Murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings by The Karate Killers investigated on ID

Mugshot of Leonard Gonzalez
Leonard Gonzalez Jr. was considered the ringleader in the murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings. Pic credit: FL Dept. of Corrections

The Karate Killers on ID is investigating the truly shocking murders of husband and wife, Byrd “Bud” and Melanie Billings, who were butchered during a brutal home invasion at their home in Pensacola, Florida.

The Billings had a total of 16 children, some of whom were from previous marriages and some who had been adopted by the couple. There were nine children living at the house who were special needs kids.

On July 9, 2009, Bud and Melanie were killed by a murderous group of thugs. There were eight people in total who faced charges related to this case, but only five of the number entered the Billing’s home, and the ringleader was later determined to be Leonard Gonzalez.

The others charged were Wayne Coldiron, Patrick Gonzalez, Donnie Ray Stallworth, Gary Sumner, Rakeem Florence, Frederick Lee Thornton Jr., and Pamela Wiggins. All were charged with first-degree murder apart from Wiggins, who was charged with being an accessory.

On the day of the murders, Leonard and Patrick Gonzalez, along with Florence, Sumner, and Thornton, pulled up to the Billings house in a red minivan and broke in. Leonard Gonzalez first shot Bud in the legs and then dragged him into the main bedroom where he and his wife, Melanie, were both shot multiple times.

The murders were witnessed by their ten-year-old son, Jake, who at one point was told he was going to be killed, only for another member of the gang who stepped in to stop his accomplice from shooting the youngster. Jake was mute and could only help the police by using sign language; however, he later proved instrumental in solving the crime.

The killers were all dressed in black in a manner described as ninja-like by the local sheriff, a characteristic which helped give the gang the name The Karate Killers. The ringleader Gonzalez also ran a failing karate school, which was another reason why the moniker stuck.

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Investigators zeroed in on Leonard Gonzalez as head The Karate Killer

The investigators were aided by the numerous surveillance cameras that were dotted throughout the Billings home. The first two shots to Bud’s legs were captured on camera.

Florence and Thornton ultimately agreed to testify against their co-conspirators, and Leonard Gonzalez was soon identified as the ringleader and the main gunman. All perpetrators, even those who cooperated, received lengthy sentences.

The gang stole a safe and a briefcase from the home leading to prosecutors declaring the motive as greed. Leonard Gonzalez had been in financial difficulty at the time.

Others have speculated that the murders may have been a hit. It’s been alleged that Bud might have upset some members of the Pensacola car dealership business community who had found themselves wrapped up with the Mexican mafia. However, these allegations have not been proved.

More from Investigation Discovery

Follow the links to read about more shocking crimes profiled on ID.

Anthony Aiello of San Jose, California, was 90 years old when the police of Santa Clara County arrested him for the suspected murder of his 67-year-old stepdaughter Karen Navarra. Aiello was the oldest man suspect ever held in the county, but he died before he could stand trial for murder.

Over 50 women have been strangled in the west and southside of Chicago in the last two decades. The police have since set up a task force to determine if it is the work of a single serial killer known as the Chicago Strangler.

The Karate Killers airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.

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Jimmie staley
2 years ago

You article ignores many facts. For instance, the skin under Byrds fingers was there after he grabbed his killer. That DNA doesn’t match anyone arrested.

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