Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan cryptically called the Billings murder a “humdinger.” He said it would make a good mystery movie; that there were more details that would be released in the coming weeks and months. Today, we learned a tiny bit more. You can check out the story as it develops by reading our local mullet-wrapper/bird cage-liner, a link to which is posted at the bottom of this page.
The Billings have been portrayed in the media as a wealthy, generous couple who opened their hearts and home to as many as 17 children over the years, most of them disabled in some way. Not much has been written about their past, or how Byrd Billings attained his wealth.
Turns out, Byrd Billings bankrolled bars. Topless bars, to be exact. Specifically, one particular place called “The Backseat” here in Pensacola. It was a dump, and please don’t ask me how I know. And others, reportedly. He bankrolled “numerous” nightclubs too, but the type of such clubs is left unspecific.
In today's Sunday edition, the Pensacola News Journal reported that twenty years ago Billings and a former girlfriend tried to illegally adopt a baby. They were sentenced to probation. Billings did end up legally adopting that child, then he and his future wife Melanie continued doing that up to the present. Most of the kids they adopted were "special needs" children.
However, the PNJ also details another scheme in which Billings tried to copyright the names of his children, and he sued the state of Florida for infringement whenever any of its agencies used one of those names inappropriately.
“Bizarre” is how the PNJ describes some of Billings’ activities.
As Billy Mays might say, But wait, there's more! Billings was also in the used-car business, owning a number of lots over the years. He not only sold cars, but he financed ‘em and repossessed ‘em too. He may have stumbled into the used car business by first being in the car detailing business, which he was. Coincidence of coincidences, one of the suspects in his murder worked at a car-detailing business.
So what does this tell us about the man, Billings? Well, not much, and certainly nothing that we can point to and go, “AHA!” But the businesses that Billings was involved in have a reputation for seediness and sleazyness, and it causes us to at least raise an eyebrow. We know…come on, let’s not be coy…we know the types of people he was associating with…had to associate with in the topless bar biz. And the used car business on top of that. So along with that raised eyebrow we wonder, did he know any of his killers? Or did he have past dealings with any of them? The Sheriff says no, but the police will lie and say anything right up to the point of trial when they are finally under oath. And maybe not even then, but that's my ex-New Yorker skepticism and cynicism talking.
The couple’s oldest daughter, Ashley is bristling at the innuendo being bandied about, and you can't really blame her. She told the PNJ that her father’s business dealings were always above-board. Perhaps. We do not like to speak ill of the dead or those who cannot defend themselves. But for all of his good press, let's not be so quick to canonize Byrd Billings. Not just yet.
Eight people have been arrested so far, seven men and one woman. Well, six men and a sixteen year-old boy who’s being charged as an adult. All of the men have been charged with murder and are being held on either no bond or a bond so high that it's like, fuggedaboudit, you ain't goin' nowhere. The woman, by the name of Pamela Wiggins, was only charged as an accessory and, astoundingly is free on a $10,000 bond. The low bond has most people in Pensacola going, "Uhhhhh, say WHAT???"
This Wiggins woman: now here is a bit of a puzzle. She owns a number of properties here in the Pensacola area, one of which she had rented to the alleged “mastermind” of this plan. Although she was no real estate mogul (and no one had ever heard of her before this case), business must've been good for her because Wiggins was found on her 47-foot yacht (the Classy Lady, heh) moored at a fancy-schmancy marina in nearby Gulf Shores, Alabama. Sheriff Morgan inexplicably asked her to just saunter over hear to P'cola at her leisure, which she did, and then she was arrested. But she must be singing like a canary because the perception is that she's getting some extra-special treatment.
On the evening of the crime, police say that Wiggins' SUV was parked near the Billings’ house, and it was into said SUV that the guns and stolen safe were transferred. It was in the backyard of her own home that the safe was buried. Police said that this Wiggins was at the scene of the murders, in her SUV, but she was not driving it. Police say she was only a passenger. We are left to wonder whether there is yet another person involved here and whether a ninth arrest will be made? It would seem so.
Now, either Wiggins was the one who was supposed to disable the security system in the Billings place or she was not. Police aren't saying. But if she was, then she was in on the planning and is more than just an "accessory" driver...err, passenger/gun hider/safe burier. If she was not the security system disabler, then is there still yet another arrest to be made?
There is also a rumor...just a rumor, mind you...that there is another safe in the house. Ooh, did the crooks get the wrong one? Or is this just a bit of police disinformation?
I think it's the latter. See, the police are calling this a home-invasion/robbery. Maybe I've watched too many episodes of Miami Vice, but I'm thinking that it was a home-invasion/murder. I think the robbery was just the ruse, the cover of the real crime, which was the execution of the Byrd and Melanie Billings.
Whatever the real reason for the murders was, it's a strange, sad, captivating case - at least for us here where it happened.
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