Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mansion Murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings

The Son

Leonard P. Gonzalez Jr.
Leonard P. Gonzalez Jr.
In what the Pensacola News Journal dubbed a "400 word monologue," Gonzalez Jr. continued to fight his arrest in a very public manner. He said: "I've cooperated with the investigators from the very beginning," he said. "From the very beginning the investigators and the sheriff have focus their sights entirely on me, pushing me into the media before evidence was even gathered."

The younger Gonzalez had an interesting and contradictory personal history. On the one hand, he had an extensive criminal resume. He'd been arrested seven times, served time in state prison, and had been convicted on charges of home invasion, battery with a firearm, battery on a law enforcement office, and forgery.

On the other hand, he was also well-known in his community for his work with families and children. A father of six, he and his wife, Tabitha, ran Project FIGHTBACK, a non-profit self-defense program for women and children. (Gonzalez Jr. was trained in martial arts.) The program had been covered by the local press, and he'd been given the "Service to Mankind" award a month before by the Pensacola-Seville Sertoma Club for his work with children, a fact he later unsuccessfully attempted to use to persuade the judge to release him. He had a long history of doing such work: locally he was also known as "Pat Poff." The son of Terri Poff, a Gulf Breeze, Fla., businesswoman, Gonzalez Jr. also taught self-defense the Gulf Breeze Recreation Center for many years.

It seemed that Gonzalez Jr. and Billings had a lot in common: a large family and a penchant for working with children.

But Gonzalez Jr. had his own peculiarities. In his press conference, he seemed hard-headed and in denial. He was intense. He had served in the National Guard. Coupled with his martial arts training with another suspect's Air Force experience, this seemed a compelling explanation for the "military precision" of the attack. It was later learned that the group had spent a month, if not months, preparing for the attack. Some of their training had been on the elder Gonzalez's property in Palm Court, unbeknownst to the neighbors.

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