PENSACOLA, Fla. – A teenager charged in the July home-invasion deaths of a Pensacola couple known for adopting children with special needs has pleaded no contest to second-degree murder.
Thursday's plea by 19-year-old Frederick Thornton Jr. allows him to avoid a possible death penalty trial.
Thornton and six other men were charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Byrd and Melanie Billings. A woman has been charged as an accessory.
Attorneys say under Thornton's plea agreement, he could testify against others charged with killing the couple in their home as some of their nine, young children with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs watched.