WEST VALLEY CITY — An assault-style rifle, a handgun, bolt cutters, a propane torch and gas containers were all found by police between the house of a man accused of burning down his neighbor's house and killing a West Valley code enforcement officer, and his victims, police said Friday.
Kevin Wayne Billings, 64, of West Valley City, was arrested Thursday for investigation of aggravated murder, aggravated arson and arson.
Billings is accused of fatally shooting Jill Robinson, 52, a code enforcement officer for the city, as she arrived at Billings' home, 4102 W. Wendy Ave. (2925 South), about 10:20 a.m. Thursday as part of a follow-up investigation. He also set her truck and his neighbor's house on fire, according to police.
Robinson "had previous dealings with the suspect regarding code enforcement issues at his residence," according to a Salt Lake County Jail report. A witness saw Billings "pouring what they believed to be gasoline around a West Valley City compliance truck which he then ignited," the report states.
"After 40 years of harassment, the (woman) got what she deserved," Billings allegedly said while standing in his driveway, according to the report.
When fire crews arrived, the house to the west of Billings, 4114 W. Wendy Ave., was fully engulfed.
That homeowner "reported that he heard what he thought were gunshots as well as an 'explosion' coming from his basement as it lit on fire. The homeowner was inside of a detached garage on his property at the time the fire started. The homeowner believed that he and his home were targeted by Billings," the report states.
Police later served a search warrant for the crime scene and found "a large hole cut in the fence between the homes and the fire at the victim’s home. Arson investigators on scene determined … that the deck in the victim’s backyard was the targeted area," the report states.
The neighbors, Stephanie Sheen and Ryan Luke, escaped their burning home, but it was declared a total loss and their six dogs and two cats died in the fire.
Luke said that he initially thought the fire was in his basement.
"I didn’t know that another human being had lit the back of my house on fire with an accelerant,” he said.
On Friday, both Luke and Sheen tearfully remembered their pets as their "children."
"They were so special, every single one of them,” said Sheen, who is a veterinarian.
Luke called the loss of their animals "senseless."
"I'm finding how sick this person was. I mean, it’s mental illness. He was a hoarder. It had nothing to do with us. It had something to do with us but it had nothing to do with us because we had no play in it. We had no role in it, other than I did my civic duty to help a code enforcement officer, who was already here, asking about this property or trying to look at this property which was blocked off,” he said.
Luke said neither he nor his wife had ever called the city about Billings, they never had any dispute with him and had hardly even spoken with him.
"I’ve spent a total of four minutes speaking with that man in four years,” he said.
But when Robinson showed up about a week ago, she asked Luke if she could use his backyard to look into Billings' yard.
Later, Billings approached Sheen while she was in her driveway and accused her of working for the city and turning him in.
"'It had to have been you and it’s caused me a lot of problems,'" she recalled Billings telling her. "And he said that a couple of times."
Sheen works for Animal Care Center of Bountiful and Salt Lake City. The company set up a GoFundMe page to help her and her husband try to get back on their feet.
"This may be a very dark time in the lives of Stephanie and Ryan, losing their fur family in one angry fire that consumed all of their possessions as well. All within a horrible, senseless act where another family lost a grandmother, mother, sister, daughter, friend," the post says.
A fund called the Steph & Ryan Rebuild Fund was also set up at all Key Bank locations.
Billings was arrested in his driveway Thursday by arriving officers. Salt Lake police are investigating the shooting and Unified Fire Authority is investigating the fire at the request of West Valley officials because the case involves a city employee.
In 1997, when Billings lived at a different address in West Valley City, he was charged in 3rd District Court in West Jordan with accumulation of solid waste, "removal of abandoned and wrecked vehicle," and "property to be kept clean and secure," according to court records. All the charges are class B misdemeanors.
A bench warrant was issued for Billings when he failed to show up for court. But it expired in 2000 and the case was dismissed in 2001, court records state.
In a separate case in 1997, Billings was charged in West Valley Justice Court with "front yard regulation" and "storage of solid waste," both class B misdemeanors. That case was also eventually dismissed.25 comments on this story
In 1995, Billings was found guilty of accumulating solid waste and not keeping his property clean, class B misdemeanors. In 1992, he was convicted of "storage of bulky waste," and accumulation of solid waste, according to court records.
In 1987, Billings was charged with two health ordinance violations, but the charges were later dismissed.
Code enforcement officers are not armed. West Valley pulled all of its code officers off the street following Thursday's shooting until further notice.
Contributing: Paul Nelson