CBSN

Two Questioned In Fl. Mass Murder

Volusia County Sheriff investigators suit up in white protective suits prior to entering a home on Telford Lane in Deltona, Fla., on Friday, Aug. 6, 2004, where six bodies were found slain inside.
AP
The day that Kay Shukwit will never forget began at the Burger King where she planned to eat breakfast with her 19-year-old daughter, Michelle Ann Nathan, who worked behind the counter.

As soon as she stepped in the door, she knew something was wrong: It was 8 a.m., but her daughter wasn't there. The only people in the place were employees - female employees, wailing and sobbing. One of the girls had collapsed on the floor.

Before Shukwit could speak, a cell phone rang, and there was news: Inside the house that her daughter had been renting with a group of friends, deputies had just discovered a corpse.

Two hours later Friday, police would tell her that the bodies of four men, two young women and a dog had been found in the blood-spattered house in what Volusia County's sheriff Ben Johnson called "one of the most brutal murders our department has ever experienced."

Investigators on Saturday questioned two roommates described as "persons of interest" but not suspects. One man held on a probation violation "had some knowledge of some of the victims," said Johnson. The other man agreed to accompany investigators. The sheriff said they were "somewhat" cooperative.

The sheriff's department would not say how the victims had been killed or speculate on any motive. Two other victims have been identified, but their names were not released because relatives had not been notified. Three autopsies were to be done Saturday, and the rest on Sunday.

The Sun newspaper of Lowell reported that one of the victims was Erin Belanger, who grew up in Lowell and attended Dracut High School. Belanger moved to Deltona several months ago to take care of her grandparents' winter home and moved in with her boyfriend, according to a childhood friend who asked not to be named. The newspaper reported that Belanger's friends traveled to Florida on Friday night to identify the body.

Investigators appeared to have trouble identifying the victims.

"We may have to do some of them by fingerprints and by dental records," Johnson said. "It's going to take some work." He said only that the victims ranged in age from 18 to mid-30s and that they did not appear to be related.

"It's hard to describe what went on in that house," Johnson said. "The house is a mess. It's just a very, very brutal crime scene."

The killing spree in the working-class, bedroom community of more than 70,000 people between Orlando and Daytona Beach was the deadliest in Florida since 1990, when a man whose car was repossessed shot eight people to death at a Jacksonville loan office before turning the gun on himself.

On Saturday, forensic experts from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement began to examine bloodstains at the house. There was so much to analyze that the task could take up to 18 hours, said sheriff's spokesman Brandon Haught.

Shukwit told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the investigators had identified her daughter by a tattoo on her back that read "Princess" and two small star tattoos on her hips.

Her father, Steve Nathan, told the Orlando Sentinel that his daughter, a 2003 graduate of the nearby Pine Ridge High School, had joined the Army shortly after graduation. She was discharged for medical reasons while stationed in Missouri.

After returning to Deltona, Skukwit said her daughter landed the job at the Burger King and moved into a rental house with her boyfriend and other friends. They decorated the house with hand-me-downs from their parents and split the $900-a-month rent, she told the AP.

The bodies were discovered Friday morning after a co-worker asked a friend to visit the teenager's home to see why she hadn't gone to work.

In a statement Saturday, Burger King Corp. said it was "deeply saddened by the events that occurred in Deltona" and that the "franchisee is working with local authorities" to help investigators. The restaurant three miles from the crime scene posted a sign that read "Closed. Reopening Monday." One of the entrances was sealed off with yellow police tape.

A morning downpour thinned the numbers of neighbors, relatives and onlookers that had been gathered in front of the house a day earlier. However, one visitor left a bouquet of white roses with baby's breath on the front lawn. Beside it, another person left a note that read: "There really are monsters among us."