Seven men who allegedly robbed a wealthy Florida couple with 17 children, then shot and killed them, were caught committing the crime on camera because the person designated to disable the security system failed to do so, police said Wednesday.
The news came as authorities revealed that a prominent local realtor police are calling a person of interest was located in Alabama.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said it is significant that the surveillance camera was not disarmed at the time of the robbery of Byrd and Melanie Billings, which he has described as "well planned" and "well executed."
Authorities believe it was someone's job to disable the equipment before the break-in was carried out, but that person apparently didn't show up.
"The execution of the operation was flawless except for the surveillance system," Morgan told reporters. "Why was the system left on in an otherwise perfectly executed murder?"
Seven men are in custody, charged in the Billings' murders last Thursday. The crime was captured by the elaborate surveillance camera system on their property the Billings used to keep track of their many children.
Morgan said Wednesday that an eighth person was supposed to turn it off but did not.
Investigators don't know the identity of the mysterious person assigned to turn off the camera system or why that person didn't show up. He speculated that maybe it was an attack of conscience.
"Who knows?" he said. It also wasn't known whether the shut-down was to have happened remotely or on the property.
Wednesday evening, authorities arrested and charged a woman they had earlier sought help finding.
Pamela Long Wiggins — who was initially identified by authorities as Pamela Long — was charged with accessory after the fact to felony murder, Sheriff Morgan said. She was arrested after coming in voluntarily and being questioned with her lawyer for several hours, Morgan said. He declined to identify the lawyer.
Morgan declined to give details on why Wiggins was charged, saying only that State Attorney Bill Eddins would join him at a news conference Thursday to discuss details of her involvement.
"The complexity of this case is staggering," Morgan said. "We're trying to slow this process down ... and ensure that we do not jeopardize in any way the prosecutorial phase in this case."
Police in Orange Beach, Ala., about 30 miles from Pensacola, found the 47-year-old woman aboard a boat at a marina Wednesday afternoon.
Morgan said earlier that Wiggins is friends with and rents a home in suburban Gulf Breeze to 35-year-old Leonard Gonzalez Jr., whom Morgan described as a "pivotal person" in organizing the break-in at the Billings home.
He said detectives have identified at least one other person of interest in addition to Long whom he described as being associated with the security and surveillance system at the sprawling nine-bedroom Billings home.
He said all seven of the men who robbed and killed the couple known for adopting children with special needs are in custody, and classified the murders as "solved."
The band of suspects trained for a month to carry out the break-in, police said earlier Wednesday.
Investigators "verified yesterday that this team, this group of people, had been in training at least 30 days, a month, prior to the execution of it at the Billings' compound," Morgan told the CBS "Early Show."
The robbers entered from the front and rear and left within 10 minutes, according to Morgan. The men were in the house for just four minutes. Video captured during that time led investigators to a red van used as a getaway car and eventually to the suspects.
The seven men include day laborers and an Air Force staff sergeant, and all are jailed on murder and other charges. Detectives say there is an eighth arrest coming.
What is mystifying about the case, Morgan said, is that none of the men were close friends or knew each other well — other than the father and son pair in custody. Two of the men had done some work at the Billings house in the past, but nothing extensive, he said.
Morgan said investigators believe they know who shot the couple but he declined to give more details.
"We have identified, in fact, who participated or I should say was the active shooter in this case. We've been asked not to release that at this time," he told CBS.
The couple had 17 children — four biological from previous marriages and 13 adopted, many of them disabled or having other special needs. Nine children were at the home when the Billingses were killed. Three saw the intruders but were not hurt.
The suspects arrested since the weekend range in age from 16 to 56. Several were day laborers who knew each other through a pressure washing business and an auto detailer they worked for. One, Donnie Ray Stallworth, was with the Air Force Special Operations Command with an aircraft maintenance squadron at Hurlburt Field near Fort Walton Beach. It wasn't clear how he knew the others.
Stallworth had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan five times since 2002, an Air Force spokesman said.
Authorities have said the suspects, some dressed as ninjas, stole a safe and other items during the break-in Thursday. They would not say what was in the safe or what else was taken.
Some of the masked men entered through the front door, while others slipped in through an unlocked utility door in the back.
Morgan has called 35-year-old suspect Gonzalez Jr. a "pivotal person" in organizing the crime, but stopped short of identifying him as the mastermind. He is charged with murder and read a statement in court Tuesday proclaiming his innocence.
His father, Leonard Gonzalez Sr., 56, was charged with evidence tampering after authorities said he tried to cover up some damage on a red van seen on surveillance video pulling away from the house. Officials said the damage was unrelated to the crime.
Day laborer Wayne Coldiron, 41, is charged with murder. He sometimes worked for a pressure washing business owned by the elder Gonzalez.
The other suspects arrested were Gary Sumner, 31, a day laborer, 19-year-old Frederick Lee Thornton, and a 16-year-old whom officials are not naming because he is a minor.
State Attorney Bill Eddins said he would seek first-degree murder indictments from a grand jury against all the suspects, including Gonzalez Sr. He would not say whether he will seek the death penalty. He said robbery was the main motive.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.