To fully understand the business, political, criminal climate of Pensacola at the time of the death of Byrd and Melanie Billings, you must understand all the players in the “good ole boy” system.
April 30, 2002
W.D. Childers, Willie Junior, Mike Bass and Terry Smith, all Escambia County Commissioners, were indicted on political corruption charges including bribery, coercion, and racketeering. This was the soccer complex scandal. The commissioners offered to buy the defunct complex and Stalnaker dealership from Joe Elliott and his wife for an exorbitant amount of money, far exceeding the value of the property. These commissioners were paid to vote for the deal. What comes out in the wash with casualties is the laundering of money from “unnamed” sources. Stalnaker Mazda, an auto dealership in Pensacola is one of the many tied to organized crime. W.D. Childers is convicted and jailed ending a 30 year political career that included a seat on the Florida Senate for 8 years.
Willie Junior, a character in the Pensacola landscape owned a funeral home. He became the first black commissioner since Reconstruction in 1977. He was a presence in the history of the city. In 1986, he made news for having a drive-thru mortuary. People could drive by to see their beloved in a window. He was flashy and lived far beyond his means. Junior slept around and gave at least one mistress a job until the affair ended when he promptly fired her. Historically innovative and eccentric to boot, he was convicted like Childers. In Willie style of drama, he conveniently disappeared before he was sentenced. For a month, no one knew what happened to Willie. It was speculated he fled or was in hiding in the city. He was still causing news in his own way until December 9, 2004, Willie’s body was found under an ex employee’s house. He had 2 Heineken beers and a empty bottle of pills. The autopsy said cause of death was due to anti-freeze poisoning that had been in the beer. To everyone this was just too bizarre to be a suicide. Willie Junior had style. He was a legend in his own mind. Would he go get a haircut on November 9th and crawl underneath a rundown house like a dog to die? If anybody has seen the movie “Next Friday”, Willie Junior reminds me of Pinky from that movie. He was that kind of man. Crawling under a house? Not dramatic enough for Willie. Just doesn’t make sense.
Until you look at Willie, he issued a 6 paragraph public statement saying W.D. Childers’s greediness got him into this and he was going to “blow the lid of further corruptions” by W.D. Childers, Mike Bass, Terry Smith and others. Not a smart thing to say publicly. He agreed to be a “star witness” in further investigations. Then Willie is found dead under a house. This is the Pensacola that gave birth to Ron Samuels’s cocaine dealing and hiring of hit men, as well as the Billings Murders. Screwing with the money train of the Pensacola auto business is deadly. This is all linked my friends.