Sheriff David Morgan says that the accused killer of Byrd “Bud” Billings and Melanie Billings is a blowhard at times, but not all of Patrick Gonzalez’ claims are lies. Morgan is not denying that the Billings may have been murdered by “resentful local business rivals.” Update 10-25-09.
If you have been keeping up with the news of the killings, you know that “resentful local business rivals” might involve some powerful people in the auto business in Pensacola, Florida, but then again, it might just involve some low-lifes. Sheriff Morgan may be making that a bit clearer for us:
We’d all prefer it if this were a group of losers visiting a random act of violence on this family,” Morgan says, “but with each passing day and each new witness, we’re finding that’s probably not the case.”
Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. told authorities that auto dealer Henry Cabell “Cab” Tice asked him to “whack” Bud Billings, and Gonzalez said he refused. Cab Tice said that he was very close to Patrick, talked to him almost every day and thought of him as a “son” and a “wayward son.”
In the same report to authorities, portions released to the public quote Gonzalez saying he was asked to do the job “because of his past record.” It was unclear to me early on if this meant Gonzalez was saying he had killed others in the past, but Time.com seems to think that is the case:
…although he boasted to police, without offering details, that he’s taken part in other murders for hire.
Mark Turner, an auto dealer in the Pensacola area, believes Patrick Gonzalez tried to break into his home and kill him in December 2007. Turner got a good look at the intruder before chasing him to a getaway truck. Turner filed all the appropriate reports with authorities and began a life of protecting his back and his family, who he believes is still in danger today.
Sheriff David Morgan is a new sheriff in town and many are hoping he will get to the bottom of years of corruption in the auto and used-car industry in Pensacola and surrounding areas.
Morgan told Time that more arrests are coming.
Mark Turner knows Cab Tice and he knew Bud Billings. Turner, Tice and Billings all knew Pete Moore, a GM dealer in Pensacola working under Pete Moore Chevrolet. All three men allegedly borrowed money over the years from Pete Moore’s General Manager, Rick Hamilton.
Turner claims Pete Moore “stole” his Internet auto sales business. Turner sued Moore and ended up on trial himself, with documents stolen and tampered with, he says, and is now facing up to 90 years in prison. Mark Turner has reams of evidence on his website and he is not going to face his sentence quietly. He believes Pete Moore ordered a hit on him in December 2007, and he believes Pete Moore and his attorneys are behind framing him and hoping to put him behind bars.
Tice denies involvement in any conspiracy, insisting to a Pensacola television station this week that he “never wanted any harm to come to Bud or Melanie.” Still, Morgan says Tice and “three or four other people” remain “persons of interest” in the investigation.
Sheriff Morgan makes it clear that Bud Billings did not loan money to Patrick Gonzalez, Jr., so the murders were not a means for Gonzalez to rid a debt for himself. According to Tabatha Gonzalez, Patrick’s wife, the Billings had “donated” $5,000 to their business. Allegedly, Patrick Gonzalez killed them anyway.
Morgan insists that if his department ultimately “can’t prove a conspiracy, we’ll drop it immediately. But as long as there are believable threads there, I have to pursue them. You can’t have that kind of collective element operating in your community if it’s true.”
Morgan said that he does not believe that Byrd Billings did anything to bring this on himself. He praised the couple for their charity, saying they “opened their home and fortunes” to challenged children.
If Mark Turner’s theory is right, the new Sheriff in town has his plate full. Contact murders, resentful business rivals…
Related and Background:
Mark Turner – Pensacola Autos, Pensacola Attorneys: Mark Turner Media Silent