A man who had pleaded guilty to killing six people in Deltona shocked prosecutors Thursday morning by taking the stand at the murder trial of three other men and claiming he is innocent.
Robert Cannon pleaded guilty in October to all the charges. In exchange for his testimony for the prosecution, he was to receive a life sentence.
As he took the stand, Cannon interrupted State Attorney John Tanner's questioning, saying "I want to say something to the court before I continue."
After Circuit Judge Bill Parsons sent the jury out of the courtroom, he continued.
"I want to say to the court that the Lord has touched me, and the Lord has said 'Do not do man's will, but do God's will,'" Cannon said. "I'm sorry I cannot make this testimony here today because I'm not guilty."
Prosecutors said the alleged ringleader, Troy Victorino, 29, sought revenge because he felt disrespected by one of the victims who allegedly took his Xbox video game system.
Also on trial are Michael Salas and Jerone Hunter, both 20. All three face six counts of first-degree murder, five counts of mutilating a dead human body and other felonies. If convicted, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
The victims were Erin Belanger, 22; Michelle Nathan, 19; Francisco Ayo-Roman, 30; Anthony Vega, 34; Roberto Gonzalez, 28, and Jonathan Gleason, 17. Most were co-workers at a Burger King in Deltona.
Cannon, who is 19, apologized to the families of the victims.
"From the bottom of my heard, I truly am sorry," Cannon said.
When asked about his agreement with prosecutors for a life sentence, he replied, "I am going to face death in the Lord's name."
Tanner refused to comment on Cannon's refusal to testify or whether it could again make him eligible for a death sentence.
The case was moved from DeLand to St. Augustine after it was determined media coverage of the 2004 deaths was too intense in central Florida, making it almost impossible to pick a fair jury.
In opening statements Wednesday, State Attorney John Tanner detailed the grisly murders in a Deltona home.
"The girls are screaming -- the solid, sickening sound of bats on flesh and bone. You hear the screams of the dog being smashed in the face. It will come alive for you in this trial," Tanner said. "This trial is their story and the search for the truth."
Attorney Jeffrey Dees, who represents Salas, said his client was not responsible for the slayings and did not know Victorino until just days before the killings.
"Michael Salas is not a killer. He did not kill anybody," Dees said. "He did not attempt to kill. He did not go into that house to kill anybody."
Victorino "used his size and his power and his anger to intimidate four 18-year-olds," Dees said. Victorino is 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighs about 270 pounds.
Michael Nielsen, who represents Victorino, asked to jury to keep an open mind and said Tanner's version of events may not be what actually happened. He also asked them to ignore media reports of the case.
"You are going to be asked by Mr. Tanner to make the most important decision in this young man's life. Your decision is going to last a lifetime," Nielsen said.