St. Petersburg police have made an arrest in connection with two bodies found in a house fire earlier this week.
Michael Scott Norris, 36, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Bruce Johnson and Arthur Regula.
Norris had been arrested on Tuesday in connection with a burglary at the Driftwood hotel on 34th St. South, where he allegedly stole a Glock semi-automatic handgun. Witnesses saw him leave the motel and identified him.
At the time, he was charged with Escape, Armed Burglary and Felon in Possession of a Firearm.
Norris had been assigned to a work release program at Largo Residential Re-Entry Center following eight years in prison for multiple felonies, most of them burglary. He left the center Sunday morning but never returned. He was listed as an escapee.
Investigators believe after leaving the center, Norris committed the burglary at the motel. Shortly after that, investigators say a double homicide in the 2600 block of 4th Avenue North occurred.
They say they found evidence at that scene linking Norris to the murders, but he was not initially charged with that crime.
Investigators say Norris was cooperative when arrested in connection with the motel room burglary but did not make any admissions in the homicide. He was booked into the Pinellas County Jail with no bond. Investigators continued to investigate the connection between Norris and the murders.
According to investigators, Norris committed a burglary at the house then shot and killed both victims, who were renovating the home.
Detectives say Norris then started a fire at the home to try to cover his tracks.
Norris is believed to have stolen items from the home, then set it on fire and left in one of the victims' Ford F-150 truck.
Investigators don't know why that home was specifically targeted. Police don't believe Norris was acquainted with either of the victims in the homicide.
Jennie Lovato lives across the street from the victims' home.
"It freaked me out really bad. I mean, I've been scared. I haven't slept well ever since it happened. Worried that something, I just felt like the neighborhood wasn't safe anymore. And to hear it was a random act of violence was even worse,” she said. "I've got two roommates and they both have trouble sleeping too. We hear a noise and we've even got a Rottweiler here and we still don't feel safe."
The victim's truck was also found set on fire near Columbus and MacDill in Tampa. The stolen property was found inside the truck.
The handgun has stolen during the burglary has been recovered. The results of lab tests on the weapon are still pending.
St. Petersburg Police Homicide investigators are still looking for witnesses who can help them trace Norris' path before and after the murders in Kenwood.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Communications Center at 727-893-7780. Anonymous tipsters can call our Tip Line at 727-892-5000 or Text a Tip at 727-420-8911.