Florida landlord Rory Atwood killed a family of four and burned the bodies in a fireplace

A landlord in Florida gunned down a family of four with young children and burned their remains in the fireplace of the home they lived in, police said Tuesday.

Rory Atwood, 25, allegedly admitted to slaughtering the “traveling” family – which included five- and six-year-old children – after getting into an argument with the parents, who he had been friends with since high school.

“If there wasn't evil in this world, we wouldn't have to pray so much. And when I talk about this story today, you're going to hear about evil,” Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco told reporters.

Atwood initially denied knowing anything about the whereabouts of the Zilliot family, which included 26-year-old Rain Mancini, 25-year-old Phillip Zilliot II and their young children Karma and Phillip III, ages 6 and 5, Nocco said.

The family, who lived in Atwood's Hudson home, were reported missing by Mancini's mother on Thursday after the mother of two children cut off daily contact.

Rory Atwood is said to have admitted to slaughtering the “transparent” family of four after an argument with the parents.

Atwood, himself a father, allowed investigators to search the property that same day. But officers did not notice anything unusual – apart from the fire pit in the backyard, which was “smoldering heavily and smoking,” according to the criminal complaint.

The next day, a friend of Atwood's told police that the landlord had called him the night before and admitted to “killing his roommates and their children,” the document says.

Investigators returned to the site with cadaver dogs and reportedly recovered “small skeletal remains,” soft tissue and two human vertebrae from the fire pit.

The back terrace was also permeated by a strong smell of chlorine.

Rain Mancini, Phillip Zilliot II and their young children Karma and Phillip III were all reportedly killed by Atwood.

Atwood, who initially claimed he had evicted the family for not paying rent, reportedly relented and confessed to killing the family.

According to his statement, Zilliot II and Mancini stormed into the house on Wednesday evening, both parents armed with knives.

Zilliot II attempted to hit his high school friend Atwood with a knife, but resorted to punches when Atwood disarmed him, the murder defendant claimed.

The landlord freaked out when he saw Mancini stab his own four-year-old daughter in the throat, he told investigators.

They wrestled over the knives and a firearm that Zilliot II allegedly had with him, with Atwood eventually gaining control and shooting his two former friends, according to court documents.

He did not disclose where the victims' children were during the altercation, but told police he believed the parents killed their children. Atwood later backtracked, saying the bodies of little Karma and Phillip were also in the fire pit, but did not admit to killing them.

Atwood then used his “adrenaline” to drag the bodies of Zilliot II and Mancini to the fireplace and into the flames he claimed they had set.

The family was at Atwood's home when she was reported missing by Mancini's mother on Thursday.

Investigators are still trying to link the family to the bodies found at the scene, but have charged Atwood with murder based on his testimony, Nocco said.

According to court records, Atwood pleaded not guilty on Monday and is being held without bail.

Anna Harden

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