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Daughter to raise couple's children

Ashley Markham, shown last week with her husband, Blue, says she will move in to her former home to raise the 13 children adopted by her slain parents, Byrd and Melanie Billings of Pensacola.

Associated Press

Ashley Markham, shown last week with her husband, Blue, says she will move in to her former home to raise the 13 children adopted by her slain parents, Byrd and Melanie Billings of Pensacola.

PENSACOLA — The adult daughter of a slain Florida couple known for adopting 13 special needs children said she is planning to move into her parents' home and raise the children as her own.

Ashley Markham, 26, told the Pensacola News Journal that she and her husband intend to care for the children, saying it was her mother's wish.

A phone message was left by the Associated Press on Sunday with her attorney, Crystal Spencer.

Markham also defended her parents, Byrd and Melanie Billings, whose lives and deaths had gained national attention since the July 9 attack.

Byrd Billings, 66, was an entrepreneur who had dabbled in used cars, boats and the adult entertainment industry. His 43-year-old wife was a country music lover who fed the homeless and was devoted to her MySpace page. They adopted 13 children with autism, Down's syndrome and other developmental disabilities and lived in a sprawling home west of Pensacola.

Markham said her father was able to build a comfortable life for the family through a lifetime of hard work and planning.

"My dad is a very smart businessman. My dad worked from 6 in the morning to 8 at night Monday through Saturday," Markham said.

The Billingses were found slain at their home in what authorities described as a well-executed invasion captured on surveillance video. Nine of the couple's children were in the home during the attack, though none were injured. Eight people have been arrested in the case, including a teenager, an Air Force sergeant and an antiques mall owner.

The children were taken back to the house Saturday for the first time since the killings.

Markham said the house now has new doors and carpeting. A security gate is going in and locks have been changed.

"There were 20 family friends out there cleaning," she said. The children were eager to get back home to their toys and go swimming, she said.

Daughter to raise couple's children 07/19/09 [Last modified: Sunday, July 19, 2009 8:49pm]
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