An ex-convict who blamed a young woman for taking his video game system and clothes recruited three teenagers to stab and beat her and five others to death, investigators said Sunday.
The 22-year-old woman was singled out for an attack so vicious that even dental records were useless in trying to identify her. Some of the victims were attacked in their sleep, according to authorities.
The victims’ bodies were found Friday in a blood-spattered home.
All four suspects have been charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary, the Volusia County sheriff’s department said.
Suspected ringleader Troy Victorino, 27, of Deltona, was “very guarded” during questioning, Sheriff Ben Johnson said. Three 18-year-olds were also arrested Saturday: Robert Cannon of Orange City and Jerone Hunter and Michael Salas, both of Deltona.
All four were jailed in Daytona Beach while awaiting bail hearings Monday. Johnson wants prosecutors to seek the death penalty, saying, “These families will never get over this.”
Police said the attack was the culmination of events revolving around a nearby vacant home owned by one of the victims’ grandparents and used by Victorino and other squatters as a party house. The four men and two women who were slain had reported being harassed by the alleged assailants.
Theft of Xbox system
“Officials struggling to come up with a motive for the crime believe the killings were committed over the theft of some clothes and an Xbox game system owned by Victorino,” a statement from the sheriff’s office said.
All four suspects were armed with aluminum bats when Victorino kicked in the locked front door, according to arrest records. The group, who wore black clothes and had scarves on their faces, grabbed knives inside and attacked victims in different rooms of the three-bedroom house, authorities said.
The victims, some of whom were sleeping, did not put up a fight or try to escape, Johnson said. All had been stabbed, but autopsies determined the cause of death was the beating injuries.
Victorino has spent eight of the last 11 years in prison and was arrested Saturday for a probation violation. His first arrest was in an auto theft when he was 15, according to state records. He has prior convictions for battery, arson, burglary, auto theft and theft.
Hunter, who was with Victorino when he was arrested Saturday, agreed to accompany investigators for questioning. Police said he admitted his role in the slayings and identified the other two suspects.
All four suspects appeared before a judge Saturday without attorneys. They will have a chance to ask for court-appointed lawyers on Monday.
Hunter, a high school wrestler, moved out of his family’s house in May but recently agreed to return home for his senior year.
“He never seemed to be that type ... that was violent,” his father Dan Washington said. “He was a good kid, he just got with the wrong crowd.”
The sheriff’s office has identified five of the victims as Michelle Ann Nathan, 19; Anthony Vega, 34; Roberto “Tito” Gonzalez, 28, who recently moved from New York; Francisco Ayo Roman, 30; and Jonathan Gleason, 18.
The sixth victim was believed to be Erin Belanger, 22, whose grandparents own the vacant home and spent the summer in Maine.
Joe Abshire, Belanger’s brother-in-law, said she described heading to the vacant house to go swimming one day and finding about six people living there. The squatters were kicked out, but deputies were called to the grandparents’ house six times in 10 days before the killings. The victims reported a tire-slashing at their home and a threat.
The squatters warned Belanger that “they were going to come back there and beat her with a baseball bat when she was sleeping,” Abshire, who is married to Erin’s sister Jennifer, told The Sun of Lowell, Mass., for Sunday editions.
Victorino complained that his belongings were removed from the grandparents’ house while he was in jail following a July 29 arrest for battery, Johnson said. He said Victorino found his things boxed up at the victims’ house and took them after the killings.
The bodies were discovered in the rental home in the working-class community about 25 miles north of Orlando after one of Nathan’s co-workers at a Burger King asked someone to visit the house because she had not arrived for work.