Appeal in 'Ninja' Robbery and Murder Case

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Associated Press Release

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Supreme Court is hearing an appeal from a karate instructor convicted of murdering a wealthy Pensacola couple with nine adopted special needs children.

The justices are hearing the case of Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr. on Wednesday in Tallahassee.

Gonzalez was accused of leading several men dressed like ninjas who robbed and killed Byrd and Melanie Billings in their home as their children slept or cowered nearby in 2009. The children suffer from such ailments as Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome and autism.

Circuit Judge Nickolas Geeker sentenced Gonzalez after a jury voted 10-2 to recommend the death penalty.

Other defendants, including Gonzalez's father, received lesser penalties.

The invaders took a safe but it contained nothing of value. A second safe that they missed contained $164,000, court records show.

AP-WF-12-05-12 0805GMT

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