Florida man confessed to burning missing family of 4 in firepit, docs say

A Florida man has been charged with murder after authorities discovered human remains they believe belong to a missing family — among them 5- and 6-year-old children — in his fire pit.

Phillip Zilliot II, Rain Mancini and their two children, 6-year-old Karma Zilliot; and 5-year-old Phillip Zilliot III, were last seen alive on June 12 in Hudson County, according to a statement from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.

The following day, a woman requested authorities carry out a welfare check at their home, telling them her brother received a troubling video call from Rory Atwood, who’d been living with the family at the time, according to a criminal complaint affidavit, obtained by WFLA on Wednesday. He told her he could see what appeared to be bodies and a pool of blood during his video call with Atwood, who claimed to need help burning some trash.

When officers arrived at Atwood’s residence in Hudson, they did not uncover anything suspicious — but a firepit in his backyard was “actively smoldering and smoking” at the time. They returned to the home again on Friday, after receiving a call from another person, who told them Atwood had confessed to killing the family of four.

This time Atwood told authorities he’d booted the family over their failure to pay rent, and that they’d taken up to two weeks of belonging with them when they left earlier in the week, according to the affidavit. Deputies went on to search the property and inspect the fire pit, where a cadaver dog discovered “small skeletal remains,” “human long bone fragments” and “apparent human vertebrae,” according to documents obtained by Tampa Bay 10.

During subsequent interviews with law enforcement, Atwood initially denied harming the family before he allegedly confessed to killing Zilliot and Mancini, both of whom he had known since high school. He said Zilliot initially came at him with a knife, and that they later struggled over a handgun, which went off and fatally struck Mancini. He told officers he then shot Zilliot twice in the head.

Atwood did not however cop to killing the children. Instead he alleged that the couple had killed them, but he admitted he was the one who brought them out to the fire pit, according to the affidavit.

As of Wednesday, the remains found in the firepit have not yet been formally identified, though authorities do believe they belong to the missing family.

On Monday, Atwood pleaded not guilty to the murder of a John Doe. He is currently behind bars and being held without bail.