4 men charged in killing of 6 people in Fla. home

Convict allegedly rallied 3 teens to attack victims

August 09, 2004|By Alicia A. Caldwell and Lisa Emmerich | Alicia A. Caldwell and Lisa Emmerich,ORLANDO SENTINEL

DELTONA, Fla. - Dressed in black with scarves draped over their faces, four men armed with aluminum baseball bats burst into a house here and beat six people to death.

Their motive: revenge over a missing XBox video game player and a bundle of clothes, Volusia County sheriff's deputies said yesterday.

Investigators said that the Microsoft XBox, which retails for about $150, belonged to Troy Victorino and that he was bent on retaliating against the woman he blamed for its disappearance. Even friends feared Victorino, a 27-year-old with a long and violent criminal history.

"This was a senseless crime for a senseless reason," Sheriff Ben Johnson said.

"It's ridiculous," said Eva Echavarria, a friend of one of the victims.

Police said three of the suspects, all 18 years old, confessed to the killings, which occurred at 1 a.m. Friday. Some of the victims were sleeping when the attackers kicked in the front door. When deputies arrived later that morning, the house was bloody and all six people there were dead.

Four of the victims were couples who lived in the house and worked together. The two others were friends who happened to be staying the night.

Investigators picked up Victorino on Saturday on an unrelated warrant and arrested him hours later on six counts of first-degree murder after another suspect implicated him in the killings.

That suspect, Jerone Hunter of Deltona, gave police Victorino's name and the names of two others: Robert Cannon of Orange City and Michael Salas of Deltona. No one else is thought to have participated in the attack, deputies said.

Police called Victorino the group's "ringleader." Investigators said he rallied the others after one of the victims, 22-year-old Erin Belanger, removed his belongings from her grandparents' house, where Victorino had been squatting. He was living there without Belanger's grandparents' permission while they spent the summer up North, according to several relatives.

Victorino and a group of friends had turned the quaint ranch house into a round-the-clock party spot until Belanger discovered them and called the police.

After deputies sent the partiers away, Belanger cleaned up. She boxed up Victorino's XBox and clothes. He was in jail at the time, arrested on a felony assault charge, so she took the items to the house that she rented with friends.

When Victorino entered Belanger's home Friday, he wasn't looking to get his XBox back, he was looking for revenge, deputies said. That's why Belanger suffered the most savage death, her face so disfigured that dental records didn't help police identify her, Belanger's father said.

"It appears as though she was targeted," Johnson said. He said the victims had "no chance, no way" to defend themselves.

The irony, police said, was that Belanger had packed up the items to give back to Victorino.

The other victims were Belanger's boyfriend, Francisco "Flaco" Ayo Roman, 30; Michelle Nathan, 19; Nathan's boyfriend, Anthony Vega, 34; Jonathan Gleason, 17; and Roberto "Tito" Gonzalez, 28. All six worked or had worked at a nearby Burger King, which has remained closed since the bodies were discovered after one of the victims did not show up for work Friday.

At the time of the killings, Victorino was on probation for one assault and had recently been released on bail on charges of another.

Attempts to reach Victorino's family at home Saturday and yesterday were unsuccessful. Those who answered the door would not comment. Family members of other suspects also could not be contacted.

In the days after Victorino was released from jail, Belanger complained to family members that she had been threatened outside her home, and that her roommate's tires were slashed, said Belanger's brother-in-law, Joe Abshire, in a telephone interview from Massachusetts.

Belanger had called Abshire two days before she died.

"She was afraid for her life," Abshire said. "She said the police didn't take her seriously."

Sheriff's investigators said they were never told of those threats.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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