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A DeLeon Springs man has been charged with second-degree murder following a joint investigation by sheriff’s detectives in Volusia and Flagler counties.

Ronald H. Collins Jr., 51, was arrested Thursday night at the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office District 2 headquarters in DeLand, after he confessed to the killing during an interview with detectives from both counties, Volusia Sheriff’s Office spokesman Andrew Gant said.

Gant said the investigation started Dec. 23 in Bunnell, where Flagler deputies responded to a report of a body found rolled up in a comforter and placed on a futon inside a recreational vehicle.

Collins was identified as the renter of the property, but he was not at the scene when deputies responded. The victim was identified Thursday as Jillian Petrotto, 31, who Gant said had been frequently seen with Collins in the past.

“Collins came to the Sheriff’s Office on Thursday afternoon and confessed to killing Petrotto inside his residence at 4856 U.S. 17 in DeLeon Springs,” Gant wrote in a news release. “Petrotto had been staying with him recently and the two were in an occasional romantic relationship.”

Collins told detectives he’d blacked out during the incident and did not remember it in detail, but said he killed Petrotto because he was angry she was going out to get money to buy drugs.

Petrotto sustained blunt force trauma to her head and was strangled, according to Gant.

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly and Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood both praised the quick investigative work of their respective deputies, even during a holiday week.

“We hope Ms. Petrotto’s family and friends can find some peace knowing her killer is brought to justice,” Chitwood said.

Collins was transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail, where he remained in custody Friday morning with no bond allowed.

— Anthony DeFeo


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