ST. PETERSBURG - A convicted felon who was on work release has been linked to a double homicide in St. Petersburg.
Michael Scott Norris, 36, is being held without bond and is now charged with murder. Norris has spent the last decade behind bars for multiple property crimes in Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota Counties.
Norris, according to investigators, shot and killed Bruce Johnson, 51, and Arthur Regula, 36, inside a home in the 2600 block of 4th Avenue North on Sunday. Detective say to cover up the crime, Norris set fire to the house and took off in Regula's F-150 truck which was found burned and abandoned in Tampa on Monday.
Johnson was living in the home temporarily and Regula was helping lay tile. Regula had only been at the home about two or three times before, police say.
"He looked a little more dumbfounded," said Major Michael Kovascev with the St. Petersburg Police Department. "I was there for the interview, and there were steady periods of time where he stared at us and just really did not want to say anything."
Norris had spent nine or ten months at the Largo Residential Re-Entry Center in Clearwater and was on a work-release program. He was scheduled to be released on December 27. On September 30, police say Norris left for work but did not return and was listed as an escapee. Norris turned himself in on the escape charges Tuesday.
Police say after he left the work release center he robbed a room at a motel at 1600 34th Street South, where he stole a semi-automatic handgun.
"He was crazy," said Eddie Dominguez, a witness to the burglary. "He lost his mind."
Witnesses told ABC Action News the room Norris broke into is lived in by his ex-girlfriend. They also say the gun he stole belonged to her.
Following the burglarly, police say Norris went to the Kenwood house, robbed the men, shot them, torched the house and took off in Regula's truck, police say.
Detectives are still trying to figure out why Norris targeted the house. They say they have not connected Norris to the victims in any way.
Inside the home, police say they found an 'item' Norris left at the house which helped connect him to the crime. Detectives are not revealing what that item is.
Detectives did say inside the burned out truck they found stolen jewelry and prescription drugs taken from the home.
Michaelanne Harvey, a spokesperson for Goodwill, which runs the halfway house, said she is 'shocked and saddened' by what happened.
Neighbors said they are relieved there has been an arrest in the case.
"We were all up in arms," explained Adam Pollack, a neighbor. "It was scary."
ABC Action News did reach out to Regula's family. A close family friend who opened the door said Regula's mother has been in bed since word of the arrest. Regulas' father is also flying in from Poland to help with funeral arrangements, according to the friend.