Fla. fires 4 employees over murder suspect's handling

Felon allegedly slipped through cracks in system

August 10, 2004|By Alicia A. Caldwell, Bob Mahlburg and Lisa Emmerich | Alicia A. Caldwell, Bob Mahlburg and Lisa Emmerich,ORLANDO SENTINEL

DELTONA, Fla. - A veteran probation officer and three of his supervisors were fired yesterday as a result of a major failure of the state corrections system that missed several opportunities to put behind bars the suspected ringleader in the vicious beating and stabbing deaths of six people last week.

Troy Victorino, 27, a felon with a long and violent criminal history, met with his probation officer Thursday, hours before investigators say Victorino and three 18-year-old friends used aluminum baseball bats to bludgeon to death the six people in a Deltona home Friday.

The officer failed to arrest Victorino at the meeting even though the ex-convict had been in court a week earlier on a felony battery charge. The probation officer then failed to submit documents within the required 48 hours of learning of the arrest that could have sent Victorino back to prison.

According to Florida Department of Corrections procedures, officer Richard Burrow could have arrested Victorino without a warrant when the two met for Victorino's routine monthly check in on Thursday. Instead, Burrow let Victorino go free.

"They knew he had been arrested five days earlier," said department Secretary James Crosby Jr. "He was actually in the probation office. At that point, they could have called law enforcement and told them to come arrest him."

Another missed opportunity came July 30, one week before the slayings, when a county judge set Victorino's bail on the battery charge at $2,500 despite Victorino's history. Victorino posted a bond and was released the next day.

Bill Belanger, whose 22-year-old daughter Erin yesterday was the last victim to be positively identified, said he was appalled that Victorino slipped by so many officials.

"Animals like him are stealing our children," Belanger said. "They knew what kind of monster he was and did nothing."

Victorino was back in court yesterday, his second appearance there in 10 days. In a four-minute hearing, he whispered answers to the judge.

The three other suspects - Jerone Hunter, Robert Cannon and Michael Salas - stood silent in the courtroom. All four are charged with first-degree murder and were denied bail.

The four men are accused of kicking down the door of a house and killing all its inhabitants to get revenge on one of the residents who had taken Victorino's Xbox game system and some clothing.

That resident was Erin Belanger, who had discovered that several people had been staying in her grandparents' Deltona house, which was supposed to be vacant while the older couple was away. The group had been let in the house by another relative who had access to it, several family members said.

Erin Belanger called the police when she discovered the house was a shambles. While cleaning up, Belanger boxed Victorino's belongings, but he could not claim them because he was in jail at the time.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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