Investigator says DNA tests tie defendants to slayings

Published July 19, 2006

ST. AUGUSTINE - Investigators found blood from three of six slain friends on boots worn by a man charged with organizing the killings, a DNA expert testified Tuesday.

Blood from three victims was also found on baseball bats that two other defendants admitted using, Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigator Emily Booth Varan said in the murder trial of the three men charged with the beating and stabbing deaths.

Varan said DNA testing showed the Lugz boots had been worn by Troy Victorino, the alleged ringleader in the slayings, and that blood on those boots came from victims Erin Belanger, Anthony Vega and Francisco Ayo-Roman. Bloody prints matching the boots were found at the murder scene.

Victorino, 29, Michael Salas and Jerone Hunter, both 20, are charged with the slayings at a Deltona home on Aug. 6, 2004.

Investigators said Victorino was angry because Belanger took his Xbox video game system and clothing from her grandparents' vacant home where he had been squatting.

Salas and Hunter later told police they hit victims with baseball bats, which authorities found in a pond using a map from Salas.

Varan testified there was a mixture of blood from Belanger, Ayo-Roman and Roberto Gonzales on one bat and DNA from Gonzales on another. Two bats lacked DNA evidence and none yielded fingerprints.

Later Tuesday, a corrections officer testified that when Salas was jailed as a suspect in the slayings, he asked for protective custody, because "I killed someone" on the written request form.