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Failed Venture Sparked Board Room Massacre

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

An investor who killed three people and himself at a marketing company was upset about losing money in a failed real-estate venture and told his victims to "say your prayers" before he opened fire, police said Tuesday.

Vincent J. Dortch, 44, of Newark, Del., brought two handguns to a Monday night meeting he had organized under the pretense that he had another investor who wanted in on the venture, authorities said.

Minutes after the meeting started, Dortch told his victims: "You have a minute or two to say your prayers," police Inspector Joseph Fox said.

He forced one of two other investors to bind four others with duct tape, then assured the two investors that he did not have a problem with them.

The two investors apparently were allowed to leave the room, and Dortch opened fire, hitting the four bound men, police said. Dortch then said, "I have to finish this job," and shot three of the men again in the head at point-blank range, Fox said.

He may have deliberately spared the fourth man's life, Fox said. The wounded man, Patrick Sweeney, 31, of Maple Shade, N.J., was listed in critical conditon.

Police identified the dead men as Robert Norris, 41, of Newark, Del.; his brother Mark Norris, 46, of Pilesgrove, N.J.; and James Reif, 42, of Endicott, N.Y.

The shootings took place in the offices of a marketing company, Zigzag Net Inc., located in the former Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Mark Norris was president and chief executive of Zigzag. Sweeney is Zigzag's human resources manager. Dortch's dispute involved an apparent start-up company called Watson International. Police said the dead men were executives in the start-up.

Watson International had been seeking investors to turn a former IBM conference center in Binghamton, N.Y., into "a world-class entertainment and banquet facility," according to its Web site. A phone number listed on the Web site was disconnected.

Dortch claimed he and two other investors at the meeting had lost money on the venture, perhaps as much as $500,000 combined, police said.

Fox said investigators had not yet determined if that was true.

Sweeney, despite being bound and shot several times, freed his hand enough to splice together wires from a phone Dortch had yanked from the wall, and managed to call 911, Fox said.

Police and Dortch exchanged fire, and then he put a gun to his temple and killed himself, Fox said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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