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Officers released suspect before 6 Fla. killings

Troy Victorino walks past Volusia County corrections officers Monday on his way to his cell at the Branch Jail in Daytona Beach, Fla.David Tucker / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The state fired a probation officer and three supervisors Monday for allegedly failing to keep custody of an ex-convict who is the lead figure in the vicious beating and stabbing deaths of six people last week.

Corrections Secretary James Crosby said the employees missed key opportunities to put Troy Victorino in jail, including a visit to his probation office within a day of Thursday’s slayings.

Victorino, 27, was arrested July 29 on a battery charge, and the next day police notified probation officers, who were supposed to send a report to a judge requesting an arrest warrant for a probation violation within 48 hours, Crosby said. That paperwork was not sent until Friday, Crosby said.

Crosby had no answer for why Victorino slipped through the cracks.

“There is no excuse for this inaction,” Crosby said.

Police said the killings were the brutal culmination of an argument between Victorino and one of the victims, believed to be Erin Belanger, 22. She was singled out for a beating so brutal that even dental records were useless in trying to identify her.

Victorino and three teenage defendants have been charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary. The four were denied bond and appointed public defenders Monday during their first court appearance.

Clothes, video game system source of dispute
Authorities say the source of the dispute was an Xbox video game system and clothes owned by Victorino. Belanger’s grandparents, from Maine, own a Florida winter home that was supposed to be vacant this summer, but police said Victorino and other squatters used it in July as a party spot.

Joe Abshire, Belanger’s brother-in-law, said Erin had talked to him recently about heading to the vacant house to go swimming one day and finding about six people living there. The squatters were kicked out, but they left behind the Xbox and clothes. Belanger took the items back to the three-bedroom rental home she shared with friends.

Over the next days, deputies were called to the grandparents’ house six times. The victims also 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 told The Sun of Lowell, Mass., for Sunday editions.

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 as some of them slept, authorities said. Victorino, the last to leave the house, took the Xbox, police said.

‘Indescribable’ violence
The victims, who ranged in age from 18 to 34, were found in bloody beds, and on bloody floors, and there were crimson spatters on the walls and the ceiling.

“This is the worst thing that I’ve ever seen in my career,” said Sheriff Ben Johnson, a 33-year veteran of law enforcement. “The brutal force used against the victims ... it’s indescribable.”

Victorino has spent eight of the last 11 years in prison. 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.

Some relatives of the victims attended Monday’s hearing. “I wanted to see this. I wanted to see who murdered my daughter,” said Kay Shukwit, mother of 19-year-old Michelle Nathan. “I want to look at him.”