Death Penalty Phase Repeated in an Escambia County Double Murder Case

Byrd and Melanie billings, a married couple and the parents to 16 children, nine of whom were adopted, found brutally murdered in their Escambia county home on a July evening back in 2009.

Now the man convicted of killing them, Leonard Gonzalez, Jr. is expected to go back through the penalty phase.

“The new trial and penalty phases will bring all those old emotions up, all of the old horrors, and all of the anguish that they suffered, and those old wounds will be open again,” says Assistant State Attorney Molchan.

Back in October of 2010, a jury recommended the death penalty by a 10-2 vote in both murders, now a recent ruling from the Hurst case says the jury must vote unanimously.

“In essence the Hurst case has required a unanimous jury verdict along with unanimous aggravating factors and Gonzalez fit into the category,” says Molchan.

Gonzalez pulling the trigger and shooting the couple a total of nine times, but he had an entourage with him, several masked men entered the home, looking a safe believed to be filled with millions of dollars.

“Mr. Gonzalez was identified as the trigger man who basically executed both Byrd and Melanie billings in their own home, and then left with a safe that had very little money in it,” says Molchan.

Now attorney Molchan has to go back through files and file or paperwork and witnesses before presenting to a jury for the penalty phase.

“We will be doing our best to seek what we think is the appropriate penalty in this case for a double murder of the nature in the case,” says Molchan.

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