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Suspect Arrested in St. Petersburg Neighborhood Killings Was in Largo Work Release Program

The 36-year-old suspect has a lengthy record for armed burglaries.

A fugitive from a Largo work release program is facing charges in the grisly deaths of two men in the Historic Kenwood Neighborhood of St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg Police arrested 36-year-old Michael Norris for the double homicide of Bruce Johnson, 51, and Arthur Regula, 36. 

Johnson and Regula were found dead inside a burning home in the Historic Kenwood Neighborhood Sunday. Investigators say they died as a result of "homicidal violence."

Norris was arrested by police on Oct. 2 and charged with two counts of first degree murder, escape, armed burglary and felon in possession of a firearm.

Police said detectives interviewed Norris regarding the double homicide after finding evidence at the scene linking him to the crime. Police said Norris was cooperative, but failed to make any admissions regarding the homicide case. 

He was booked into the Pinellas County Jail with no bond.

According to investigators, Norris committed the burglary at 2635 4th Ave. N and then shot and killed both victims inside of the residence during the burglary. Norris then stole items from inside of the residence, set the house on fire and left in a Ford F-150 truck that belonged to one of the victims, according to the police report.

Investigators do not know why Norris targeted that house in the Kenwood Neighborhood or why the victims were killed during the burglary, according to police. Police said they do not know if Norris was acquainted with the victims in the homicide.

The day after the murders, the abandoned the Ford F-150 was found set on fire near the intersection of Columbus and MacDill in Tampa. 

Norris Background

According to St. Petersburg Police, Norris had been a prisoner of the Florida Department of Corrections since Feb. 10, 2004.

FDOC records, according to police, said Norris was serving a lengthy prison sentence for multiple felonies, most of them armed burglary that occurred in Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties from 2001 to 2003.

Most recently, Norris was assigned to the Largo Residential Re-Entry Center where he participated in a work release program. According to police, he left this location on Sunday morning Sept. 30 to go to work, but never returned, prompting the Center listed him as an escapee.

A few hours after departing the Largo Residential Re-Entry Center, St. Petersburg Police investigators believe Norris committed a burglary to a motel room at the Driftwood Motel, 1600 34th St. S. During the burglary, police said Norris stole a Glock semi-automatic handgun.

According to St. Pete Police, several witnesses saw Norris leave the motel and positively identified him later.

Police said the double homicide at 2635 4th Ave. N occurred a few hours after the burglary at the Driftwood Motel.

According to police, investigators located stolen property from 2635 4th Avenue North inside of the cab of the truck after it was set on fire. The Glock semi-automatic handgun that Norris stole during the burglary to the

Driftwood Inn Motel room - and which St. Pete Police homicide investigators believe was used in the double homicide, has been recovered.  

Liane Smith October 05, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Large Re-entry is a privately (for profit) facility. The staff are not state certified officers. A Correctional employee is trained for 120 days in all aspects of inmate behavior at the onset of their career, as well as 40 hours training every year after. When inmate deviation occurs, which is a regular occurence they, (private) call the Dept. of Corrections to pick up the inmate and return them to State prison. Due to inexperienced staff and the for profit mindset two men lost their lives. Please rethink the privatization of our State Correctional facilities. With the type of inmates we are receiving, this is only the beginning.......My prayers to the families of the two men .
jay love October 05, 2012 at 02:32 PM
the article does not say, but I think this was a release program? when prisoners reach the end of their sentence they are first released to the custody of a "halfway house" always a private for profit situation? there the inmate has some freedoms, wears street clothes, must seek a job, basically prove they are capable of re-entering into society? I believe this was what he was there for? sometimes, despite peoples best intentions, some inmates just are not ready, may never be ready to be released into the community? this is where we need stronger sentencing laws and just have to find the money to keep some people incarcerated? how to identify who will re-offend is the problem, nobody, private or public has a crystal ball to see who these people are all of the time?
jay love October 05, 2012 at 02:42 PM
yes this guy sounds like a real peice of work from the start? just looking at his prior arrests record maybe this clown should have been locked up for 25 years until he is so old he is no longer a threat to society? now that two people are dead he will never see freedom again and may get the death penalty, (which in FL. does have) though unlike TX this process still takes too damn long to render? Calif. even IF you get the penalty you can be sure to die of old age in prison, or if your lucky be set free in the future by some liberal judge, or politician? unfortunately until we find a cure for these sociopaths society must find a way to protect itself from them? had these two men had weapons training and kept themselves armed they possibly could have saved themselves? they probably relied on the cops to protect them? when seconds count the police are minutes away, but hey, they can write up the report on the incident?
Tina Marie October 05, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Pathetic, truly pathetic. Florida really needs to hone up it's incarceration policies. Too many dirtbags and drug dealers released too soon and this stuff happens.
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