Florida mass murder blamed on Xbox

Violent ex-con and several squatters allegedly slay entire household to recover gaming console.

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One week after the UK was rocked by an allegedly Manhunt-inspired murder, the US has its own game-related slaying. On Friday, Sheriff's deputies discovered the bodies of four men and two women in the central Florida town of Deltona. All had been stabbed and beaten with baseball bats, some so brutally that they could not be identified by dental records. All had been killed in their sleep, along with the family's pet dog.

What could drive someone to commit such vicious homicides? According to the media, the slayings were committed because of a dispute over an Xbox console. Echoing last week's "Murder by PlayStation" reports in British tabloids, American news outlets like CNN ("Sheriff: 4 charged in Florida killings over Xbox") and the Associated Press ("Police: Xbox Theft Spurred Fla. Slayings") ran headlines trumpeting the Microsoft console as the primary reason for the crime.

However, the stories beneath the headlines paint a more complex picture. According to reports, the sequence of events that led to the mass murder began August 1, when Erin Belanger, 22, went to the vacant Deltona home used by her grandparents as a winter getaway. Once there, she discovered 27-year-old ex-convict Troy Victorino and several squatters living at the home, which they had been using as a "party house" since July.

Upset, Belanger kicked Victorino and the others out of the property and took the belongings they left behind--which included an Xbox--back to the nearby house she shared with friends. According to the AP, sheriff's deputies were called to the vacation home six times over the next week to evict the squatters. Belanger also reported that Victorino threatened that if she did not return the Xbox and some of his clothes, he was going to "beat her with a baseball bat when she was sleeping."

Tragically, that's exactly what happened late Friday night, when Victorino and three accomplices--Robert Cannon, 18; Jerone Hunter, 18; and Michael Salas, 18--reportedly entered Belanger's house armed with aluminum baseball bats. According to confessions made by the teenage suspects, they proceeded to beat and stab everyone in the house to death: Belanger; her boyfriend, Francisco Roman, 30; Jonathan Gleason, 18; Roberto Gonzalez, 28; Michelle Nathan, 19; and Anthony Vega, 34. After Victorino surveyed the bloody scene to confirm everyone was dead, he grabbed the Xbox, and the four departed.

The bodies were found several hours later, when one of the victims' coworkers went to the house to see why he had not shown up for work. On Saturday, police took Victorino and Hunter in for questioning. Hunter quickly confessed, leading to the arrests of the other two suspects. All four are being charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary.

While most media reports have focused on the Xbox connection to the mass murder, few have outlined Victorino's extensive criminal history. According to the AP, Victorino spent eight of the last 11 years in prison and was on probation when he allegedly committed the murders. Since he was first arrested for grand theft auto at 15, he has been convicted of a string of violent crimes, including arson, burglary, theft, and assault and battery.

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