Homeowner: ‘Senseless tragedy over hoarded junk’

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WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (News4Utah) –  It was a loud explosion that got Ryan Luke’s attention.

He was working from home on a project when the noise made him look around.

“It was like boom, beep, beep, beep,” said Luke.  And I just ran down and I held the door open and I was trying to save the cat and smoke and fire just blew into my face.”

The home belonging to Luke and his wife Stepanie Sheen was on fire.  He said he got a hose and tried to put it out.

“I saw a pickup on fire next door and just thought those flames drifted towards my house,” he said.

Little did he know what had unfolded.

Across the street, Sheri Zinn also came outside after hearing two loud booms.  She saw Sheen’s house on fire and then noticed his neighbor Kevin Billings with a can of gasoline and pouring it onto a pickup truck belonging to West Valley City.

“And until he stepped out from the vehicle and bent down and lit the fire, that’s when I said ‘oh my God’ and that (fire) went up,” she said.

She got closer and then saw the body belonging to Jill Robinson lying on the sidewalk.  Robinson had been shot to death.  Police said the 52-year-old came to the home after receiving a complaint.

“I seen (Billings) sitting on a chair and he was sitting there with kind of a grin on his face,” she said. 

Zinn said she was a former EMT and touched Robinson to see if she was still alive.  But there was no pulse.  Zinn said she had been shot in the face and was laying face down.

“I walked right up to him and he had no gun,” Zinn recalled.  “I said ‘Kevin, what have you done? Why? Why?’ He said ‘I’ve had enough harassment for 40 years and I’ve had enough.”

By that time, other neighbors had arrived and the fire at Luke’s home was intensifying.

“That’s when neighbors told me the back part of my house was on fire,” he said.  “I put the hose down and tried to find my pets.  I was calling them and screaming for them and all I heard was a little (whine) and that was it.  I was reaching for them.”

But the smoke was too much for him and he retreated.  That’s when he saw the commotion coming from Billings’ house.

West Valley police arrived and arrested him without any resistance.  In a probable cause statement filed at the jail, Billings allegedly told the officers: “After 40 years of harassment the b**** got what she deserved.”

Luke said he knew Billings was a hoarder.  He said in April, Robinson came to his home and asked permission to use his backyard to photograph Billings’ backyard.

“I didn’t even know his first name,” Luke said.  “I can literally say I’ve never done a single thing to provoke that man.  I do know that the city asked me a question and if they could look through my backyard.”

But he said he never called the city to complain about Billings.   He said code enforcement published those pictures and believed Billings saw them and blamed him for his troubles.
  
“It’s a senseless tragedy and a dedicated public servant was killed in cold blood over junk, over hoarded junk,” he said.
 
Luke and his wife said they’ll survive this nightmare.  But they also are saddened over Robinson’s death.

“We didn’t do anything to deserve this,” Sheen said.  “The woman who lost her life didn’t do anything to deserve this.  It’s completely senseless and it’s such a tragedy.”

Sheen is a veterinarian and her friends at the Animal Care Center and Utah Dog Park have set up a Gofundme account to help rebuild their lives.

As for Billings, he remained in the Salt Lake County jail with no opportunity for bail.  He was booked in jail for aggravated murder, aggravated arson and destruction of property.

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