Deliberations Begin In Xbox Murder Trial

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - 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 over an Xbox video game system.

Ed Mills, 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.

Mills 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 is kind of a Charles Manson," said another Hunter attorney, Frank Bankowitz. "He had power over them. He could tell them what do. He could tell them when to be, where to be, how to be."

Jeff Dowdy, one of Victorino's attorneys, said his client was being unfairly blamed by the two other defendants.

"Their defense is: it's all Troy's fault. This is feeding frenzy, blame everything on Troy," Dowdy said. "We can accept the verdict. We're prepared to accept the verdict. But we do not want the verdict to be based upon people piling on Victorino. That's all we ask."

State Attorney John Tanner said it was unimportant who killed which person at the Deltona home.

"Who killed who? They killed them all," Tanner said.

Tanner disputed the claims by Salas and Hunter about fearing Victorino.

"They are not under his dominion," Tanner said.

The jury was expected to begin deliberations later Monday.

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.

However, 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.

After about an hour and a half of jury direction, the jury has begun to deliberate.

Previous Stories:

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.