DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A judge delivered death sentences Thursday to the ringleader and a participant in the bloody beating deaths of six people over an Xbox video game system.
Troy Victorino, 29, and Jerone Hunter, 20, were sentenced by Chief Circuit Judge Bill Parsons after their convictions on first-degree murder for the 2004 slaughter of six people in a Deltona house. Neither man showed emotion when the verdicts were read.
A jury recommended death for both Hunter and the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Victorino, but the final decision of life in prison without parole or death rested with Parsons.
The judge noted that blood was found on the floors, ceilings and walls of the house where the six victims were found.
"The victims were not only killed, they were brutalized," Parsons said. "It was a revenge killing by Hunter and Victorino. The murders were performed in a cool, calm, calculated manner."
Victorino organized the attacks with Hunter and two other younger men to retrieve the video game system and other belongings after he was kicked out of a house in which he was squatting. Defense attorneys for the three other men found guilty painted him as a manipulative, menacing figure who threatened the others if they refused to participate.
The six victims suffered blows to the head causing severe skull fractures and brain injury, a medical examiner determined. Several of the bodies were also mutilated with stab wounds and cuts after death, and some victims were missing most of their teeth.
The judge ignored previous arguments by Hunter's attorney Ed Mills, who had argued his client should not receive the death penalty because he suffers from schizophrenia. Jeff Dowdy, Victorino's attorney, had asked Parsons to spare his client because he has mental problems and was abused as a child.
First Assistant State Attorney David R. Smith said, "We are pleased and grateful with the victory and the death sentence."
Michael Salas and Robert Anthony Cannon, both 20, were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for their involvement. Cannon had pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution, but declared his innocence at trial and refused to answer questions.
Killed were Erin Belanger, 22; Michelle Nathan, 19; Francisco Ayo-Roman, 30; Anthony Vega, 34; Roberto Gonzalez, 28, and Jonathan Gleason, 17. Many of the victims worked at a Burger King in Deltona.
About 30 family members of the victims attended the hearings, many hugging each other as the sentences were read.
"I just never want them to walk the streets again, just to stay there forever and ever so they can't be around to do this to other people," Nathan's mother, Kay Shukwit, said. "They're going to get what they deserve."
Gleason's mother said she expected Hunter and Victorino to be sentenced to death but she was frustrated that they would have the opportunity to file appeals, possibly spending years on death row.
"I'm not satisfied because I feel my son died, but nothing is coming out of it. This is just a step in the process," Patricia Gleason said. "Justice is not swift. It's a total and absolute joke. Here is your punishment, but we don't mean it."
Hunter's parents also attended his sentencing hearing, but declined to speak with reporters as they left the courtroom.