Stallworth investigation reveals new details
By By Kerry Whipple Bean
Before turning himself in to face charges of murder in the shooting deaths of Byrd and Melanie Billings, Brewton native Donnie Ray Stallworth Jr. told his wife he “did something really bad,” according to transcripts of police interviews released Monday.
Stallworth turned himself in to authorities in his hometown on July 13, four days after the Beulah, Fla., couple was found dead in their bedroom, with nine of their special needs children at home.
After initially fighting extradition, Stallworth was later returned to Florida to face charges of murder and home invasion. He pleaded not guilty last week, along with six co-defendants.
Details of the investigation were released Monday in the form of court documents, search warrants and extensive interviews with witnesses and others related to the case.
According to reports, most of the defendants have identified Leonard Patrick Gonzales Jr. as the man who shot both Byrd and Melanie Billings.
But a sheriff’s investigator at an evidentiary hearing in Brewton also said that, according to another suspect in the case, Stallworth entered the Billings home on July 9 with a gun, and he left carrying a safe.
The safe was later recovered at the home of Pamela Long Wiggins, who has been charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.
According to the court documents released Monday, a friend of Stallworth’s said he asked her if he could store a safe at her house. Marquita Scruggs told police that Stallworth, a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant stationed at Hurlburt Air Field near Fort Walton Beach, told her he was planning to be involved in a robbery.
Stallworth told her there would be money in the safe, she told investigators.
Scruggs also told investigators that Stallworth told her the robbery would net $300,000, and that his cut would be $70,000.
Stallworth told his wife Tasha that he spent time with his friend Gary Sumner — also a suspect — on the day of the murders, and he did not return home until 11 that night, she told investigators.
That weekend, he was acting strangely, and on Monday morning when they were watching the news about the murders, Stallworth put his head in his hands and began rocking.
Another man interviewed about the murders, Lonnie Smith, said Gonzales contacted him several times to ask him to take part in the crime. Lonnie Smith, who knew Gonzales through the used-car business, said he did not believe that the other men who took part in the home invasion knew anyone would be killed.
Stallworth knew Sumner from Fifth Dimensions, an auto detailing business Sumner owned. Some of the other suspects apparently were connected to the business as well.
One friend of Stallworth’s — who worked alongside him at Hurlburt — said Stallworth sent him a text message on the Monday he turned himself in to authorities. Stallworth asked his friend Robin Clemens to help watch out for Stallworth’s family.
Part of the text message included this advice, Clemens told investigators: