A source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN the state attorney’s office believes there were two motives in the home invasion murder of Florida couple Byrd and Melanie Billings — robbery and a contracted hit.
The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office had said it believed robbery was the prime motive, but that it would explore all avenues. The source said the state attorney’s office is working under the belief that most of the suspects in the case thought they were there for a robbery, but that Leonard Gonzalez Jr., the alleged organizer of the crime, and other yet-unnamed suspects were plotting a hit on the couple. The source said that from “Gonzalez down” it was a robbery and that from “Gonzalez up” it was a hit. The source was not sure of the motive behind the hit. The office of State Attorney Bill Eddins declined comment. The Billingses, who were known for adopting special-needs children, were killed during a robbery at their Beulah, Florida, home July 9.
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A small safe containing prescription medication, family documents and some jewelry was taken, and later found in the backyard of a woman who said she was a friend of Gonzalez, authorities have said. Two sources familiar with the investigation told CNN that a second safe at the home contained at least $100,000. Eight people have been arrested in the case. Seven are facing murder charges and one is accused of being an accessory after the fact. Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan has said Gonzalez once worked for a car dealership Byrd Billings owned, and court documents state that Gonzalez received financial support from the family for a martial-arts studio that he ran. An attorney representing the Billingses has said that Byrd Billings made a nominal donation to Gonzalez’s karate charity.