Byrd and Melanie Billings Murder: Teen Pleads in Fla. Slaying of Wealthy, Adoptive Parents

Byrd and Melanie Billings with their Children
Pensacola News Journal
Byrd Billings, Melanie Billings, Pensacola
Byrd and Melanie Billings with their Children (Pensacola News Journal)

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP)   A teenager charged in the murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings, who were known for adopting children with special needs, has pleaded no contest in the July 2009 home-invasion slayings that shocked this Florida panhandle community.

17-year-old Rakeem Florence, who faces life in prison, entered the plea on charges of second-degree murder and robbery with a firearm. He has agreed to testify against the other suspects in the killings. Six other men are charged with first-degree murder. A woman has been charged as an accessory.

The suspects are accused of killing the couple in their spacious home last summer while some of their nine young children with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs watched.

Suspect Florence was taken to Santa Rosa County Jail after Wednesday's plea. His attorney requested the transfer from another jail citing security reasons.


Death: Florida to Seek Capital Punishment in Murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings

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