Triple Murder: Trial underway for Bradenton man accused of murdering wife, pastor and neighbor

Manatee County Sheriff's Office

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Andres (Andy) Avalos is standing trial for a brutal triple murder in 2014. Officials say he savagely killed his wife, then murdered her friend and their pastor. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. 

Deputies said in December 2014, Avalos shot his wife Amber, and hung her body in their home.

He then allegedly murdered her friend, Denise Potter, and their pastor, Tripp Battle.

Prosecutors say he believed Battle and his wife were having an affair.

“These homicides were spawned out of his jealous rage,” said State Attorney Ed Brodsky.

The state attorney said while Avalos murdered his wife, their young son Ashton was nearby.

“Ashton was in the room playing video games. He didn’t even hear no commotion. He did say, ‘where’s mommy?’ [Andres] said, ‘mommy’s gone,’” described Brodsky.

Brodsky said Ashton did see his mom’s lifeless legs on the floor before Avalos took him away and put him in the car to drive to preschool.

As Avalos was about to leave, he spotted Denise Potter walking up. Potter and Amber Avalos worked a business together cleaning houses. He is said to have shot her five times and left her body inside the home.

Brodsky said when Avalos was questioned after his capture, he spoke about that incident.

“[Avalos said:] ‘I knew she was gonna call the cops and I wasn’t really prepared for the cops to come at that time,’” Brodsky stated.

“[Avalos added:] ‘I probably should have told her that she wasn’t going to work today, just go home, I should’ve told her that. That probably would’ve saved her life,’” said Brodsky.

After dropping off his son at preschool, Avalos left the car at Walmart and took a taxi to Bayshore Baptist Church.

He spoke with Joy Battle, Tripp’s wife and secretary. He shared his suspicions of the affair. When Tripp arrived, Avalos allegedly stormed out and shot him five times.

He later called his uncle, Lt. Joel Perez at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“He just wanted to let me know that he had left two bodies at his house for me,” recalled Perez.

In court, we learned Avalos was a former gang member. After he got married, he ran a flooring business, which later failed. A few years later, his family worried about Avalos after he became paranoid and was treated for mental health issues.

“Andy was afraid, because the gangs were coming for him. He was so suspicious of his wife,” said defense attorney Richard Watts.

“He truly believed there were people out to kill him, because of his past,” said Lt. Perez.

His defense team said witnesses will testify that Avalos has brain abnormalities.

“They’ll tell you about Andy’s inability to distinguish right and wrong, because of those delusions that he was suffering from,” said Watts.

The defense team plans to plead insanity.

The state attorney said after his capture, Avalos gave a cryptic statement that showed he was competent.

“[Avalos said:] ‘Whatever comes my way, I’m willing to accept the consequences,’” said Brodsky.

Avalos hid in the woods for a few days and then emerged in a couple’s backyard, where he was arrested.

Court officials said testimony in this trial should end sometime Wednesday or Thursday.

If the jury finds him guilty, we then enter the penalty phase, where the prosecution and defense provide more witnesses, and the jury has to decide whether to sentence him to life in prison, or they have to be unanimous in sentencing him to death.

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