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Weeping dad tells of horror, found too late

The Miccosukee Indian says he didn't know his sons were in the truck he swamped to punish their mother.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2001

MIAMI -- Kirk Douglas Billie, on trial for the drowning of his two sons, wept Thursday as he testified that he did not know the boys were asleep in the back seat of their mother's sport utility vehicle when he drove it into a canal.

Billie, 32, said he was in jail on a prowling charge hours after dumping the Chevrolet Tahoe when the boys' mother, Sheila Tiger, and his parents asked him where it was.

The Miccosukee Indian said he didn't think the boys were inside until he told his father in a holding cell that he had dumped the truck and a tribal officer called for help.

"I overheard him calling the rescue. And when I heard that, that pretty much . . . " Billie said, his voice breaking, "told me . . . that they were in there."

The boys, 5-year-old Kurt and 3-year-old Keith, were asleep on the back seat when the vehicle disappeared in the canal during the predawn hours of June 27, 1997.

Billie was expected to take the stand again today for questioning by prosecutors. If convicted, he could face a penalty anywhere from 15 years in prison to a death sentence.

Asked why he decided to dump Tiger's truck, Billie said he was driving it when he remembered repeatedly telling her not to drive up and down the Everglades reservation road at night with the boys. He said he mistakenly thought that's what she had been doing that night.

"I said, "Well, hell; I know one way to slow her down.' So I pulled over, put the truck on the edge" of the canal, got out with it in gear and let it drop in the 60-foot-wide canal, he said.

"Did you have any idea your children were back there?" asked defense attorney Ed O'Donnell. "Nope," Billie replied.

Nobody had told him the boys were in the Tahoe, and Tiger and her mother had told him they were asleep at the mother's house, he testified.

The prosecution charges that Billie was violent and abusive toward women and planned to kill the boys to punish Tiger, citing a note left in her trailer that read, "Don't ever think the kids will stop me."

Billie said he wrote in Tiger's notebook months before as a threat to report Tiger, then 20, to child protection workers for neglecting their children and house.

Prosecutors showed jurors photos of a toppled television and satellite dish in Tiger's bedroom to illustrate Billie's temper. He said he stumbled over clothing on the floor of the messy trailer after a long day and night of drinking beer and brought the TV down when he fell.

Billie was expected to be the last witness called by the defense.

The case came to trial over the objections of the 500-member tribe, which forgave Billie weeks after the deaths.

The trial was delayed three months as prosecutors tried to get permission to serve subpoenas on reservation residents, but both a federal judge and the tribal court refused.

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