Eighth Arrest Made in Murder of Florida Couple
Pamela Long Wiggins, who was charged Wednesday as an accessory after the fact to felony murder in connection with the shooting deaths of Byrd and Melanie Billings in their Beulah, Fla., home last week, was released from Escambia County Jail on $10,000 bond, Escambia Sheriff's spokesman Chris Welborn said Thursday.
Wiggins, 47, is the eighth person arrested in the slayings of the couple, who were shot multiple times at their home July 9.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan announced Wiggins' arrest at an 8:30 p.m. news conference Wednesday but would not provide any details. He said he and State Attorney Bill Eddins will talk more about the arrest at a news conference Thursday.
Earlier Wednesday, Morgan said officers were considering the possibility that someone may have been assigned to turn off surveillance cameras at the Billings home but never did.
He called the question of why the surveillance system was not disabled "the gaping hole in attempting to put this puzzle together."
"We are working on why this system was left on in an otherwise very - I hate to use the word 'perfect' - in a perfectly executed murder," he said.
The arrest of Wiggins was the latest development in an investigation that has seen one startling revelation after another.
"The complexity of this case is staggering - staggering," Morgan said during the last of three news conferences held Wednesday to divulge details about the case. "We're trying to slow this process down ... and ensure that we do not jeopardize in any way the prosecutorial phase in this case."
Byrd Billings, 66, and his 43-year-old wife were known for adopting children with special needs.
The extensive surveillance system captured footage of five masked men - some dressed as "ninjas" - slipping into front and back doors at the sprawling and isolated home. Two drivers waited in vehicles.
The video led investigators to a red van used as a getaway vehicle and eventually to the suspects, a loosely connected group of mostly day laborers who knew each other through a power washing business and an auto detailing operation. A sport utility vehicle also seen on surveillance video has not been found.
The killers were in the nine-bedroom house for just four minutes and on the property for 10 minutes, Morgan said.
Six men and a teenager are charged with open counts of murder and jailed without bond.
Morgan said the main motive was robbery, though there may have been others.
During a noon news conference Wednesday, Morgan sought the public's help in finding Pamela Laverne Long, later identified as Pamela Long Wiggins.
The Orange Beach, Ala., Police Department found Wiggins on her yacht at the Wharf Marina. Morgan said she went to the sheriff's office voluntarily, accompanied by her attorney, and was arrested several hours later.
Morgan said Wiggins had rented property to Leonard Gonzalez Jr., 35, of Gulf Breeze, Fla., whom he has identified as the "organizer" of the home invasion.
Other agencies are involved in the case.
David Melenkevitz, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Wednesday his agency is assisting, but he would not elaborate.
Morgan also said his department has sought technical assistance from federal authorities.
The FBI is assisting with the enhancement of surveillance video taken at the Billings home and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is helping with ballistics testing.