A Better Life Shattered


“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans…” – James 1:27

Byrd and Melanie Billings had a heart for special needs children. The couple, living in Beulah, Fla., each had two children from previous marriages but adopted 12 more, mostly developmentally challenged, some with Down syndrome and autism. The family has now been devastated after the couple was murdered in their own home over the weekend, in front of their children. One of the children told a neighbor that they didn’t have a mom and dad anymore.

Fortunately, arrests have already been made, thanks to tips from the public and from evidence obtained from a surveillance system in the couple’s home. The suspects are being charged with open murder, since the investigation is still ongoing and charges are likely to be added. The charge of open murder does not require prosecutors to request first or second-degree murder charges at arraignment or trial, but instead leaves it up to a jury to decide the appropriate degree of the charge.

The crime apparently happened very quickly. Sheriff David Morgan said, “We were very surprised by the rapidity of this operation. It was carried out with military precision, I’ll tell you that.” He added, “We are very anxious to share this story … it’s going to be a humdinger, I’ll tell you that.”

The Billings told an interviewer in 2005 that they wanted to share their wealth with children in need but never imagined that their family would grow so large. “It just happened,” Melanie told the newspaper. “I just wanted to give them a better life.”

As some of you who follow this blog know, I am the father of a special needs daughter. It’s difficult enough to raise one special needs child, let alone 12 of them. My heart goes out to the kids who had to go through this tragedy and now face the rest of their life without their mommy and daddy who cared so much for them. God bless the Billings for practicing what the Bible calls “pure religion”.

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