What Kind of Sick Bastard Does This?

This is the kind of thing that makes you want to re-think opposing the death penalty:

Authorities have made an arrest in the killings of a Gulf Coast couple known for adopting special-needs children, a sheriff’s spokesman said Sunday.

Investigators announced Saturday night that two people were being questioned in the killings of Byrd and Melanie Billings, who were found dead in their Beulah, Florida, home Thursday night. Sgt. Ted Roy, a spokesman for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, told CNN that one person had been arrested Sunday afternoon.

Eight children found in the Billings home were unharmed and were being cared for by relatives at “an undisclosed location,” Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said Saturday night. They range in age from infancy to 11 years, police said.

Just pure evil.






55 replies
  1. 1
    Spiffy McBang says:

    A moment of devilish advocacy, if I may…

    I don’t see anything in there that suggests these people were targeted for their good deeds or some such. Unless I’m missing something, then, wouldn’t the kind of sick bastard who does this be the same kind of sick bastard who goes into anyone’s home, anywhere, at any time, and commits a heinous act of violence?

  2. 2
    John Cole says:

    I know what you were saying, but I would argue it takes a special kind of evil to kill someone while a dozen special needs kids are the house.

  3. 3
    EconWatcher says:

    Horrible. I’ve always thought that people who oppose the death penalty as always immoral have a weak argument. (Did Israel commit a moral wrong by hanging Eichmann? Really?) No, the more persuasive argument is that miscarriages of justice are just too common in this country, especially for those too poor to hire a decent lawyer. That argument is more persuasive, and has the additional merit of being true.

  4. 4
    AhabTRuler says:

    that makes you want to re-think opposing the death penalty

    No, it doesn’t.

  5. 5
    Lesley says:

    There are always cases like this that make one’s blood boil, but the reason I oppose the death penalty is not because I care about bastards like this enduring, but because innocent people are convicted and sentenced – most of them poor without the resources. I wouldn’t want their deaths on my conscience.

    The US has punitive sentencing for crimes like this. The perpetrators are likely to get life with no possibility of parole.

    Canadian sentencing is much less punitive and it infuriates me to not end. One serial killer was let off on a deal after serving seven years. Serial sex offenders, including pedophiles, usually get out after serving a few months or a few years. We’re idiots up here.

  6. 6
    MikeJ says:

    Funny econwatcher, I’ve always thought the exact opposite. It’s wrong to kill people. It’s even wrong to kill bad people. It doesn’t matter how bad they are, it’s wrong to kill people.

    The argument that if only we were more efficient at killing people it would be morally acceptable seems much less persuasive to me.

  7. 7
    Spiffy McBang says:

    @John Cole: Yeah, I understand your viewpoint. My line of thought is simply, if someone is going to break into a stranger’s house with the capability of murdering them in cold blood, the presence of special kids may not even register at all. And even if they do notice, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if it only happens peripherally. The level of instant recognition required to understand just how much more horrible what they’re about to do might be, relative to doing it in any other house on the block, isn’t there.

    But it is a fucked up, sad thing, and if it turns out the perps get the chair instead of life simply because they were unfortunate enough to rob and murder two legitimate Samaritans, that’s too damn bad for them. I just wish criminals who do the same thing to a crackwhore and her abusive husband would get equivalent punishment.

  8. 8
    gex says:

    It makes me rethink it not one bit. The reason we have a death penalty is because proponents can present gruesome cases like this. And then the system turns around and uses it to put to death poor black men convicted by eye witnesses who “saw” them at the convenience store from a block away at night.

    I’m more of the “I’d rather let the occasional monster avoid the death penalty and spend life in prison” than I am a “who cares if the occasional innocent person gets put to death” kind of person.

  9. 9
    Shygetz says:

    It’s wrong to kill people. It’s even wrong to kill bad people. It doesn’t matter how bad they are, it’s wrong to kill people.

    I’m sorry, but unless you believe that you are protected by some kind of hoo-doo witchcraft, this is a silly basis for morality. It’s wrong to shoot a man who is about to shoot me, or my wife, or my kids?

    The argument that if only we were more efficient at killing people it would be morally acceptable seems much less persuasive to me.

    Nice straw man. No, we are terribly effective at killing people; the argument is if we were more efficient at correctly assigning blame, killing certain perpetrators would be morally acceptable. And I find it very persuasive. I’m with EconWatcher; the only reason I oppose the death penalty in all cases is because we aren’t good enough at determining guilt and innocence, and we apply the death penalty unfairly.

  10. 10
    Lesley says:

    MikeJ, it’s not wrong to kill in self-defense.

    If you have a prison system that can guarantee incarceration for the worst killers/rapists etc, I agree. And for the most part you do.

    I can think of one death sentence carried out where the relief was palpable, even among those who opposed the death penalty: Ted Bundy. He escaped from prison five times, and may have murdered 300 women before he was executed. Bundy was a prolific killer and a real charmer. He even fooled Anne Rule, an expert on serial killers. They were “friends.”

    She witnessed his execution and said it was for the best.

  11. 11
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    The news conference on right now, the sherriff says he is anxious to share the motive with America, because it’s a humdinger. I guess police jargon for weird.

  12. 12
    EconWatcher says:

    MikeJ, I respect your opinion. But I will say that I don’t think you’ll ever get anyone else to change their opinion on the death penalty by expressing it. Many people–including many decent, moral people–think that the death penalty is justified and morally appropriate for some truly heinous crimes. When you condemn the death penalty as inherently morally wrong, you imply that people who believe differently are somehow morally deficient. That won’t persuade them.

    But from what I’ve seen, if you lay out some of the truly outrageous cases where wrongful convictions have occurred, the decent folks among the pro-death penalty crowd start to budge. Of course, some on that side are just bloodthirsty and don’t really care if a few innocents get caught in the net. But many do. I think the DNA exonerations in recent years help explain the gradual decline in public support for the death penalty (although it’s still supported by a solid majority). If you want abolition, you might want to focus your arguments there.

  13. 13
    Spiffy McBang says:

    @MikeJ: I’m pretty certain what Econ is saying is not we should be more efficient at killing people, but getting the right people before we decide on execution.

  14. 14
    Lesley says:

    Life with no parole is sufficient punishment. It’s not as if prison is a picnic (unless you’re one of those high falutin’ white collar bastards from High Finance Inc.)

  15. 15
    AhabTRuler says:

    but getting the right people before we decide on execution.

    It isn’t ever going to happen, ever, so give up on it. “We need to reform the system” is what people tell themselves what supporting the death penalty in an obscenely corrupt and biased CJ system that is stacked against the poor and many minorities. It’s a weak shibboleth, and a crutch for those who don’t want to face how cruel and arbitrary the CJ system is.

    But the Hurricane is playing on Showtime, so it’s ok.

  16. 16

    If I may be even more devilish than Spiffy McBang:

    If you read the rest of the article, (not that this makes the killing any more acceptable), not all of the kids were special-needs.

    The Billings have 16 children; 12 of them were adopted, some of whom have special needs

    Just saying, “while a dozen special needs kids are the house” smacks of — well, ok, not gonna go where I was thinking of going; suffice it to say, it’s inaccurate.
    That’s an awful lot of adoptees–again, not at all to excuse the killing, but someone may have thought the couple was making a lot of money off the checks from the state (though it takes a certain kind of idiocy to think that [a] it’s that much money, and [b] that it doesn’t get eaten up by, y’know, providing for the kids
    Finally, it’s not unheard of for [a] grown-up special-needs adoptees [of the emotional/behavioral s-n variety] to do very bad things and/or [b] serial adopters to have mistreated adoptees while under their care, leading to further psychic/emotional damage. Again, not excusing the killing and certainly not claiming that the couple had it coming.

  17. 17
    evie says:

    By all accounts, they were shot dead in their sleep. I think people who are raped and tortured prior to their death have a better case to make for the death penalty.

    It’s all absurdly subjective, which is one of the many reasons this country should not sanction executing human beings.

  18. 18
    gex says:

    getting the right people before we decide on execution

    And here’s where the debate over the death penalty is decided for me. Where in life has anyone individually or collectively achieved perfection? Nowhere.

    Which leaves this problem: Murder is an offense that is deserving of the death penalty. A system that includes the death penalty will inevitably murder an innocent person in time. Therefore we as a society have become murderers deserving of the death penalty.

  19. 19
    MikeJ says:

    I’m sorry, but unless you believe that you are protected by some kind of hoo-doo witchcraft, this is a silly basis for morality. It’s wrong to shoot a man who is about to shoot me, or my wife, or my kids?

    I didn’t say it was always avoidable. I said it was wrong. If backed into a corner, yeah, I’d probably kill someone if I “had to”. Killing people is still wrong. If there’s no time to do anything else to prevent greater harm, it may be the lesser of two evils, but still evil. It is never the case that there is no alternative when you’ve got somebody locked up and on trial.

    But I will say that I don’t think you’ll ever get anyone else to change their opinion on the death penalty by expressing it.

    This is probably true. There are certain people that you will never convince that molesting children is wrong. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say that it is wrong simply because you’ll hurt their feelings.

    I’m willing to use the efficiency argument to stop the government (i.e., us, the citizens) from killing people. But I was discussing what’s right, not what works.

  20. 20
    Spiffy McBang says:

    @AhabTRuler and @gex: : I already gave up on it. Any disinclination I have for the death penalty is based entirely on the errors of the justice system. I understand the moral argument against it, but I also know there are circumstances that would drive me to choke the life out of somebody and feel it utterly just. So I’m leaving that aspect of it alone.

  21. 21
    db says:

    Not for me.

    And I don’t say that because I trivialize these lives lost and the impact that it has on those left behind (for this happens in just about every murder, no?).

    First, I am sure you can find some heart-wrenching story of innocent lives ruined because of some over zealous prosecutor and police dept looking for publicity. Would you reconsider if you knew some aggressive prosecutor in Pensacola was now willing to look the other way in face of coerced confessions or planted evidence?

    Second, we do not know the who, what, and why of this horrible tragedy. More to the point, did the individual(s) who committed this crime know the victims were such benevolent caregivers? And if the criminal(s) did know this and that is the basis of your opinion, it is a slippery slope you now climb.

  22. 22
    someguy says:

    @ shygetz

    It’s wrong to shoot a man who is about to shoot me, or my wife, or my kids?

    I’m calling bullshit on this, that you can’t trust 12 people to decide whether or not somebody should be killed, but you trust yourself to make the same decision. Okay for you, but not for us?

    Oh, I get it. It was the ticking bomb scenario and you were forced to take action to pre-empt the attack. Got it.

  23. 23

    I’ve been gone all day, so I haven’t heard any updates, but when I read about this yesterday, my first thought was, there is more to this story than a random home invasion. Guess we’ll see now that they’ve made an arrest.

  24. 24
    EconWatcher says:

    By the way, for a bit of good news, check out this chart:

    http://deathpenaltyinfo.org/executions-year

    The fight to abolish the death penalty is being gradually won, but not before state legislatures. It’s being won in front of juries (and in the offices of prosecutors, who seek the penalty much less often these days than they did a decade ago because they know that public support is waning).

    Why is support waning? I don’t think it’s because of a massive shift in abstract moral sentiment. It’s because of the steady stream of news reports about faulty crime labs, dubious medical examiners, planted evidence, and the like.

  25. 25
    db says:

    P.S. – West Memphis Three.

    Heinous murder. Heinous trials.

  26. 26
    evie says:

    This article makes my point. There are a lot of sick bastards out there.

    http://tinyurl.com/l6uw7h

  27. 27
    AhabTRuler says:

    I already gave up on it. Any disinclination I have for the death penalty is based entirely on the errors of the justice system.

    If you grant the point, then the continuance of the death penalty is necessarily morally offensive, irregardless of whether you think retributive death is moral in the abstract.

  28. 28
    Ash says:

    @General Winfield Stuck: There’s a motive? The last I heard it was just a robbery gone bad.

  29. 29

    @Shygetz:

    My former boss (an attorney) was arguing to the jury in a death penalty case. The crime was disgusting, they had basically kidnapped two people who worked at a Pawn Shop, driven them into the woods and executed them. Her argument (she was court appointed) was “is it right to kill some one to show that it is wrong to kill someone?” I thought it was a very strong argument and it worked, the perps got life. Whenever I talk about this I am always reminded of the Timothy Evans case, (which is a classic case of an innocent guy who was executed because he was illiterate and not very bright and basically resulted in the abolition of the death penalty in the UK), I am of the “it is better than ten guilty men are acquitted than one innocent man is executed” or whatever the phrase is.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Evans

    However, I am almost with John on this, how any vile creature could look at these parents, who have been saints to so many children, and see someone to rob and kill, I would be hard pressed NOT to advocate for the death penalty if the evidence were such that there were no doubt of the suspects guilt. If they are guilty, fry em.

  30. 30
    evie says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    So how many kids must a person have to be worthy of their murderer being killed? Or is execution reserved for those with children who have disabilities? Should we develop a Sainthood scale to help us decide whether a particular person’s murderer lives or dies?

    The death penalty is always going to be randomly applied, which is one of the reasons it needs to be eliminated across the board.

  31. 31
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @Ash:

    Just a little while ago I heard the sherriff say that it was a “humdinger”, whatever that means, and didn’t say what it was unless I missed it.

  32. 32

    @evie:

    Evie not what I am saying, I have always been anti-dealth penalty, there are simply far too many mistakes, far too many screw ups of so called evidence. I am not saying that these people were more deserving of “victim status” than any other, but from what I have read they went out of their way to adopt pretty much unadoptable children, they dedicated their lives to making childrens lives better. Do I think there is a difference in victimhood? Sure, if you put these people next to the drug dealer who spends his days peddling to addicts and kills people as a result of the drugs he sells, and he gets shot as a result of a bad drug deal does his killer deserve the death penalty? Nope, occupational hazard as far as I am concerned. I am sure you would not put this couple in the same category as the “drug dealers killing each other” category would you? This was obviously planned, these evil, evil people decided to target a couple who had done nothing but give a home to children who otherwise would have grown up in a group home or an orphanage, I think they have earned the right to be “elevated” to the status of “innocent” victims.

  33. 33
    Spiffy McBang says:

    @AhabTRuler: I think we’re getting into semantics, and I have to go to work anyway, so this will end my contribution to this thread:

    Death penalty under current justice system: bad idea all the way through

    Retributive death in general, assuming correct perp is identified: depends on crime

    What would be an appropriate sentence by law for this or that is not for me to say. But, deep down, I really wish we could knock off a few serial rapists, whether they killed anyone or not.

  34. 34
    Rob Wolfe says:

    No, it really doesn’t, or at least it shouldn’t. If it does, then you have to start thinking about which victim is worth executing someone over.
    Sorry, but I don’t know that I could ever be prepared to attempt to defend that particular argument.

  35. 35
    lotus says:

    @Lesley: #10

    I have a small Ted Bundy story for you. Years ago a friend of mine, a Florida appellate public defender, showed me a penciled note the office had just received from him. “Please send me a fan,” he wrote from Death Row. “If you don’t, I’ll just fry. Well, actually, I’ll just fry anyway.”

    And before long he did. Though seeing just his handwriting chilled me, I didn’t and don’t feel good about living in the state that did that.

  36. 36
    TenguPhule says:

    If backed into a corner, yeah, I’d probably kill someone if I “had to”. Killing people is still wrong. If there’s no time to do anything else to prevent greater harm, it may be the lesser of two evils, but still evil.

    You have a great career ahead of you in designing death traps for James Bond.

  37. 37
    The next-to-last samurai says:

    I once asked my MA teacher if he thought a woman could swing a wooden sword hard enough to kill. There was no such case on record in Japan, where he studied, so he couldn’t say. This seems like an excellent case for the experiment, assuming the guy is found guilty. Now that I have aired my moral outrage, I will say more seriously that I would like a nationwide moratorium on executions because the legal system is so haphazard.

  38. 38
    Martin says:

    No doubt someone who was opposed to the ADA on philosophical grounds because it subverts meritocracy. If the kids are going to get anywhere, they’ll need to learn to use those fancy bootstraps the taxpayers no doubt paid for.

    Now that I have aired my moral outrage, I will say more seriously that I would like a nationwide moratorium on executions because the legal system is so haphazard.

    It’s not haphazard – black on white crimes get executed, none others do. Seems very predictable to me.

  39. 39
    demimondian says:

    @Shygetz: Yes, it is. It’s just that allowing them to be killed is more wrong.

    Someone who is imprisoned and warehoused poses no threat to anyone.

  40. 40
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @someguy:

    I’m calling bullshit on this, that you can’t trust 12 people to decide whether or not somebody should be killed, but you trust yourself to make the same decision. Okay for you, but not for us?

    Actually, I’ll call bs on yours.

    If I honestly believe it is a choice between my (or my wife or daughter’s) life and the other person, I’ll kill the other person. Morality loses to self-preservation. But here’s the kicker – I expect to be tried should that happen. So those 12 people are still going to get in on the act.

  41. 41
    PaulW says:

    My primary argument against the death penalty is that justice is imperfect: innocent people do go to jail, and can end up on death row for a number of horrible reasons (lousy lawyers, sadistic judge, overzealous prosecution, lazy juries). And when you execute an innocent, there’s no way to bring him/her back (if we did, we’d be bringing back murder victims anyway).

    My primary argument for the death penalty is that there are some people – real evil bastards – that you absolutely positively do not want EVER to get out of jail again. Ted Bundy is the poster child for this: HE ESCAPED from a jail and went on to kill more women and little girls. Life in prison for the likes of Bundy is meaningless if they can get out again…

  42. 42
    AhabTRuler says:

    @Kirk Spencer: Not in Texas, Florida, and a number of other states!

  43. 43
    kth says:

    Even if it could be ensured that only criminals whose guilt was impossible to doubt were executed, I’d be against the DP. I’ll never lose much sleep over the likes of McVeigh or Dahmer or Bundy getting executed. But it’s a barbarian practice. It should be banned outright, not because the killers deserve better, but because we should expect more from ourselves.

  44. 44
    confitesprit says:

    State sponsored killing is barbarism, plain and simple. Its lure is the powerful siren song of vengence and retribution, and nothing more. Unfortunately, there is pure evil in the world, but the death penalty will not quell it, no matter how efficiently applied. Furthermore, it will forever remain so, and that is not the same as justice. In my opinion, we need to get over that impulse, and the sooner the better. We are, or should be, a more elightened people.
    Another way of saying this, and one that is more aggressive in its way, is that vengence and retribution is for the weak. It would take real collective strength for us all to be able look pure evil in the eye and say “I’m not going there, we are more civilized than that”. Not as satisfying to one’s own violent impulses (and yes, we all have them), I know, but there you go.

  45. 45
    kth says:

    @confitesprit: We said much the same thing. You were more eloquent. But I was first, which on the internet means I win.

  46. 46
    rcareaga says:

    Wouldn’t “pure” evil kill the special needs kids as well?

  47. 47
    Ella in NM says:

    Something I find very interesting:

    The same essential arguments used to justify the death penalty are used to justify torture, whether it’s to protect the public or reduce the rate of murder/violence or to seek individual retribution. All of them seem to come from some place in our hearts that gets a bit of an animalistic thrill from throwing off the “suit of mail” that is civilization.

    But the truth is we ALL know it’s terribly, darkly wrong, and that in a good society, we’d have neither.

  48. 48
    Bob says:

    I wouldn’t cry over Charlie Manson getting the chair, or any other mass murderer getting whacked, but these cases aren’t the problem are they?

    It’s when we execute the wrong guy that I have a problem. There was a murder not more than 6 miles from my house a few years back. The wrong guy sat in prison for over a year. Glad Michigan doesn’t have the death penalty. The actual (likely) killer is now in jail.

    On a related note, I have always wondered how those people who have the least faith in government are the most supportive of government having the authority to execute. Please explain.

  49. 49
    gex says:

    @Bob: Uh, cuz it’s mostly black guys who get the death penalty? SATSQ.

  50. 50
    Bob says:

    @ gex…or maybe to the conservative, it is more important to kill someone for the crime, vs. the actual perpetrator.

  51. 51
    confitesprit says:

    @kth,

    Yes, you are correct. I read your note just as I was finishing mine, and thought that I should still continue to add my voice to yours (and the others of similar vein in this thread) anyway. The more we can speak out for that we which believe, the better, IMHO.

    Thanks.

  52. 52
    Ruckus says:

    I’ll add my voice to the others. The death penalty is not about justice, it’s about retribution.
    And it’s not that we don’t all have it in all of us to want retribution, it should be about all of us being better humans. Or at least trying.
    I think we need to question why do some countries have many, many fewer murders per capita, and no death penalty? What is it about americans which makes at least some of us think that this works?
    I like my country but we have some fucked up customs and practices that really screw up a lot of lives. The death penalty, crappy health care, the rich get richer and the rest screwed (that one probably is universal, just not as well practiced), great ideals for our government and laws, many of which are ignored in the execution, wars on everything (brute force sometimes works on pickle jars, not as well on most everything else), our general public political discourse seems to consist of lying long and hard enough to make people believe the lies. Is it like this everywhere or just some of our quaint traits?

  53. 53
    mclaren says:

    Conservatives.

  54. 54
    Molly says:

    @demimondian: I don’t believe in the death penalty, because I think locking these guys up for life is a worse punishment than death.

    Control. Take away their control. Make them live every minute of their lives in the knowledge that they no longer have control over anyone, especially their victims. Don’t pay any attention to them; ignore them.

    You kill them, it’s over. You keep them alive, they live every day knowing they will never be free, never have control again, never have anything else but the tedium of every day being the same thing, over and over.

    Let them get old and feeble and die in a cage. This may sound pitiless. Yes, it is. I was a victim of one of these guys. If we don’t kill them, solves a lot of these questions we struggle with, and for me, it satisfies my need for justice.

  55. 55
    BruinKid says:

    Everyone keeps bringing up DNA cases where the accused is exonerated. But what about when the DNA evidence helps prove that the culprit is indeed guilty of the crime?

    If the argument to stop the death penalty is based on DNA evidence, what then, when the evidence proves their guilt?

Comments are closed.