FLORIDA – Gonzalez death sentence upheld in Billings murders

April 11, 2014

The Florida Supreme Court unanimously upheld the conviction and death sentence for the man authorities said masterminded the robbery and killings of Byrd and Melanie Billings nearly five years ago.

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., 40, was convicted in 2010 of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of home invasion robbery with a firearm.

Gonzalez led a group of men who forced their way into the Billings home in Beulah in July 2009 and gunned down the couple during an attempted robbery. The Billingses had 17 children, 13 of them adopted. Nine of the children were home at the time of the killing.

On Feb. 17, 2011, Circuit Judge Nicholas Geeker followed a jury recommendation and sentenced Gonzalez to death.

In imposing the death sentence, Geeker found as aggravating factors that Gonzalez had a conviction for a prior violent felony, that the murder was committed during the course of a robbery, and his crimes were heinous, atrocious and cruel.

In upholding the conviction, the state Supreme Court found that the convictions were supported by competent, substantial evidence, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

“We’re very pleased with the decision and the court’s opinion on the sentence and use of the death penalty,” said Assistant State Attorney John Molchan, who prosecuted Gonzalez along with State Attorney Bill Eddins.

Although Gonzalez’s direct appeal was denied, he still can attempt to have his conviction or sentence overturned.

Gonzalez has the option to seek post-conviction relief, a review of whether deficiencies in his attorney’s performance led to Gonzalez’s conviction. He also can file a petition for a U.S. District Court to review the case, which could overturn the conviction or overturn his sentence.

ARIZONA – Death-row inmate suspected in Tempe slaying in 2000 – Albert Carreon

September 27, 2012 http://www.azcentral.com

Tempe police have arrested a gang member on suspicion of first-degree murder in the slaying of a man 12 years ago, using DNA and other evidence.

But suspect Albert Carreon, 50, wasn’t very hard to find. He already is on death row after his conviction and sentencing in a gang hit in Chandler 11 years ago.

Carreon, a New Mexican Mafia member, is now accused of first-degree murder in the slaying of Jose “Joey” Gonzalez, 20, who was found dead in a parked car on Dec. 20, 2000 at the Fiesta Village Townhouse complex in the 1400 block of West La Jolla in Tempe.

“The DNA is what really made the case. This guy was looked at as a potential suspect in 2005,” said Sgt. Jeff Glover, a Tempe police spokesman.

He said detectives determined that Gonzalez was shot to death at a different location, placed in a car he had borrowed from his girlfriend and driven to the townhouse complex, where his body was abandoned.

Jurors sentenced Carreon to death in April 2003 after finding him guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of Armando Hernandez inside a Chandler apartment. The victim’s girlfriend testified that Carreon stepped out of a bathroom with his gun drawn, accused Hernandez of being a snitch, shot him to death and then shot her four times.

Although the girlfriend was left for dead, she survived her wounds and testified against Carreon in a Maricopa County Superior Court trial. Carreon and Hernandez had been housed in adjoining cells in a maximum security prison in Florence.

A prosecutor argued during that trial that Carreon was hired to kill Hernandez by a gang member who believed that Hernandez was responsible for the arrest and conviction of the gang member’s brother.

Carreon’s disciplinary record in prison includes three major violations, including two assaults and a drug possession or manufacturing infraction.