June 28, 1997 in Nation/World

Boys Die As Dad Lets Truck Roll Into Canal Despite Violent Past, He Denies Knowing His Sons Were Inside

From Wire Reports

Sheila Tiger went to a secret place Friday, a sacred place in the Everglades, to mourn her sons. That is the Miccosukee way. The dead boys were Kirk Billie’s sons too, but instead of the mourning place he went to jail: first-degree murder, two counts.

The children, Keith and Kurt Billie, 3 and 5 years old, drowned before dawn in their mother’s truck, upside down at the bottom of the Tamiami Canal, 38 miles west of downtown Miami.

Divers pulled the bodies of Keith Billie, 3, and Kurt Billie, 5, from the murky, 40-foot-deep canal on the Miccosukee Indian Reservation.

Metro-Dade County Detective Rudy Espinosa said Billie burst into tears every time he was asked about the children.

Did Billie know his sons were in the truck? Or did rage drive him to commit a mistake as devastating to himself as to the mother?

“He says he didn’t know. I think that’s what he wanted us to believe. We strongly believe that he did know,” said Jim McDermott, a homicide investigator who questioned the prisoner.

Relatives said the couple had a long history of domestic violence.

“He was just obsessed with her,” said Jacqueline Osceola, a cousin of the mother, identified by friends as Sheila Tiger. “He would call her every minute. He was threatening her, saying you’ll never see the kids again.”

Early Friday, the mother and a friend were driving around the area at about 5:30 a.m. and the friend let the mother off with a relative to protect her from Billie, police said.

The friend, who was driving the mother’s Chevy Tahoe, drove on with the two boys and their 1-year-old brother. When she spotted a car following her, she drove to a relative’s home, where she took the 1-year-old out of the car.

“Near the door of the house he confronts her and asks her where his girlfriend is … the Chevy’s engine is still running. He jumps in and drives away. She calls her friend, the mother, to tell her he took the truck, and the mother called the police immediately,” Espinosa said.

Espinosa said Billie jumped in the car and drove off with the boys inside. When he got to the canal, he got out and let it roll into the water, the detective said. The canal is about 40 feet deep.

Kirk Billie had left the reservation for a time, but returned in recent years and struggled with personal problems including previous brushes with the law and trouble holding a job, friends said. Billie had two outstanding warrants, for criminal mischief and for resisting arrest with violence.

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