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Slain Couple Gave Suspect Financial Help

One of the suspects in the home-invasion slaying of a Florida couple who adopted 13 special needs children had opened a martial-arts studio with financial help from the victims, according to court records released Monday.

The records are the first indication that Byrd, 66, and Melanie Billings, 43, had financial ties with any of the suspects and the latest twist in the strange shooting deaths of the couple who were raising 17 children, many with severe disabilities. They were killed July 9 in their sprawling Pensacola home by masked men - some dressed as ninjas.

In an affidavit for a warrant to search the home of Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., investigators wrote that the suspect told them he knew the Billingses because he had received financial support from them to open a martial arts studio for children.

The nature of the financial help is unclear. In an interview with CNN Monday, the Billings' family attorney Crystal Spencer said "perhaps Mr. Billings did not lend him money, but donated to this academy for children."

Nine of the Billings' children were home during the attack, and one of them went to a neighbor who called for help. None of the children was injured.

Meanwhile, authorities said the suspects cased the Billings' home about a month before the deadly attack, reports CNN. Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan had previously described as "basically flawless" if not for failing to turn off the family's security cameras.

The house had an extensive surveillance system that authorities said captured the men entering, shooting the Billingses and leaving within four minutes.

Morgan has said investigators plan to interview three additional "persons of interest" this week and one may have been responsible for disabling the system. Morgan told CNN Monday that number may be as high as nine.

So far, investigators have arrested eight people including Gonzalez and his father, Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Sr. Authorities haven't revealed how the suspects are linked, but investigators say two of the men may have done pressuring washing and maintenance work at least once at the family's home.

A safe was taken from their nine-bedroom home west of Pensacola during the precisely executed break-in and authorities have said robbery may have been a motive. Six men and a teenager are charged with murder, and a woman is charged with being an accessory after the fact.

The safe was found to contain jewelry, family documents and the children's prescription medication.

Also Monday, one of the suspects, Air Force Sgt. Donnie Ray Stallworth, had a probable cause hearing in Escambia County, Ala.

The airman, who is stationed near Pensacola at Hurlburt Field, the Air Force's special operations command, turned himself in to authorities in Brewton, Ala., and is fighting extradition to Florida.

Court officials said Monday that he will remain in Alabama pending an extradition hearing, which hasn't been scheduled.

The adult daughter of a slain Florida couple known for adopting 13 special needs children said she is planning to move into her parents' home and raise the children as her own.

Ashley Markham, 26, told the Pensacola News Journal in Sunday's editions that she and her husband intend to care for the children, saying it was her mother's wish.