With his nine special-needs children in his house and one of them with him in the master bedroom, a Florida man was on his knees when an armed intruder shot him in the face, then fired twice more after the victim had fallen face down on the floor, a medical examiner said Wednesday.
Byrd Billings died execution-style the night of July 9, 2009, as did his wife, Melanie, after a band of people dressed as ninjas broke into their Beulah, Florida, home. Prosecutors say Leonard Gonzalez Jr., 35, led six other men into the house looking to steal an expected $13 million and personally killed the defenseless couple.
Dr. Andrea Minyard testified Wednesday, the second day of Gonzalez’s first-degree murder trial in Escambia County Circuit Court in Pensacola. She pinned needles on human-sized dummies to show how nine bullets hit the Billings’ couple.
Video footage aired earlier in the trial showed a masked, armed man hovering over a shirtless Byrd Billings in the palatial home’s living room shooting a shirtless Byrd Billings twice, with one shot in each leg.
Frederick Thornton — part of the group who testified after pleading guilty to second-degree murder — fingered Gonzalez as the man who fired the shots, then led the couple into the first-floor bedroom.
After shooting Byrd Billings the first time, Gonzalez said “where’s the money at, and he told him to get up,” said Thornton, 20.
Defense attorneys dispute Thornton’s assertion, claiming he’s not a credible witness and saying another masked man fired the shots.
The Billingses had 16 cameras around their home, set up to keep tabs on the nine special-needs children for whom they cared. There was no camera in the master bedroom, but prosecution witnesses Wednesday cited DNA tests as showing that Gonzalez likely handled the rifle used in the fatal shootings.
One of the videos aired in court Tuesday shows the scene from one girl’s bedroom as a red van packed with people arrives outside the house. The girl gets up out of bed as the masked men enter the house, then hides under the covers pretending to sleep after hearing the commotion nearby.
The team had started, then called off, an armed invasion at the home on July 4. Before the second try, Rakeem Florence — who, like Thornton, plead guilty to second-degree murder for his role and testified for the prosecution — said there was no mention anyone would be killed until he overheard Gonzalez minutes before they went to the house.
“He said he was going to kill somebody,” Florence, now 18, said of Gonzalez.
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