WEST VALLEY CITY — A West Valley man admitted Friday to shooting and killing a code enforcement officer he had summoned to his house in a plea deal with prosecutors that spares him a possible death sentence.
Kevin Wayne Billings, 65, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a capital offense, in the death of officer Jill Lanette Robinson.
Billings had received city notices to clean up his yard and called Robinson a day earlier to set up a meeting about his violations, according to prosecutors. But when she came to his house on Aug. 9, he shot her.
Billings then tried "to set her lower torso on fire" and attempted to kill several dogs and a cat by setting fire to his neighbors' home, court documents show.
Police arrived at his home, 4102 W. Wendy Ave. (2925 South), to find Robinson's body and see her city truck in flames. The neighboring home with several animals inside also was ablaze.
Robinson, 52, was a West Valley code officer of more than a decade. In the hours following her death, co-workers recalled her as a grandmother with a great smile who cared deeply about her job and loved softball.
"We are devastated that we will not have one last phone call, one last vacation, one last Christmas, one last family party, one last anything with her, not even a goodbye," her cousin Tracy Maxfield told a judge at a December hearing.
In exchange for Billings' guilty plea, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. Instead, they will recommend a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole, said Jeffrey William Hall, chief deputy district attorney for Salt Lake County.
Defense attorney Nick Falcone said his client, a grandfather and the retired owner of a family excavation business, has long shown remorse and has often cried in their meetings.
"Kevin wanted to take full responsibility for the horrible actions that happened back in August," Falcone said. He noted that despite a history of fines based on violations of city codes related to his yard and property, his client had never been arrested for any other crime before Robinson's death.
"He felt like there was a lot of harassment happening, so that caused a lot of frustration," Falcone said. "We may never understand, really, what breaks somebody, but whatever the trigger was, so to speak, is something that we may never figure out."5 comments on this story
Billing's neighbors, Steph Sheen and Ryan Luke, escaped their burning house, but it was declared a total loss and their six dogs and two cats died in the fire. A week earlier, Billings had confronted Sheen, accusing her of working for the city and reporting him for a code violation, according to a spokeswoman for the couple.
In addition to aggravated murder, Billings also pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated arson, a first-degree felony; arson, a second-degree felony; and aggravated cruelty to an animal, a class A misdemeanor.
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed charges of desecration of a dead body and possession of explosive parts, third-degree felonies, and three other counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, class A misdemeanors.
Billings is scheduled to be sentenced May 6.