Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mansion Murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings

Introduction

At 7 p.m on Thursday, July 9, 2009, three men, dressed in black with ninja-style face masks, approached a sprawling nine-bedroom compound in Beulah, Fla., an unincorporated area just west of Pensacola near the Alabama border.

Map with Beulah, Fla. locator
Map with Beulah, Fla. locator

Over the course of about ten minutes, theyand four other accompliceswould conduct a home invasion seemingly drawn from a James Bond movie, breaking into and entering the large house in less than four minutes before accomplishing their objectives and getting away. It was paramilitary operation, one that was revealed to have included up to eight people, two getaway cars and a small cache of weapons, all overseen by an unlikely mastermind.

Book cover: In Cold Blood
Book cover: In Cold Blood
But this was no movie. The suspects were not secret agents. For one thing, the robbery netted them only a safe that contained nothing of significant monetary value. For another, the suspects neglected to turn off the elaborate sixteen-camera security system.

Worse, the robbery culminated in the murder of two residents of the house, pillars of the community: Byrd and Melanie Billings.

The case was swiftly compared to the Kansas murders written about by Truman Capote in In Cold Blood, and would involve a mysterious man with dealings with the Mexican mafia, and a motley crew: including a father and a son, a military officer, a woman who had several husbands, a man who'd already committed a murder, a teenager, a few petty criminals, and day laborers.

 

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