Seven suspects, including a 16-year-old boy, have been taken into custody for their alleged involvement in the July 9 murders of a Florida couple who had 16 children, most of them disabled kids they adopted.
"Seven individuals are currently in custody related to the murders of Bill and Melanie Billings," said Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan at a press conference Tuesday.
Hugging the couple's eldest daughter, Ashley Markham, who is now the family matriarch, Morgan reassured her, "We have found them, they are in custody."
There were "no direct ties" between the alleged murderers and the slain couple but at least some of the individuals arrested had been on the Billings' property in the past, said Morgan.
One of the suspects, Leonard P. Gonzalez Sr., 56, owned a pressure washing business and had hired three of the suspects as day laborers as he needed them, according to Morgan. Gonzalez Sr. is believed to have been the group's getaway driver, according to Morgan.
The four other suspects, including the 16-year-old, had worked at an auto detailing business in nearby Okaloosa County.
Wayne Coldiron, 41, one of the seven suspects arrested, had been on the Billings' property "at least one time," said Morgan.
It was not immediately clear what type of work Coldiron had performed for Byrd, 66, and Melanie, 43, Billings.
Leonard P. Gonzalez Jr., Gonzelez Sr.'s son, was a "pivotal" player in the operation, according to Morgan.
All seven will likely be charged with an open count of murder and the juvenile will be treated as an adult, said Florida State Attorney Bill Eddins.
Gonzalez Sr., who was initially charged with tampering with evidence for allegedly trying to disguise the red van that police believe was used as the getaway vehicle, is likely to see his charge increased to an open count of murder as well.
There is still one more local individual that has yet to be arrested who police say was involved in the crime after it occurred. Morgan declined to say when an arrest of this individual might occur.
Eddins confirmed that the main motive in the crime was robbery.
"They did take items that you would normally expect to be taken in a robbery," said Eddins. A medium-sized safe was taken from the home, according to Eddins, who declined to specify what was inside the safe.
Since the murders last week, police have repeatedly characterized the suspects' operation as having "military precision."
Today, Morgan confirmed that some of the individuals in custody do have a history of military service.
"We have info that indicates there was a good amount of practice that was involved," said Morgan. "It was very a well-planned and well-executed operation."
The suspects were on the Billing's property for 10 minutes and were in and out of the house in less than four minutes, Morgan said.
Two teams stormed the house on Thursday evening from different entrances and successfully navigated the large home before allegedly shooting and killing the Billings.
Nine of the couple's children were in the house at the time.
One team of two men entered the front of the house while another team of two men, all dressed in black ninja gear, entered through an unlocked back door of the home, he said.