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National Briefing / Florida

Files shed light on murder suspects

August 24, 2009|Times Wire Reports

Seven suspects charged in the shooting deaths of a Panhandle couple appear to be a hastily assembled group lured by the promise of money, according to documents released by prosecutors.

Six men and a 16-year-old charged as an adult have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in last month's slayings of Byrd and Melanie Billings in their home near Pensacola.

The Billingses were known for adopting several children with special needs. One of them, a 10-year-old adopted son with Down syndrome, was sleeping with his parents when the gunmen burst in and shot the couple to death in their bedroom, documents say.

Surveillance cameras captured men wearing ninja garb and black masks entering the couple's sprawling house, stealing a safe that contained little of value and leaving in less than four minutes. The surveillance video is set to be released to the public Tuesday.

The robbers missed a second safe that held $164,000 in cash, a lawyer for the victims' family has said.

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