Defense rests in case of Bradenton man accused of murdering wife, pastor, neighbor

Manatee County Sheriff's Office

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – The defense rested Thursday in the triple murder case of Andres Avalos. He is accused of murdering his wife, Amber, their pastor, Rev. Jason “Tripp” Battle, and neighbor, Denise Potter.

Witnesses have testified that known gang member, Avalos, was paranoid in the months leading up to the murders.

His uncle, Lt. Joel Perez, testified he spoke to Avalos by phone and he claimed, “that people were out to get him, that she [Amber Avalos] was in on it.”

Perez said Avalos was fixated on his belief his wife was having an affair with their pastor.

Related: Pastor’s widow gives emotional testimony in Avalos triple murder trial

On the stand, psychologist Valerie McClaine, PhD., stated she believed Avalos had a psychotic break the day of the murders.

“He had a specific goal that what he perceived as the enemy, those people he perceived as the enemy, including the pastor, he had to take care of that. That was part of his belief system that that was the enemy,” she said.

She believes he had a mental infirmity.

“I do not believe he knew he was wrong based upon the fact that he suffered from a mental disorder,” she stated.

The defense also called radiologist Dr. Mark Herbst to the stand to describe a PET scan taken of Avalos’s brain.

Related: Couple who called 911 testify at Bradenton triple murder trial

He called it “abnormal.”

However, a second physician, neurologist Dr. Steven Cohen was called to the stand. He explained brain abnormalities alone cannot be used to diagnose mental health disorders.

“You can’t look at what you deem to be an abnormality in a PET scan and say he’s got paranoid schizophrenia?” asked the defense.

“No,” stated Dr. Cohen.

“You can’t look at an abnormality in a PET scan and say he suffers from delusional disorder?” the defense asked again.

Again, Dr. Cohen said “no.”

Closing arguments begin Friday. Both the state and the defense will have an hour and 15 minutes to present.

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