Billings Murder Mastermind Appeal Rejected

September 14, 2018

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously turned down an appeal by death row inmate Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr. He convicted of killing Byrd and Melanie Billings during a July 2009 home-invasion robbery that drew national attention.

Justices rejected arguments raised by Gonzalez, who was convicted of first degree murder in the slayings.

Gonzalez and four other men  entered the home to steal a safe that they thought contained $13 million, according to court records. Byrd and Melanie Billings died after each being shot multiple times.

In the appeal decided Thursday, Gonzalez raised arguments including that he had received “ineffective assistance” from his attorney before being convicted. In part, Gonzalez contended that his attorney didn’t adequately argue for a change of venue because of publicity surrounding the case.

Also, Gonzalez contended that the attorney did not adequately determine during jury selection whether jurors could be impartial.

But the Supreme Court, in a nine-page opinion, upheld the convictions.

“The record before this (Supreme) Court demonstrates that trial counsel provided prospective jurors with a questionnaire inquiring, among other things, about their exposure to pretrial publicity,” the opinion said. “Members of the (potential jury) who responded that they were familiar with the publicity were asked if they could set it aside and consider only the evidence presented during the trial.

Two prospective jurors who indicated they could not set aside what they had heard or read were excused for cause. Once the jury selections were completed, Gonzalez was asked personally if he was satisfied with the jury as selected and he replied affirmatively.

Accordingly, the record reflects that Gonzalez was able to select a fair and impartial jury and the trial court would not likely have granted a renewed motion for change of venue at that time.”

Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga and Alan Lawson concurred in the opinion. Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice R. Fred Lewis agreed with the outcome but did not fully sign on to the opinion.

Byrd and Melanie Billings died after each being shot multiple times.

“In the case of Mr. Billings, Gonzalez shot him in one leg, repeated the request for money, and then shot him in the other leg when Mr. Billings was still not forthcoming about the money,” earlier court documents said. “Gonzalez then placed Mr. Billings in a headlock and dragged him into the master bedroom where he shot him in the side of the face. Only after Mr. Billings was terrorized and endured repeated non-fatal shootings did Gonzalez finally shoot him in the head. As to Mrs. Billings, although her actual shooting and death occurred fairly quickly, she was aware of her impending death and probably fearful of suffering multiple gunshot wounds, having witnessed her husband being shot and suffer. She was then shot in the face, while looking at her attacker and knowing that her children were probably also in grave danger.”

by The News Service of Florida with contribution from


19 Responses to “Billings Murder Mastermind Appeal Rejected”

  1. Mr Stik on September 16th, 2018 12:11 am

    I have to agree with Tabby. I knew Bud and he was no angel by any means. Did he deserve to die? Of course not. But when you lay down with snakes , you’ll come up poisoned every time.

  2. MR REALITY on September 15th, 2018 12:24 pm

    Tabby…there is a safe full of money at EVERY BANK IN TOWN! You are very naive to think this clown has a high IQ and VERY VERY VERY dumb to say this loser did nore for society than the Billings’….The ONLY way you could say this is you have to be related to that trash.

  3. Tabby on September 15th, 2018 10:36 am

    @David—Actually, he has a pretty high IQ. Another thing, despite his murderous actions, he’s done more good for the community than the man he killed.
    @Bob C–While you joke, the Mexican Mafia is absolutely tied to local used car dealership owners. Lots of $$ changes hands between them. The robbers knew there was a safe full of $ at the house, they just got the wrong safe and Byrd wouldn’t tell them where it was or he may be alive today. Either way, how would they know about the money ? Cause the victim was into criminal activity himself.

  4. John on September 15th, 2018 7:51 am

    What action are we taking as individuals taking to try and get legislation changed that will expedite death row executions? Each and every one of us can make a difference.

  5. Sam on September 14th, 2018 7:34 pm

    Look how long it has taken to get this done and he’s still not met his maker. If you don’t murder someone you walk. That’s why all the dopers, car thieves and perverts are walking the streets. Our justice system stinks.

  6. Bob C. on September 14th, 2018 6:43 pm

    Gonzalez sure doesn’t look too much like a “Ninja” or part of the “Mexican Mafia” that he was described as early on.
    Yep, has cost us taxpayers too much already, strap him down and put in the needles.
    Time to make space on Death Row for another thug.

  7. David on September 14th, 2018 2:39 pm

    Mastermind…you are giving him too much rating with his low I.Q. ..that he thought he possessed. Burn him in the chair..I.V. cocktail is too easy for him. Including all involved…Beulah suffered greatly and the kids by the hands of these losers..

  8. Walter on September 14th, 2018 10:35 am

    In the end The Lord will be his final Judge! And I’m glad I won’t be in his shoes!

  9. ROBERT on September 14th, 2018 10:26 am

    Gutless little wimp wasnt scared to kill others but is now scared he will die…Please carry out his fate sooner rather than later…

  10. bill on September 14th, 2018 10:06 am

    death is to good for you you are the lowest form of life . i would love one chance one shot [ 44 mag] one time . problem solved !!!!!!!!!!!!! oh it free to taxpayers !!!!!

  11. Mike J. on September 14th, 2018 9:57 am

    Because he killed his victims with a gun and terrorized Mr. & Mrs. Billings before killing them, he should be executed by firing squad, not by an easy lethal injection. He killed them only a few feet away from the special needs children that the Billings were caring for. His execution needs to be soon.

  12. RETIRED on September 14th, 2018 9:53 am

    why is he still on death row (so long), the sentence needs to be carried out with in 90 days after sentencing. Save the tax payers money

  13. tg on September 14th, 2018 8:59 am

    Keep him locked up forever or at least all of his life.

  14. anne 1of2 on September 14th, 2018 8:29 am

    Yeh! The state does need to get him off of death row, on a slab asap.

  15. Trocarman on September 14th, 2018 8:25 am

    Gonzalez is a stupid thug who should be shot in the legs before being shot in the face.

  16. Jim on September 14th, 2018 8:13 am

    “Mastermind” seems too generous for this punk.

  17. Gman on September 14th, 2018 6:05 am

    Lets get ol sparky warmed up and get r done.

  18. tooma on September 14th, 2018 2:44 am

    Burn in hell you and your accomplices you despicable excuse for a human being

  19. Nobody on September 14th, 2018 1:59 am

    Hang em higb

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