Victim's widower testifies in Avalos' triple murder trial

The wife of one of the victims testifies in a Manatee County trial.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- The widower of Pastor James "Tripp" Battle described to jurors on Wednesday how accused killer Andy Avalos gunned down her husband in front of her.

Avalos is charged with three counts of first-degree murder killing his wife, their neighbor and Tripp. Wednesday was day three of his trial. Prosecutors said if convicted, they would see the death penalty for Avalos.

Today the widower of Pastor James "Tripp" Battle told jurors how Avalos gunned down her husband in front of her over a jealous rage in Bradenton.

“He seemed jittery and polite and going on about the affair,” Battle’s widower, Joy Battle, told the jury.

On Dec. 4, 2014, Joy realized Avalos still suspected her husband and his wife, Amber Avalos, were having an affair a suspicion he shared with the pastor’s wife by phone over the summer. Joy told the jury he said to him, “Living with Tripp I was not picking up on the same feelings. I told him I was sorry he was upset and offered to pray with him.”

But on Dec. 4, Avalos stopped by the church office asking Joy to speak with Tripp but he was out -- just then the pastor called. Joy told her husband Avalos wanted to see him.

“He said he’d be there shortly and that he loved me and I told him I loved him,” says Joy.

That would be Joy’s last conversation with her husband of 14 years.

When Tripp arrived the mother of two told Avalos her husband was outside.

Fighting back tears, Joy recounted the last moments of her husband’s life. She says, “Andy got up, walked out of my office, closed the door behind him, met Tripp at the sidewalk, pulled gun from behind his back shot him three times.

"He fell to the floor, was on the ground crying out in pain. I remember split second if to go to him or call 911. I thought best chance he had of living is to call 911. ... He walks away then while on the phone with 911 he walks back over and shoots him again and turns around walks away again.”

Knowing the defense was setting up an insanity plea, the state called a forensics psychologist who disputed the defense’s claims.

Dr. Michael Gamache, a forensics psychologist, told jurors, “There’s clear evidence he knew what he was doing. He knew it was wrong and unlawful and he appreciated the consequences. I don’t think he suffered any diagnosed mental disorder that qualifies under the statute.”

The defense’s first witness was Avalos’s father who told the jurors his son’s drug abuse made him paranoid. Andy Avalos Sr. says his son was suspicious about his wife’s infidelity and feared for his life.

The defense will continue its case Thursday.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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