Escaped prisoner charged in double homicide in St. Pete
An escaped prisoner was charged today with killing two men who were found inside a burning St. Petersburg home on Sunday, police said. Michael Scott Norris, 36, faces two counts of first-degree murder along with charges of escape, armed burglary and felon in possession of a handgun. Norris stole a gun from a hotel before traveling to the home in St. Petersburg's Kenwood neighborhood and killing Bruce Johnson, 51, of St. Petersburg, and Arthur Regula, 36, of Hudson, St. Petersburg police said. It's not clear if Norris knew the men or was familiar with the home, which Johnson and Regula were renovating, at 2635 4th Ave. N., police said.Police initially arrested Norris on Tuesday and charged him with escape and burglary of the Driftwood Motel, 1600 34th St. S. Morris was cooperative, but did not discuss the homicides, said Bill Proffitt, police spokesman. On Sunday morning, Norris left the Largo Residential Re-Entry Center, where he participated in a work-release program, and never returned, Proffitt said. A few hours later, several witnesses saw Norris leave the hotel where he stole a Glock semi-automatic handgun, Proffitt said. Investigators believe Norris then went the St. Petersburg home where he shot and killed Johnson and Regula during a burglary, Proffitt said. He then set fire to the house and left in a Ford F-150 pickup that belonged to one of the victims, Proffitt said. The F-150 was abandoned and set on fire near the intersection of Columbus Drive and MacDill Avenue in Tampa. Stolen property was found inside the truck, Proffitt said. Police also recovered a gun, which was taken from the hotel and may have been used in the double homicide, Proffitt said. Norris has been a prisoner since 2004 after being sentenced for multiple felonies, including armed burglaries in Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties between 2001 and 2003. He was scheduled to be released on Dec. 27. Investigators are looking for witnesses who can help them trace Norris' path before and after the homicides. Anyone with information should call (727) 893-7780. Or to remain anonymous, call the tip line at (727) 892-5000 or text a tip to (727) 420-8911.
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