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Suspect in Xbox murders pleads guilty, will testify

By wire services
Published October 28, 2005

DAYTONA BEACH - One of the four men accused in the 2004 beating deaths of six people pleaded guilty Thursday and will avoid the death penalty.

Robert Anthony Cannon, 19, of Deltona agreed to testify against the other defendants and now faces life in prison without parole.

Cannon plead guilty to 14 charges, including six of capital first-degree murder, five counts of abusing a dead human body, one count of armed burglary of a dwelling and one count of a conspiracy to commit a crime.

Jerone Hunter, 19, Michael Salas, 19, and Troy Victorino, 28, the alleged mastermind, are also accused.

Investigators say Victorino organized the attack to retrieve an Xbox video game system he lost when he was kicked out of a different house where he was squatting.

The four allegedly barged into the Deltona home with baseball bats and bludgeoned the victims, who ranged in age from 17 to 34, and a small dog.

The state is seeking the death penalty at the Jan. 3 trial.

Investigators say all have confessed but Victorino, who has said he was drunk and passed out in a bar during the killings.

Pain clinic doctor charged in three drug deaths

MELBOURNE - A doctor was charged with manslaughter in the 2002 deaths of three patients taking painkillers he prescribed.

Dr. Sarfraz Mirza, 63, is charged with three counts of manslaughter and one count each of trafficking in morphine and oxycodone, both powerful painkillers.

Prosecutors say John Pasquale, Robert Billings and Julian Dunbar all died days after Mirza negligently wrote their prescriptions at his pain clinic.

Mirza's attorney, Greg Eisenmenger, said the accusations were "unfounded and ridiculous," and the state is unfairly blaming Mirza for his patients' failure to follow medical instructions.

Court: Sexual predator list not retroactive

TALLAHASSEE - An offender who did not qualify as a sexual predator when sentenced cannot later receive that designation even if the criteria are changed to include his crime, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Sexual predators must register with the state for the rest of their lives and their whereabouts are public information.

Chief Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in the unanimous opinion that the law plainly says sexual predator designations must be made at sentencing, not later, except for out-of-state convictions. John Richard Therrien did not meet the criteria when he was sentenced, she wrote.

Therrien was 16 in 1996 when charged with molesting a 9-year-old girl in Pensacola. Prosecuted as an adult, he pleaded no contest in August 1997 to attempted sexual battery by a person under 18 on a child under 12. The judge withheld adjudication and put Therrien on probation for five years.

The Legislature subsequently changed sexual predator criteria to include attempted sexual battery by a person under 18 on a child under 12. A judge granted the state's request to designate him as sexual predator under the revised law. That decision was upheld by the 1st District Court of Appeal, but the Supreme Court quashed the appellate ruling.

Assistant Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Snurkowski expected the Supreme Court's decision to affect a "very small" number of convicts.

Convicted killer to get new sentencing hearing

TALLAHASSEE - A death row inmate who fatally stabbed his wife's aunt during a robbery at her Port St. Lucie home will get a new sentencing hearing, the Florida Supreme Court decided Thursday.

The justices unanimously upheld the first-degree murder conviction of Daniel Ely Perez, 27, but voted 5-2 to vacate his death sentence, with Justices Charles Wells and Peggy Quince dissenting.

Perez was convicted of first-degree murder for the August 2001 death of Susan Martin. A co-defendant, Calvin C. Green, 23, is serving 15 years for manslaughter.

The Supreme Court majority found Martin's death was "unnecessarily torturous, conscienceless and pitiless," but that factor was improperly used to justify the death sentence. Perez contended Green committed the murder on his own and there was no other eyewitness evidence to contradict his testimony, the justices wrote.

A new jury will make a recommendation to the judge.

Carlie Brucia murder case jury selection continues

SARASOTA - At the end of the first week of jury selection in the murder trial of Joseph P. Smith, attorneys and Circuit Judge Andrew D. Owens have 151 prospective jurors to choose from.

Smith is scheduled to stand trial Nov. 7 in the February 2004 abduction, rape and slaying of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia in Sarasota. If convicted, Smith could receive the death penalty.

Owens selected an additional 60 jurors Thursday to add to the pool picked during the first two days. The judge questioned the prospective jurors on how much knowledge they had about the case and asked if they could put initial opinions aside and make a decision based solely on the evidence presented in court.

On Tuesday, the court will begin screening the pool on their beliefs on the death penalty. A final panel of 18 jurors - 12 with six alternates - will be chosen to hear the case.

At the end of Thursday's proceedings, attorneys were optimistic about the chances of seating a jury in Sarasota County for the highly publicized case.

-WIRES, BRADENTON HERALD

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