4 Sentenced For Killing Couple


PENSACOLA, Fla., Aug. 4 (UPI) — Four men who admitted participating in the killing of a Florida couple during a home invasion and robbery were sentenced Thursday to prison terms.

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Sr., Gary Lamont Sumner Jr., Rakeem Chavez Florence and Frederick Lee Thornton Jr. all pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. At the sentencing, they received terms ranging from 17 1/2 years to 24 years behind bars, WALA-TV, Pensacola, reported.

The victims, Byrd and Melanie Billings, were shot July 9, 2009, after men wearing ninja costumes broke into their home in Escambia County west of Pensacola. The killers stole a safe containing jewelry, family papers and medication.

The couple had adopted 12 special-needs children, and nine were in the house at the time.

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., who investigators said planned the crime and recruited his father and others, is on death row. Billings had given him money to start a martial arts studio.

Two other men are serving double life sentences.

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