Video: What’s next for kids?

updated 7/22/2009 2:56:52 PM ET 2009-07-22T18:56:52

The attorney for the family of a slain Florida couple said Wednesday that they had made a small donation to a martial arts program run by one of the men accused of killing them.

Byrd and Melanie Billings were shot to death earlier this month during a break-in at their home west of Pensacola. The couple was known for adopting 13 special needs children.

Investigators say suspect Leonard Gonzalez Jr. told them he knew the Billingses because he had received financial support from them to open a martial arts studio.

Family Attorney Crystal Spencer told reporters that the aid was just a small donation by Byrd Billings, probably less than $1,000, to a self-defense program that Gonzalez ran.

“He made a donation in a nominal amount. That would not have been out of his character,” Spencer told a news conference.

Gonzalez and six other men are charged with murder in the killings.

According to court documents released Tuesday, Fredrick Thornton, 19, said Gonzalez, 35, organized the July 9 attack and killed Byrd Billings, 66, and Melanie Billings, 43.

Gonzalez proclaimed his innocence in a statement he read at a court hearing after his arrest.

Thornton, who is one of seven people charged with murder, made the comments during a recorded interrogation in jail. The statement was included in an affidavit supporting a warrant to search a minivan belonging to one of the eight people arrested in the complex case. Authorities say the home was invaded by masked men dressed as ninjas. Their images were captured on a home security system.

The couple was killed in the bedroom of their sprawling home, while nine of their children were in other parts of the home. Another child went to a neighbor's home for help and the neighbor called authorities. All the children have various special needs and need nursing and other care. The Billings had 17 children total, 13 adopted, many with special needs.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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