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Police have high hopes for new interviews in couple's killing

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Police interviews of two more people "may be the last piece of our puzzle"
  • 8 charged in Byrd and Melanie Billings killings, shot in Florida with 9 children present
  • Sheriff David Morgan compares case to infamous 1969 Charles Manson murders
  • Seven men charged with murder, one woman faces accessory to murder charge
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PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- Police plan to interview at least two more people in the killing of a Florida couple who adopted 13 children, many of them with special needs, the lead investigator said Thursday.

Byrd and Melanie Billings did not have any children together, but they cared for 16 children over the years.

Those interviews may provide a more complete picture of the circumstances surrounding the slayings of Byrd and Melanie Billings, who were shot to death last week in their home with nine of their children present, Sheriff David Morgan of Escambia County, Florida, said on CNN's "American Morning."

"We believe -- but this case has had so many odd twists and turns -- that this may be the last piece of our puzzle," he said.

Investigators have already charged eight people in the case. One of the two they plan to interview "possibly could have a connection to the case," Morgan said. He referred to them as "persons of interest" but did not elaborate.

The sheriff compared the investigation's complexity and the number of people involved to the infamous 1969 killings in California for which Charles Manson and others were convicted.

Seven men -- one of them a 16-year-old -- are charged with murder, and one woman faces accessory to felony murder charges. Video Watch expressions of relief after arrests »

Police detained the eighth suspect Wednesday night, Pamela Long Wiggins, Morgan said.

Wiggins was previously identified as Pamela Laverne Long.

Morgan told CNN on Thursday that investigators had obtained physical evidence from her.

He said Wiggins rented property to the alleged ringleader of the crime, Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., and was the suspect's family friend.

The Billingses were shot to death July 9 in their Beulah, Florida, home near the Alabama state line. Law enforcement officials said a safe and other items were missing from the house and have cited robbery as one motive, but said there may be others. Video Watch sheriff describe crimes »

Morgan said authorities would hold a 10 a.m. (11 a.m. ET) news conference Thursday.

The crime lasted only minutes after seven men entered the Billingses' home, Morgan said earlier.

He said authorities were looking into what he called a "gaping hole" in what was otherwise a well-executed crime -- why the security system was not disabled. Authorities believe the suspects did not believe they were under surveillance, he said.

The surveillance video showed two vehicles pulling up to the home and five people dressed in black and wearing masks entering it. Video Watch surveillance video of the home invasion »

Authorities believed the drivers remained in both vehicles.

Morgan said earlier that authorities are seeking a person who was involved in the security and video surveillance system at the Billingses' compound.

Morgan also clarified that the Drug Enforcement Administration was not assisting in the investigation, contrary to prior reports.

He told CNN's Anderson Cooper Wednesday night that during the course of the investigation into the Billingses' deaths, authorities had uncovered information on "other individuals and other crimes that may have been committed."

"So I have both a legal and ethical responsibility to pass that information on to the appropriate agencies," Morgan said, adding that he had invited representatives of the DEA, FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other federal agencies to his office last week to share that information.

"I think it was somehow confused that the DEA somehow was involved in our investigation and I want to state here, that to the best of my knowledge, as the sheriff of Escambia County, that they are not," he said.

The Billingses had 13 adopted children, many with special needs. Three of those children have died over the years. Byrd and Melanie Billings also each had two biological children of their own but no biological children together.

Nine of the couple's children were home during the killings, authorities said, and police believe three of them saw the intruders. One of the children managed to flee and seek help at a neighbor's house, Morgan has said.

Gonzalez Jr., 35, a former National Guard member, appeared in court Wednesday and read a statement proclaiming his innocence.

"The state's entire case is based on hearsay and circumstantial evidence," he said via video.

His father, Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Sr., 56, also appeared in court Wednesday. He is being held without bail, as are Gary Lamont Sumner, 30, and Fredrick Lee Thornton, 19.


They are to appear in court again next month.

Wayne Thomas Coldiron, 41; Donald Ray Stallworth, 28; and an unidentified 16-year-old are also charged in the case.

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