ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida – Three men accused of orchestrating a revenge killing of six people over an Xbox video game were convicted of first-degree murder Tuesday.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated about six hours before returning its verdict against ringleader Troy Victorino, 29, and Michael Salas and Jerone Hunter, both 20.
Prosecutors said Victorino was angry with victim Erin Belanger, 22, who had him evicted when she found him living in her grandmother's home in Deltona. She kept some of his belongings, including some clothing and the video game system.
They said he recruited his two co-defendants for the baseball bat attacks against the six victims, believing one of them had taken his Xbox game system and some clothing from a house where he had been squatting.
Jurors will have to return to recommend whether the men should receive life in prison or death by lethal injection.
Lawyers for Jerone Hunter and Michael Salas argued Monday in closing arguments that their clients were intimidated and coerced by Victorino.
"Victorino is kind of a Charles Manson," said Frank Bankowitz, an attorney for Hunter. "He had power over them."
Attorney Jeff Dowdy, one of Victorino's attorneys, said his client was being subjected to a "feeding frenzy" of blame.
Salas and Hunter, both 20, testified that they hit some of the victims, but their attorneys said both deny inflicting any fatal blows.
Attorneys for Hunter and Salas also blamed each other's clients for following Victorino's lead in the massacre.
Victorino, 29, testified he was drinking with friends at a restaurant at the time of the killings in Deltona. However, crime analysts said blood from several of the victims was found on his boots.
Prosecutor John Tanner told jurors during his closing argument that the finger-pointing by defendants is unimportant.
"Who killed who? They killed them all," he said.
A fourth defendant, Robert Cannon, 20, pleaded guilty in October to his role in the killings, but he refused to testify at his co-defendants' trial, saying he was innocent and wanted to withdraw his plea. Chief Circuit Judge Bill Parsons has not decided whether he will allow the change.