Two Held on Murder Charges in Killing of Fla. Parents

Kids safe with relatives; sheriff believes killers were experienced.

ByABC News
July 10, 2009, 3:28 PM

July 12, 2009 — -- Two men were arrested on murder charges tonight in the killings of a Florida couple who were shot in what investigators said was a surprisingly rapid crime apparently carried out by experienced killers, police said.

Byrd "Bud" Billings and Melanie Billings of Beulah, Fla., a rural area west of Pensacola, Fla., near the Alabama border, were shot to death Thursday as their adopted special needs children slept in the house.

At a news conference late this even, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said Wayne Coldiron and Leonard P. Gonzalez Jr. were both charged with open murder.

Coldiron, a day laborer, turned himself in to police around 9 p.m. today, Morgan said. Gonzalez was arrested later in Santa Rosa County.

Earlier today, police arrested Leonard P. Gonzalez Sr., 56, on charges of tampering with evidence, for allegedly trying to disguise the red van police believe was used as the getaway vehicle. Gonzalez Sr. was held on $250,000 bond.

When ABC News called Gonzalez's house earlier today, no one picked up the phone and a recorded message from Gonzalez played.

Police said Gonzalez has a criminal past, but they did not give any further details.

Meanwhile, nine children who were living under the couple's care are recovering from the tragedy with relatives, a spokesman for the family said.

"They are surrounded by many family and friends," said John Markham, whose brother is married to the second oldest sister in the large family of the two victims.

In all, the Billings were parents of 16 children, many of them adopted kids with developmental disabilities.

"The [nine] children have not been separated nor will they be," Markham said Saturday. "They had a plan in place in the event [of] something happening to the parents. That plan will be fully executed to the best of the family's ability."

Police had asked local residents to be on the lookout for a red, late-1970s or early-'80s model van that was seen on the Billings' video surveillance system driving away from the scene of the crime.