Parents of 16 Children
Police search for suspects in
Updated: Friday, 10 Jul 2009, 5:36 PM CDT
Published : Friday, 10 Jul 2009, 5:35 PM CDT
By The Associated Press
Investigators searched Friday for three men wanted for questioning about the Thursday night home-invasion deaths of the mother and father of 16 children.
The Escambia County Sheriff's Office said the men were driving a red full-size van when they were seen leaving the home of Byrd and Melanie Billings after the Escambia County couple were found shot to death in the bedroom of their home in Beulah, just west of Pensacola near the Alabama border.
Sgt. Ted Roy, a sheriff's office spokesman, said the men may have been involved in the slayings.
The couple were the parents of 16 children -- 12 adopted.
Authorities say the eight children living in the home were found safe. They say deputies had to wake some of the children who ranged from 8 to 14 years old.
The couple owned several local businesses and were known for their generosity taking in children with disabilities and from troubled backgrounds.
Roy said investigators were meeting Friday morning and had no new information about the case.
"We don't know who did this," he said.
When the couple married 18 years ago and each had two children from previous marriages, according to a 2005 story about the family from the News Journal. The Billings then began adopting children with developmental disabilities and other problems. The family lived in a nine-bedroom rural home.
In the 2005 story the couple said they wanted to share their wealth with children in need, but that they did not imagine their family would grow so large.
"It just happened," Melanie Byrd told the newspaper. "I just wanted to give them a better life."
The story said the family's nine-bedroom home had a complete alarm system with sensors and cameras in every room.
Roy said authorities were reviewing video footage from the cameras.
"They were very good people. I don't know what's going to happen to those children," Nancy Markham, the mother-in-law of one of the couple's grown children, told the Pensacola News Journal.