July 14, 2009 — -- 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.