Murder suspect back in Florida
Published 11:48 am Wednesday, July 29, 2009
By By Kerry Whipple Bean
Donald Ray Stallworth Jr. was back in Florida Tuesday after extradition papers were signed by the governors of both Florida and Alabama.
Stallworth is one of seven suspects charged with murder in the shooting deaths of Byrd and Melanie Billings, a Beulah, Fla., couple known in their community for adopting 13 special needs children.
Escambia County Chief Deputy Mike Lambert confirmed Monday that the sheriff’s department had received extradition papers for Stallworth.
Stallworth turned himself in to local authorities in Brewton — his hometown — on July 13 and has been held in the Escambia County jail since. He declined to waive extradition at his first hearing, and was ordered held last week by Circuit Judge Bert Rice after an evidentiary hearing found there was enough cause to hold him on a murder charge.
At the July 20 hearing, Rice ordered Stallworth held without bond.
An Escambia County sheriff’s investigator testified at the evidentiary hearing that another suspect picked Stallworth out of a photo lineup and identified him as one of the men who entered the Billings home with a gun the night the couple was killed.
The same suspect, Wayne Coldiron, told the sheriff’s investigator that Stallworth also carried a small safe out of the house.
That safe — containing family legal papers and jewelry — was later found buried in the backyard of another suspect, Pamela Long Wiggins, who has been charged with accessory after the fact. Long Wiggins is the only suspect out on bond.
According to legal documents released in the case, another suspect said that there was only one shooter the night of the murders — Leonard Patrick Gonzales Jr.
Gonzales Jr. has denied his involvement in court.
Stallworth’s attorney, David White, has said that his client was only implicated by Coldiron, a man previously convicted of violent crimes.
Stallworth is a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant assigned to the Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squad at Hurlburt Field near Fort Walton, Fla. He is a 1999 graduate of T.R. Miller High School.