The murders of Byrd "Bud" Billings and his wife Melanie have tentacles reaching deep into Pensacola, Florida, surrounding communities and the massive web of the auto industry. Enter another man, Mark Turner, who was also in the auto industry, in the Pensacola area and knew Bud Billings. See update 10-25-09.
Mark Turner knew Bud Billings, had done business with him in the auto industry, and the two may have one more thing in common: the Billings' accused killer, Leonard Patrick Poff Gonzalez, Jr. Turner believes Gonzalez tried to kill him in 2007, and he believes it was intended to be a hit directed withing the auto industry.
Here's the story: On December 16, 2007, Turner said someone tried to break into his Gulf Breeze home. His wife and children were home at the time. Mrs. Turner heard the garage door open and thought someone was in the garage. Mark, armed with a glass bottle, greeted the intruder at the door leading from his house into his garage.
As Turner jerked the door open, the intruder was standing directly in front of him and his wife. He was startled and ran for his car - which was pointed out of the driveway, still running and had the driver's door standing wide open. The truck was a blue Ford Explorer. Turner chased the man to the truck and as the intruder ran, he was yelling "wrong house!" Turner hit the truck window with the bottle, but the bottle broke, not the truck window. The intruder got away. He said he got a good look at the man - for two or three minutes. He knew he would never forget the face.
Turner filed a report with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Department but had no idea "who this clean cut white man was," until Leonard Patrick Poff Gonzalez, Jr.'s photo flashed on the television in connection with the Billings murders. That is the first part of this story. There is nothing to prove that Gonzalez is the same man that tried to break into Turner's home, but Mr. and Mrs. Turner both believe it is definitely the same man, and he believes that Gonzalez was there to kill him.
Here's more of the story: Mark Turner is a former car wholesaler. He said Bud Billings was a "jolly fellow" and was "fun to run into in the business." The two met at Pete Moore Chevrolet. According to Turner, this is the hierarchy of their local auto conglomerate: there is Pete Moore, the owner; under Moore is Rick Hamilton, the General Manager. Hamilton works for Moore. Both Mark Turner and Bud Billings worked for Pete Moore, but worked through Rick Hamilton. According to Turner, Hamilton's job is to make certain that Pete Moore makes money distributing cars.
Another player is Henry Cab Tice, known as Cab. Cab is currently under arrest for Grand Theft in a civil suit between Bud Billing and Cab Tice. Tice owned Billings money and the lawsuit was working its way through the courts when Billings died. Tice worked for Billings. Turner assumes that Cab Tice "sold the cars in Mexico."
Billings evidently had not received money for the cars Tice sold - thus the lawsuit.
There is more coming on the relationship between Billings and Tice. Pete Moore's "comptroller," Roxanne," told Pete that "Cabs cars have not been paid for." Moore goes to Rick Hamilton, Rick Hamilton goes to Bud Billings because Billings "backs" or guarantees payment for the cars Tice gets from Moore.
Billings tells Hamilton that Cab sold the cars in Mexico but Billings has not been able to get the money out of Cab. Hamilton says he can't wait any longer. He has to get the money to Pete Moore, so Hamilton gives Billings a loan and Billings pays Pete Moore to close the debt. This leaves Cab Tice owing Billings, and Billings owing Hamilton. Mark Turner says there is a long history of similar transactions within the industry:
Through the years, anytime we got into a tight [situation] in paying Moore, we could get the money from Rick [Hamilton]. Rick [Hamilton] charged me 12% annually. There was no paperwork, our deal was a handshake.Turner gives this example of how Billings might have run his business and how he might have interacted with Rick Hamilton:
If a car cost $10,000 and BB [Bud Billings] had 5 car lots with 50 cars on them each, then that would be $2.5 Million. So if a dealer wanted to borrow $100,000 from WorldCo/[Bud Billings' loan company] but Billings' cash flow was down, he would just borrow it from Rick [Hamilton].Turner addresses rumors that Billings owned money to Moore and Hamilton and may have been murdered for that reason, which some think might have been a contract murder...and maybe ordered by someone in the industry:
Now to the fact of the money in the safe. I was told $160,000 wouldn't make a dent in what was owed to Rick and Moore at the time of the Billings Killings. Billings became partners with the dealers or have them borrow from his finance companies/car lots. Cab would take them to Alabama to order duplicate titles and take the cars into Mexico.
Remember, I am not telling you this is what happened with the business between BB, Cab, Rick and Moore. I am telling you that this is what I was told happened. I am not saying who killed who. I am telling you that Bud Billings and I [Mark Turner] had a relationship with more than one of the same lenders. We were in the same business, distributing cars for a profit. There are $36 Million reasons why those involved would want me dead. I don't know how many reasons those involved had against Bud Billings.Summarizing Mark Turner's position in this part of the story, Mr. Turner filed a lawsuit against Pete Moore for $36 million. Turner accuses Moore of stealing an internet car sales business which Turner developed. Turner says he is fighting for his life:
In the early 1980’s, my job was to dispose of unwanted franchise car dealer inventory, which means trade-ins and over-age cars. In the late 1990’s, I developed a system using the internet, which grew to a multi-million dollar business by the following decade.
This system was stolen from me by people I had a 20 year relationship with. I sued them and when I refused their settlement offer, they had me arrested. When I refused to take a plea they had my wife arrested. I am now facing 90 years in prison.I have picked up the rest of the story here, with video.
"Cab" Tice reportedly told authorities that Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. was like a son to him, and then clarified that it was "like the wayward child that you always want to try to be a good influence on his life." Patrick Gonzalez told authorities that Cab Tice asked him to "whack" Bud Billings.
It gets more appalling every day. Tice said that his Hispanic American Auto Sales business was failing and he borrowed $20,000 from an employee, who in returned borrowed money to give to Tice from the Mexican Mafia. Tice claims he was unaware the funds came from the Mafia source.
Tice owned Bud Billings thousands of dollars, borrowed through Billings' WorldCo Financial. It seems Tice wrote "worthless" checks to Billings totaling more than $10,000 to Billings. When Hispanic American closed, Tice said the man inferred he had gotten the money from cousins in Atlanta in the Mexican restaurant business who were "members of the Mexican mafia."
Tice said the man told him that the mafia members "won't kill you, but they'll kill your family and we've got to get them this money."
Also, Tice said, the employee told Byrd Billings and Tice's ex-wife that Tice was in debt to the Mexican mafia in an effort to get those people to reinforce to Tice that he needed to pay back the money.
"Bud said, you know, 'I can't believe you got in such a bind you borrowed money from the Mexican mafia and you know how dangerous these people are and you know what they'll do,' " Tice said.Tice said he still owes the "employee" $1500 and he has missed two payments this month. Byrd Billings' civil lawsuit against Tice is still pending.
Henry Cab Tice Mexican Mafia: Henry Cab Tice Byrd Bud Billings Contract Murders
Byrd Billings, Melanie Billings Murdered: Parents of 16 Children
Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Stabs Inmate
Related and Background:
Sheriff Morgan, Patrick Gonzalez Contract Murders: Local Business Rivals Implicated?
Mark Turner Pete Moore Lawsuit: Bud Billings Pete Moore Connection
Mark Turner's Website
Patrick Poff Gonzalez Whack Bud Billings? Gonzalez Implicates MS-13
See Henry Cab Tice is Byrd Billings Arrested Debtor: Tice Billings Mexican Mafia?
Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Jr.: Gonzalez Criminal Counter Measure Expert
Byrd Billings, Melanie Billings Murdered: Billings Parents of 16 Children