Mixed Picture of Billings' Emerges in Fla. Double Murder Case

Fla. Couple Who Adopted 12 Children Found Slain

Byrd and Melanie Billings were brutally murdered in their Florida home on July 9 apparently for their safe which contained only children's medication, family documents and some jewelry.

In a news conference late Friday, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan confirmed the contents of the safe and said that police found the microwave-oven sized vault buried in the backyard of a home owned by wealthy Florida real estate Pamela Wiggins. The burial location of the safe was concealed by some bricks. Morgan declined to put a value in the safe's contents.

VIDEO: Fla. Murder Evidence Tied to Female Suspect

Police have repeatedly said that robbery was the prime motive for the deadly crime that was executed with "military precision."

Meanwhile, details emerged about the lives of the Billings, who were buried Friday. He was a 66-year-old entrepreneur who dabbled in used cars, boats and the adult industry before finally hitting it big. She was a 43-year-old country music lover who fed the homeless and was devoted to her MySpace page.

Together, they adopted 13 children with autism, Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities and lived in a sprawling home


west of Pensacola.

Interviews and court records obtained by the Associated Press also portray Byrd Billings as a former strip club owner-turned used car dealer who was once sentenced to probation for an adoption scam. He frequently crossed paths with "shady characters," according to an ex-wife, but police have offered no evidence linking his past to the murders of Billings and his wife.

Known around Pensacola as "Bud," Byrd Billings spent his early years in Mississippi and Tennessee. He owned a car dealership in Mississippi in the 1980s, and incorporated a boat company in 1976. The corporation was dissolved in the 1980s. In divorce records from the dissolution of his second marriage, in 1993, Billings reported having a net worth of just $1,400, including total cash assets of $100 and a net monthly income of $1,190. Four months after the divorce, Melanie became his third wife.

At the time of their death, they were living in a $700,000 home - opulent by Pensacola standards - and associates say they employed several people to care for the children. But how they got there from such a humble beginning to their marriage is unclear, the AP reported.

Byrd's background also includes a strange criminal case. In 1990, he and his second wife, Cindy Reeve, pleaded nolo contendere - which means they did not admit guilt but agreed to a punishment - to charges they doctored birth records and tried to obtain a newborn for $2,100. They both received two years probation which was later amended to a year.

When reached by The Associated Press, Reeve said she wanted to be left alone and the adoption "got blowed out of proportion." However, she said Byrd "always dealt with shady characters."

At the time of their divorce, the documents show, Billings worked as a consultant for Back Seat Inc., a holding company for a topless bar, which opened in 1990 and no longer exists. Arety Kapatanis, owner of the Pensacola strip club Arety's Angels, said Billings turned her life around after hiring her there as a waitress.

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