Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of the most infamous murder in Pensacola history. Two citizens of Escambia County were ambushed on a quiet summer night inside their own home. Seven people were arrested in break-neck time. The case was wrapped up with all the elements tucked into a nice narrative that made everyone feel as if they were safe again.
In the last few years, 2 of the people arrested for the crime died in jail of excruciating deaths; both literally wasting into nothingness. The “happily ever after” Ashley & Blue Markham, are embroiled in a low key divorce that was originating prior to the death of Ashley’s parents. The looming divorce was sidelined to make the facade of a loving family play better in the media–local and national.
The theater at each and every trial, as well as each of the 2 compassionate release hearings were full of drama from the ever sobbing Ashley Markham and her doting husband, Blue.
As for the main face in the media for this crime, David Morgan has proven himself to be an absolute buffoon and more worthy of Barney Fife’s one bullet than a sheriff’s star. Morgan has turned Escambia County into a joke on a national scale, with proclamations of witches killing citizens, the youth of the community being “Super-Predators”, likening his “Welsh-ness” to “Black-ness”, and even that the motive of the murder of a child on his watch was “not his concern”. Most recently, after being completely worked around in a multi-agency murder case, he declared in a press conference a nonsensical assertion about the rate of “solved” cases in the area. With all the buffoonery that has come since this case, looking back, doesn’t the pattern of forcing a scenario despite the facts, fit?
To anyone who has any knowledge of criminal justice, law enforcement or even people who have watched a cop show, David Morgan makes every person trying to make the county a better place, look like some sort of “Jackass” version of policing, because he is supposed to be their leader, not their mascot.
In the Billings case, someone on the inside took the easy way out by going after the “robbery” angle rather than the most legitimate answer being, Billings was killed for some interaction in his business, illegal business. When you play with cartels and then are murdered, should anyone be shocked? The fact this case was investigated excluding the theory that business associates of either his previous strip club affiliation, or crossed colleagues and/or ripped off clients from his “Buy Here, Pay Here” lot. Even the most traditional motive, greed of someone looking to inherit was NEVER INVESTIGATED.
Veteran law enforcement from ECSO and outside agencies have come forward to say that they knew this case was improperly handled from seeing it handled from a perspective different than that of the average citizen. The magnitude of the case (multiple agency involvement, number of suspects & people of interest) was such that there was no scenario, even with confessions, that could have been adequately investigated to rule out other theories and suspects of this heinous murder. A narrative was formed that was clean and fit the public relations option the agency took in keeping Bud Billings’s life “clean” when it was far from that. Seven people with sketchy, questionable or who were black, were arrested, bullied into confessions to stay off that pesky death sentence needle. None of the stories match up and so many loose ends, simply dropped while national media watching, some of which are criminal justice experts were fawning over Morgan for his stellar performance as a new Sheriff in a complex double murder. He took that praise and spun it to his own political gain.
Ashley & Blue got the bulk of their parents’ estate, cutting out siblings like Justin and Kristen. They also took over the disabled kid cash grab with the number of kids ( roughly $3000 a month per child in state assistance), along with the predatory car lot. To top it all off, Ashley got Oprah’s sympathy as well as the infamous “hug” by Sheriff Morgan.
Unfortunately, the justice in the Billings case will be reserved for now, but this is temporary. The truth is still out there with no statute of limitations on murder (Thank God). As long as I have breath, David Morgan is my focus. His downfall is my goal, not by making “salacious” posts, but for unveiling this charlatan for what he is–Barney Fife with one bullet. He has effectively run the ECSO into a place of ruin that many cops say will take YEARS to remedy.
When a person is murdered, standard procedure is to do a victimology profile. That includes understanding why victims were targets, what motivations were most likely, what was going on in their lives the day they were murdered. Another relevant factor is, why were they killed there? Why was this location chosen? The obvious answers would be.
a.) that is where things of value were to be taken
b.) to send a message that no one is safe even in their home
d.) controlled environment.
Opportunity is ruled out because this wasn’t a spontaneous crime.
Also, why was THIS method and tHIS mode of murder used? why so many guns? why the manpower?
a.) guns used for assured kill
b.) manpower of that magnitude needed for crime
No real need to have 5 men enter to subdue elderly man and woman who were not armed and not suspecting anything. Couldn’t one, maybe two men have entered–zip-tied them for the remaining to come in carry safe. That way if something went wrong, only the 1st two would be inside the residence. Again, for a planned, military style approach, strangers with no real bonds to each other wouldn’t have been used. Extra measures would have ensured video cameras were taken care of. By the way, if this was a robbery, why not knock Byrd off leaving or coming in a car? He’d have the money with him and be an easier target. Also why leave the briefcase behind if there was that much money in it. They walked right passed it, supposedly with the knowledge of its contents.
Forget all the confessions. They only muddle the facts and contradict the evidence. No one tells a story that fits the physical evidence or the known concrete facts of how the murder went down. There are variations that cannot be squared. Who was where, for example? Who drove? What happened after? Not one of the 4 people who talked have a story that is consistent with each other or the crime scene evidence. So disregard those entirely and focus on just what can be seen, smelled, or touched.
The family had the most to gain. The family was never properly investigated. The son had gunshot residue. It’s Ockham’s razor. “A principle from philosophy. Suppose there exist two explanations for an occurrence. In this case, the simpler one is usually better. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation is.” (Source: Wikipedia)
No matter what you believe happened in this case, the one thing that cannot be disputed is that this case was not properly investigated. That begs the question of why? Why not rule out all the possibilities before taking the case to trial or settling into one theory that is outside the logical flow of everything known about how and why murders happen?
Next step: Look at anomalies in investigation. What happened that shouldn’t have happened? What didn’t happen?
Then as the investigators follow the breadcrumbs to Palm Court to Leonard Gonzalez Sr., lo-and-behold, there sits a red van that has been covered in an attempt to disguise it. Which van is the crime van? The one found on the BOLO that was Mr. Hartsfield’s old van who he says he sold to Terri Poff for her son Patrick Poff aka Patrick Gonzalez Jr. that was being housed at the property of Lenny Gonzalez Sr. where it had not moved for weeks. So when investigators follow the trail to Sr’s home, there is another van there. But if they have the van found by Smith then what necessity is there to take this van into custody, because based on VIN numbers they are supposed to be ONE van.
Lest we not forget Blue Markham’s statement prior to any of the vans mentioned are located claims that he sold the van in the video footage to one, Cab Tice from the lot owned by Billings a few weeks before the murder.
Now the van supposedly taken from Lenny’s home was destroyed as it was damaged by water in the jail explosion. The secret of the van may never be unearthed.
As I have been saying for 3 years, Sheriff Morgan is no criminal investigator. He develops a theory and with tunnel vision. To the exclusion of actual facts and evidence, he plumps up his cheeks and gets in front of the media and touts his own truth. This is what happened in the recent triple murder of the Smith Family. He claims, “this is witchcraft”. Thankfully the public knew enough not to believe it. That has not always been the case.
On July 27, 2009, Morgan staged one of many national press conferences and with all the drama he could muster, he told Ashley Markham, “We found them (the people who killed your parents)”. He hugged the sobbing woman, resting his head upon hers in an embrace, of course, at an angle so that there is good exposure to publicity shots.
This very act should have been the first red…
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Throughout the years since these horrific murders in Pensacola, thousands of documents, articles, interviews and depositions have been released to the public, but none of them encompass the truth revealed by the facts of the case. Surprisingly, all the exculpatory evidence as to the identity of the 5 men that bombarded the Billings’ compound on that July night, has never been covered in the media.
Sheriff David Morgan, contrary to all guidelines of criminal investigations, dumped boat loads of information about the case into the public domain before the investigation had evaluated such data or even vetted it for truth. This immediately spun into storm of chaos and confusion within the Sheriff’s office, within the investigation and naturally within the media. The most astonishing thing is that there is a statement of an investigator, who is currently in Internal Affairs, that a narrative of what happened to the Billings’ that fateful night was released to the national media with a complete background on 8 people. This was prior to the actual information received by the investigators working on the case or had been established as leads. The narrative released to the press was from the Sheriff’s office and included booking photos and driver’s license photos of people. How could the Sheriff’s office work up a narrative and press package with pictures when the actual investigators had not heard the names of the people being sold to the public as the killers?
Another fun fact is that the beat up red van in the video was found at a weigh station in Alabama, which is consistent with the escape route that deputies theorized. Until someone comes forward to say that van may have been his van. James Hartsfield is concerned his old van sold to Terri Poff was the van in the video. So as deputies follow up that lead and track the van in question to Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Sr’s home on Palm Court. But “surprise”, there sits another van. One van at the weigh station and now one in the yard of Gonzalez Sr. They are similar vans but there are distinct differences in mirrors and doors. What happens next? Gonzalez Sr’s van is taken into custody because he is acting weird. The weigh station van disappears. Baldwin County deputies who reported the abandoned vehicle say it was never impounded by them. It was assumed Escambia County would take care of it, but in the meantime, the van disappears from the weigh station. “Poof”. No more second van.
Now all this is known to everyone surrounding the investigation within 72 hours of the murder. Yet no one reported any of these things. Rick Outzen, his own words in telephonic interview was on the scene at the Billings’ house, has not reported any of this to the public. He even recalls Ashley Markham screaming in the driveway of the Billings home that night that “He did this” pointing to her brother, Justin Billings, who later tested positive for gunshot residue on his hands and no emotion while talking to deputies moments after the horrific murder of his parents. How does a second van and complete backstory of a crime get past the fact checkers at the Sheriff’s Office? Well, that brings up another point. According to a sworn deposition by Chris Baggett, a deputy involved in the investigation, there was no true head of the investigation. There are at least 6 investigators who are not briefing each other on their own knowledge of the crime while they are each working different angles. There is no logging of who interviewed who and when. There were many interviews with Bill Eddins (State Attorney) and ECSO officials with suspects that were improper because an attorney was requested and that request was ignored as well as numerous interviews that are never recorded. When asked if anyone was in charge of making sure all the statements of the people being interviewed was recorded, there is an answer of “No” by more than one deputy. People were walking in and out of interviews. Chris Baggett had info on the van but he did not have time to brief Lee Tyree who was talking to the suspects. So he didn’t have Tyree’s knowledge from the interview and Tyree didn’t have his knowledge of the van.
With all this chaos, a story suddenly emerges to the national news of what happened. How is that possible when there was so much disorganization? There are pictures of people who aren’t even known to the investigators on television with a story outlining their roles. What kind of Sheriff’s department is running this town?
So many missteps that it would make OJ Simpson’s case look more credible than this. No reporting of facts. Leaking stories that cannot be corroborated. Not even knowing which deputy, official or random citizen had been allowed to talk to the suspects. No honoring of the invocation of counsel. No REPORTING OF THE MADNESS THAT WAS THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE. Yet David Morgan looks nice in his press conference, but the paperwork that was on his desk did not support a word he spoke within the first 5 days of the case. Anybody with a conscience on the fringe of this could see this was a dog and pony show. Yet no one had the guts to say anything against the Sheriff. Deputies were understandably wary of ratting out their boss but what about the media? What about Mr. Outzen? He had all these facts. He even told Damien Cave of the New York Times on August 19th, 2009, he was committed to finding out what happened in this case. The article titled, “Blogger Stirs a City by Suggesting That a Florida Couple’s Murder Was a Contract Killing”, touts Outzen integrity in journalism and his family legacy of fighting against political wrongs done in the civil rights era. Yet he chose to not address a single discrepancy mentioned above to people of Escambia County.
Why is that?