CBSN
crimesider

Byrd and Melanie Billings Murder: Leader in Fla. Couple's Killing Could Get Death

Byrd and Melanie Billings with their Children (Pensacola News Journal)
Byrd and Melanie Billings Murder: Leader in Fla. Couple's Killing Could Get Death
Byrd and Melanie Billings with their Children (Pensacola News Journal)

PENSACOLA, Fla. (CBS/AP) The ringleader who led a group of armed men dressed as ninjas in the robbery and murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings, a Florida couple known for adopting children with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs, could receive the death penalty for his crimes.

Jurors will decide the fate of 36-year-old karate instructor Patrick Gonzalez Jr., who could instead receive a sentence of life in prison.

The same jury of 11 women and one man deliberated about five hours before finding Gonzalez guilty Thursday of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of home-invasion robbery for leading the July 9, 2009, attack on the Billings' Beulah, Fla. home.

The men with Gonzalez that night testified that he told them that a safe in the home contained $13 million that Byrd Billings obtained by working for the Mexican mafia. The invaders did make off with a safe but it contained nothing of value. A second safe that they missed contained $164,000, court records show.

According to autopsy reports, Melanie Billings, 43, was shot twice in her chest, and in the face and head. Byrd Billings, 66, was shot multiple times in the head and legs. The crime scene photos show dozens of bullet holes throughout the living room and bedroom and a trail of blood along the living room floor.

The nine adopted children in the house had varying special needs ranging from Down syndrome to fetal alcohol syndrome and autism.

COMPLETE COVERAGE OF THE BILLINGS MURDERS ON CRIMESIDER