The Missing Murder Suspect
In an exclusive report, The Daily Beast’s Rick Outzen reveals that Henry “Cab” Tice, the man under investigation in connection with the Billings murders, cannot be found.
In an exclusive report, The Daily Beast’s Rick Outzen reveals that Henry “Cab” Tice, the man under investigation in connection with the Billings murders in Florida, cannot be found.
Henry Cabell “Cab” Tice, the used-car dealer that The Daily Beast exclusively reported as central to an investigation into whether the deaths of Byrd and Melanie Billings were murders for hire, has left the Pensacola area and cannot be found, according to an informed source.
Now Henry “Cab” Tice cannot be found, just like the cars from his car lot.
The Billings, parents of 17, were shot to death by masked intruders inside their secluded home in rural Beulah, Florida, on July 9. Nine of their children were in the house at the time of the murders; three of them saw the men in the home and may be witnesses to the shootings.
Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. has been identified by Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan as the leader of the gang, and one suspect has named Gonzalez as the lone shooter in this double homicide. Gonzalez, who is in jail without bond along with six other intruders, once worked for Tice.
All seven home intruders are charged with two open counts of murder. An eighth suspect, Pamela Wiggins, has been charged with being an accessory after the fact and is out on $10,000 bond.
Last week, The Daily Beast exclusively reported that investigators had been told that the home invasion and the murders were more than simply a robbery gone badly. Authorities were being told by those they questioned that the killings were a contract hit, and that Gonzalez was paid between $20,000 and $50,000 to kill the Billings. Tice, a business associate of Byrd “Bud” Billings, was named by witnesses as the person paying for the hits. (In a press conference given by the sheriff on Friday, Tice's name was not mentioned.)
After The Daily Beast reported on Tice’s possible connection to the Billings murders, several national news networks contacted him. Tice told reporters that he only had $140 in his checking account and that he owed no money to Billings. After being questioned by the Dateline NBC crew and promising them an on-air interview, Tice contacted me by email.
“I am hiring an attorney tomorrow and I am going to pursue every legal means possible to expose you as the opportunist that you are. You have exploited this horrible tragedy to increase your circulation and readership of your blog.
I never contracted anyone to kill Bud and Melanie. I am innocent of these charges and you remind me of the Klu Klux Klan who hid behind white masks and robes while destroying people. Your cloak is your unnamed sources. How can an innocent man defend himself against unnamed sources? I will tell you how.
By litigating against you and exposing your shoddy journalism on Prime Time television. I will have no problem answering you in that venue. You think that this tragedy has given you an opportunity to catapult you [sic] dinky blog and newspaper to new heights.
The email went on for several more paragraphs and was signed “Henry C. Tice.”
The Daily Beast also received an email from Tice that read, in part, “The sherriff's [sic] department stated that the motive for this horrible tragdey [sic] was robbery and they were not looking into the murder for hire aspects.Mr Outzen has published the contrary and has slanderdered [sic] me. You have published his writings. This is a demand to remove this from your blog.Itf [sic] this is not done I will file suit against your organization.”
After sending these emails, Tice began telling the national media that he had hired an attorney and would hold a huge press conference on Monday, July 27 attacking Outzen and The Daily Beast.
The press conference never happened and now Tice cannot be found, just like the cars from his car lot.
Cab Tice owned Hispanic-American Auto Sales, which sold used cars in the Pensacola area. According to Crystal Spencer, the attorney for the Billings children, there was a business relationship between the Billings and Tice.
“Markham Auto Sales financed the floor plans of Henry Cabell Tice’s auto dealership,” says Spencer. “Worldco Financial Services financed the purchases of Tice’s customers.” Both Markham and Worldco were affiliated with Byrd and Melanie Billings.
A review of the website of the Florida Secretary of State revealed a State of Florida Uniform Commercial Code Financing Statement between Hispanic-American Auto Sales and Henry Cabell Tice and Worldco Financial Services, dated August 17, 2007. It is for the vehicle inventory, parts and accessories, and other assets at Hispanic-American Auto Sales.
In 2008, Deborah Tice, the ex-wife of Cab Tice and an officer and shareholder of Hispanic-American Auto Sales, filed a lawsuit against the company, Cab Tice, and Lucy Stolfi, an officer of the company. In the suit, Ms. Tice asserted that Cab Tice was "committing acts which were illegal and fraudulent to the creditors" of Hispanic-American Auto Sales.
Cab Tice countersued his ex-wife for “improperly appropriating corporate funds for her own personal benefit by withdrawing $30,000 from the corporation as President.” The lawsuit was later voluntary dismissed. In an email to me, Ms. Tice said, “I never proved any of the charges that were made against him. I gave up and got a divorce just to have it over.”
However, sources close to Bud Billings have told The Daily Beast that Billings had believed he discovered several cars had “disappeared” from Cab Tice’s car lot. According to their loan agreement, Worldco was to be paid as cars were being sold off the lot.
Bud Billings suspected that the missing cars possibly were being retitled in Alabama and shipped to Mexico and/or Honduras to be sold. Worldco was left holding the titles to cars that appeared to be gone. Spencer, the Billings children’s lawyer, told The Daily Beast that Tice does owe Billings money, but would not state the exact amount. The Daily Beast has heard figures between $150,000 and $350,000.
Rick Outzen is publisher and editor of Independent News, the alternative newsweekly for Northwest Florida.