MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - It’s a triple murder that captured the attention of the Bay area. Andres “Andy” Avalos is standing trial for the Dec. 4, 2014, deaths of his wife, Amber Avalos, 33, his neighbor Denise Potter, 46 and Pastor James “Tripp” Battle.
Andy Avalos, 36, walked into a Manatee County courtroom stonefaced, He was hoping an insanity defense will keep him alive but the state tells the jury of 10 women and four men he wasn’t crazy.
State Attorney Ed Brodsky tells the jury in opening statements, “The evidence will demonstrate he acted out of jealousy. These homicides were spun out of his jealous rage suspicion his wife was having an extra AA marital affairs.”
Brodsky detailed how Avalos killed his wife, Amber, the mother of their six kids.
“She would, found backroom, face up head and torso suspended, cord around her neck,” says Brodsky.
Amber, says Brodsky, was severely beaten and finally shot in the chest while their 4-year-old son played video games in his bedroom.
Brodsky says to the jurors, “Andy Avalos says he sees her laying there saw her feet.”
By then prosecutors say Avalos had killed their neighbor Potter shot her five times, then took his son to daycare, dropped his car at a Walmart and took a taxi to Bayshore Baptist Church. His final victim -- Pastor James Tripp Battle -- the man he thought was his wife’s lover.
“Approaches the pastor shoots him 5 times, killing him while his wife, Joy Battle, witnessed,” says Brodsky.
Jurors were shown the gun used in the crimes a .45-caliber automatic pistol.
Avalos then called his uncle -- a Manatee County deputy -- with a message.
“I said what? He was serious. He left two bodies at his house and he needed someone there before his children got home.”
During the 51-hour manhunt, Avalos hid in a wooded area at a mobile home park and confessed to a Christian couple. When he left the couple, they called 911 and Avalos surrendered to deputies and later confessed.
“On that morning he feared for his life,” defense attorney Richard Watts told jurors. Watts says Avalos had been paranoid for some time his parents got him help four months earlier.
“The infidelity he imagined she was involved with, his enemies from the past were coming and he had nowhere to go,” says Watts.
But the state isn’t buying it.
Brodsky said to the jury, “Did Avalos know what he was doing? Did he know the difference between right and wrong? The evidence of this trial he knew it was wrong to kill Amber Avalos, Denise Potter and James 'Tripp' Battle."
The trial is expected to last all week. On Tuesday jurors will hear from the Christian couple at the mobile home park. It’s the same couple Avalos first confessed to, prayed with and asked for a beer. Prosecutors say he knew it would be his last for a long time.