Florida Department of Corrections

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Senior, one of the principals in the 2009 slayings of Byrd and Melanie Billings, has died in prison at the age of 62.

As is the case with every inmate death, the Department of Corrections will investigate Gonzalez’ passing, with the Medical Examiner determining the cause of death. DOC spokesman McKinley Lewis says the Inspector General’s Office will also investigate, which is standard procedure.

Gonzalez was serving 17 and a half years for his involvement in the slayings, which occurred at the Billings’ home in Beulah on July 9, 2009.

One of the principals in the slayings of Byrd and Melanie Billings will remain in prison. Leonard Gonzalez Sr.s motion for early parole went before the Florida Commission on Offender Review on Wednesday.

On a 3-0 vote, the Commission decided that the 62-year-old Gonzalez will continue to serve his 17 and a half year sentence. State Attorney Bill Eddins, one of the chief prosecutors in Gonzalez’ case, says the Department of Corrections had requested the early release.

Florida Department of Corrections

Florida’s new Secretary of Corrections is facing questions from state lawmakers concerning confidence, inmate deaths, and complaints of abuse from officers. The main question appears to center on the agency’s ability to police itself.

Julie Jones was named to the post on January 5. Two weeks later, she met with various legislators on her game plan to restore confidence and ease concerns.

“I’m a very plain-spoken honest person, and we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing in order to get this thing fixed,” said Jones.


Gov. Rick Scott’s trip to Pensacola last week involved more than just a closed political fundraiser. He also heard about the controversial plan to relocate a state probation and parole office to the city’s North Hill neighborhood.

The Governor  Friday directed Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews to renew the office’s existing lease at the current facility on North Davis Highway. Plans were to move the offices to the old Coca-Cola plant on Palafox. That drew fire from a number of North Hill residents at the last City Council meeting.