Thursday, August 20, 2009

ABC Nightline provides major update on Billings (Pensacola, FL) case

ABC Nightline, on Wednesday Aug. 19, reported “disturbia” details about the Byrd and Melanie Billings murders near Pensacola, FL. Cynthia McFadden reported on the July 9 crime. Jeffrey Kauffman reported.

The media has heavily covered the well coordinated “attack” on the well-liked couple that were raising 17 children, mostly adopted and disabled. The question was “why”, and the (Escambia County) sheriff had proffered that the details sounded like a movie script (or Dateline story), a “humdinger”. Nevertheless, police have first insisted that the primary motive was robbery. Eight suspects are in jail in Florida awaiting formal prosecution and trial.

ABC has a report by Sarah Netter and Lee Ferran discussing in some detail what one or more of the children say they witnessed (“bad men”), link here.

The story goes into an apparent statement by one of the statements that it could be a contract killing (or “hit” or “whacking”) possibly related to drug cartels. Nevertheless, it’s very important to note that the media has not reported any credible information that either of the Billings couple had done anything normally considered to be illegal or wrong.

Mr. Billings was in loan-related business (I would suspect debt collection). I’ve worked in that business once myself and I know that running that kind of business requires a certain amount of social aggressiveness that does not appeal to a lot of people (including me). It’s believable that in such a business one encounters ethical or legal “areas of gray” that could lead indirectly to trouble, even unintentionally. In Kaufman’s video (where he interviews a Pensacola reporter in detail), the (oldest) daughter is shown as saying “everybody has enemies” but meaning that by implication the family had no special problems compared to anyone else. The media reports that the daughter will run Mr. Billings's businesses and take custody for and raise all the children.

This past spring and summer, Anderson Cooper (AC360 on CNN) and others have reported on how drug cartels (from Mexico and Colombia) work with gangs inside the United States in some cities, and how they can present a serious homeland security problem comparable to that of radical Islam. This problem was explored in the 2001 film “Collateral Damage” by Andrew Davis, held up by Warner Brothers for a while after 9/11.

The archive for the case in the Pensacola News Journal is here.

Attribution for Wikimedia link for Pensacola picture

I visited Pensacola in November 1998 (including the Brownsville Assembly of God). Not many people realize that it is far enough west to be on Central Time.

It strikes me that, while what the Billings family did is seen as "good", they were able to be generous because they did have a good marriage and wealth, adn could make "choices". Mr. Billings needed to exert a lot of "power" in his business life to provide for adopted children with special needs. On the other hand, it seems that the daughter does not get to make a "choice" to carry this special mission on. To me, at least, this seems like an important point. But, as Rick Warren says, it isn't (always) "about you."

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