Sheriff: Man arrested on charge of evidence tampering in slaying of US couple

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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PENSACOLA, Florida - A 56-year-old man was charged with evidence tampering Sunday in connection with the slaying of a wealthy Florida couple known for adopting children with developmental disabilities, authorities said.
Leonard P. Gonzalez Sr. is accused of trying to paint over and hide damage on a red van that was spotted on surveillance video leaving the Florida Panhandle home where Byrd and Melanie Billings were shot to death Thursday while eight of their children slept.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said at a news conference Sunday that he expects more arrests, but did not provide additional details.
"At this time we are looking at multiple persons of interest," he said. "We are very anxious to share this story ... it's going to be a humdinger, I'll tell you that."
Gonzalez, who did not own the van, was still being interviewed Sunday evening and his bond was set at $250,000. A message seeking comment was left at a phone number listed for him in the Pensacola area.
The Billings were killed in their spacious, nine-bedroom home in a rural area west of Pensacola near the Alabama state line. The house had an extensive surveillance system that authorities said captured three apparently experienced criminals swiftly slipping into the house before leaving and driving off in the red van.
Tips from the public led police to the van Saturday.
Officials still haven't said why the family was targeted. Police also have not said whether anything was stolen from the home, which had nine bedrooms to accommodate the large family. The children who were there during the killings, ages 8 to 14, were interviewed by police and are now staying with other family members.
The Billings were a prominent couple who owned several businesses and had 16 children, 12 of them adopted.
They married 18 years ago and each had two children from previous marriages. They eventually started adopting children with developmental disabilities and other problems.
The house was carefully designed to accommodate the children, according to a 2005 story in the Pensacola News Journal. A camera was in every room, and the driveway was long to keep the kids from running into the street. A large swimming pool behind the house was gated.
The couple told the newspaper they wanted to share their wealth with children in need, but didn't imagine their family would grow so large.
"It just happened," she told the newspaper. "I just wanted to give them a better life."
On Sunday, Morgan pledged to find those responsible for the killing.
"This investigation will expand much larger than anyone had anticipated," he said. "I can promise you in coming days we will have many more arrests."

Organizations: Pensacola News Journal

Geographic location: PENSACOLA, US, Florida Escambia County

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