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The Nation

Six Found Dead in Florida Home

'It was the worst thing that we've ever seen,' the sheriff said of the brutality of the killings.

August 07, 2004|From the Orlando Sentinel

DELTONA, Fla. — The bodies of four men and two women were found scattered through a house in a quiet middle-class neighborhood Friday in what the sheriff called "a very, very brutal crime scene."

The six dead were discovered by a friend after one of the victims failed to show up for the morning shift at a nearby Burger King where several of the victims worked.

No arrests had been made and Volusia County sheriff's officials released little information about the crime or any suspects. But they were known to be looking into a series of disturbances and acts of vandalism that preceded the killings.

Sheriff Ben Johnson said the crime scene displayed "an extreme level of violence." Even a little brown dog in the home was killed, he said, and there was evidence of a struggle.

"It was the worst thing that we've ever seen," Johnson said.

Johnson would not identify the victims, say how they had been killed or speculate on a motive. But he said he was confident the victims were not chosen at random.

"I strongly believe these people knew their assailant," Johnson said. Detectives have identified what he called persons of interest. But, he added, "we have no one I would call an absolute suspect at this time."

The extent of the crime scene suggested there may have been more than one killer, Johnson said, but he said it's also possible the killer acted alone.

Friday was an agonizing day of waiting for the families and friends of those who lived in the home.

Steve Nathan, waiting outside the line of crime scene tape surrounding the home, said he feared his 19-year-old daughter Michelle Ann Nathan was among the victims.

Nathan said his daughter, a 2003 graduate of nearby Pine Ridge High School, joined the Army after graduating. But, while stationed in Missouri, she was discharged for medical reasons, he said. She returned to Deltona, where she got a job at the Burger King and moved into the Telford Lane home about three months ago.

Neighbors said they knew little about the group of young people -- investigators said they ranged in age from 18 to their early 30s -- who rented the three-bedroom home a few months ago. Property records show the home is owned by a New York man.

"In hindsight, there were things that just didn't look right," said neighbor Margaret Melito. She couldn't pinpoint anything specific, she said, but it seemed odd that so many people were living together in the home.

"You see things and you wonder, but then you get busy with your own life," Melito said.

The Burger King where five of the victims worked is less than three miles west of the home.

The restaurant was closed Friday, signs on the door saying, "Sorry for the inconvenience." Several employees huddled in the restaurant through much of the day. They left, some in tears, without commenting to reporters.

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