Billings Murders: Man with "Mexican Mafia" Ties Questioned

(Pensacola News Journal )
Byrd and Melanie Billings

Beulah, Fla. (CBS/AP) Four weeks after Byrd and Melanie Billings, the beloved Fla. couple who raised 13 children with developmental disabilities, were brutally murdered in their home, we still don't know why.

Were they shot in their beds while their children, some awake, were home as part of a robbery gone bad, as police had originally theorized? Or did the Billings' unusual and still unclear business dealings somehow lead to their demise?

Investigators are still working to unravel the tangled web.

The newest addition to the laundry-list of perpetrators and accomplices is Gulf Shores, Ala., car dealer and businessman Henry Cabell Tice, 61, who was questioned by the Escambia County Sherriff's Office on Thursday night. Tice drove himself to the Sheriff's Office after being notified of a warrant for writing $17,341 in bad checks to an auto financing company owned by the Billings.

According to Sheriff David Morgan, Tice is a "person of interest in the Billings case," but has not detailed exactly how Tice may be connected to the eight people already charged in the case.

Tice adds a new link between the Billings couple and Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Jr., 35, who is charged in the murders and was called "pivotal person" by Morgan during the investigation. Tice told investigators that he had a "father and son relationship" with Gonzalez, Jr., and spoke with him "on a daily basis," according to Morgan.

Tice's comments regarding his relationship to Byrd Billings were "all over the map," Morgan said. "At first they were good friends. Then they had a falling out. It was a confusing statement in that respect."

Things only got more confusing when Tice mentioned his business dealings with "the Mexican mafia" concerning the selling of used cars. According to Morgan, he was indebted to the "mafia" and was behind on payments towards the $50,000 he had borrowed at one time.

The Billlings owned a used car dealership.

Morgan would not comment on whether "the Mexican mafia" had anything connection to the Billings murders.

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