Defense attorneys tried to shift the blame from their clients in closing statements Monday in the murder trial of three men accused of killing six people in a revenge slaying, apparently started over an Xbox video game system.
Ed Hill, who represents Jerone Hunter, told jurors they should give little weight to the testimony of the other defendants, Troy Victorino and Michael Salas. Victorino is accused of organizing the baseball bat attacks because one of the victims took his Xbox and some clothing from a house he was squatting in.
Hill said Salas "will fabricate any story to save his own neck."
Jeff Dees, who represents Salas, said, "Hunter and Victorino killed everyone in that house. I don't see the evidence that Mike Salas ever intended to kill anybody."
Salas and Hunter testified that they hit some of the victims, but their lawyers said their clients denied inflicting any fatal blows.
Both attorneys claimed their clients were intimidated by Victorino, a 6-foot-7-inch, 270-pound convicted felon, and wouldn't have entered the house if they had not been threatened and coerced.
Victorino's defense attorneys and State Attorney John Tanner were to give their closing statements later Monday. The jury was expected to begin deliberations after that.
During seven days of testimony, jurors saw autopsy photographs and a video of the victims' bloodied and broken bodies at the crime scene. If jurors find the men guilty of first-degree murder, they will return later in the week to recommend whether they should receive life in prison or death by lethal injection.
Victorino denied even being at the home in Deltona on Aug. 6, 2004, when the massacre occurred. Victorino, 29, testified he was drinking with friends at a restaurant at the time of the killings. He denied involvement in the slayings.
But evidence linked him to the scene. Crime analysts said DNA evidence showed a pair of Lugz boots stained with the blood of several victims belonged to Victorino. Bloody prints matching the boots were also found at the crime scene.
Prosecutors claim Victorino became angry when victim Erin Belanger, 22, took his belongings from her grandparents' vacant home. Belanger had Victorino evicted when she found him and others squatting there. Victorino testified he had permission to be there and said he was not angry with Belanger.
In addition to Belanger, the victims were Francisco Ayo-Roman; Michelle Nathan, 19; Anthony Vega, 34; Roberto Gonzalez, 28, and Jonathan Gleason, 17.
A fourth defendant, Robert Cannon, 20, pleaded guilty in October to all the charges. But when he took the stand early in the trial, he refused to testify and said he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea because he was innocent. Chief Circuit Judge Bill Parsons hasn't decided whether he will allow the change.
The case was moved from DeLand to St. Augustine after Parsons determined he could not select an impartial jury because of intense news coverage.
Channel 4's Dan Leveton is in the courtroom for the closing arguments. He'll have live reports from St. Augustine on the local station beginning at 5 p.m.
- July 20, 2006: Defendants Deny Killing Anyone In Video Game Slayings
- July 19, 2006: 'Ringleader' Of Xbox Murders Takes Stand In His Defense
- July 18, 2006: State: Victims' Blood On Defendant's Bat, Boots
- July 17, 2006: Investigator: 2 Defendants Admit Beating 6 People Who Were Killed
- July 14, 2006: Judge Denies Mistrial In Xbox Slaying Case
- July 13, 2006: Star Witness In Alleged Xbox Slayings 'Can Say No More'
- July 12, 2006: Prosecutor Details 6 Grisly Slayings In 'Xbox Murder Trial'
- July 5, 2006: St. Johns Jurors Being Chosen To Hear Xbox Murder Trial
- April 10, 2006: Judge Rules Suspect In Deltona Slayings Competent To Stand Trial
- March 2, 2006: Judge Says Deltona Slayings Trial Will Remain In Volusia County
- March 24, 2005: Judge Seals Crime Scene, Autopsy Photos From Deltona Massacre
- February 21, 2005: Accused Ringleader In Deltona Slayings Says He Was Passed Out
- January 7, 2005: Witness In Deltona Slayings Says He Wants to Testify At Trial
- September 29, 2004: Deltona House Where 6 Were Killed Is Up For Sale
- September 14, 2004: Last Of 4 Accused In Deltona Slayings Pleads Not Guilty
- August 9, 2004: Men Accused In Brutal Slayings Denied Bond
- August 7, 2004: Six People Found Dead In Deltona Home