Billings Murders: Man with "Mexican Mafia" Ties Questioned
July 22, 2009 - Wealthy Fla. Couple Not Killed by Contract Hit, Say Police
July 21, 2009 - Slain Fla. Family: First He Took Their Money, Then He Took Their Lives
July 16, 2009 - Fla. Couple Murder: Blogging from the Scene
July 16, 2009 - Mystery Deepens Around Execution of Couple Who Raised 16 Kids
July 15, 2009 - Men Trained for Month in Wealthy Couple's Slaying, Sheriff to CBS
July 14, 2009 - Faces of Evil? 7 in Custody in Slaying of Wealthy Fla. Couple
July 14, 2009 - Fla. Couple Killed: What Horrors Did Children Witness?
July 13, 2009 - Parents to 16 Slain for Nothing
July 10, 2009 - Parents of Sixteen Slain