Jury deliberations continue in Bradenton triple murder trial

Manatee County Sheriff's Office

BRADENTON, Fla. — A jury has reached a verdict in the triple murder case involving defendant Andres Avalos.

Friday night, the jury asked the judge in the case if they could stop deliberations for the night and resume Saturday morning. The judge granted their request.

The 10 women and two men on the jury stayed in a hotel Friday night and returned to the courtroom at 8:30 a.m. They were instructed not to read anything about the case or watch TV news programs about the case.

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Family and friends of victims await a verdict in the trial of Andres Avalos, who is accused of killing his wife, pastor and neighbor.  Jury deliberations are underway in the triple murder case of Andres Avalos.

Jury deliberations are underway after closing arguments wrapped on Friday.

In closing arguments, Avalos’ lawyers tried to prove their client was suffering from a delusional disorder when he murdered his wife, Amber, her friend Denise Potter and their pastor Rev. James “Tripp” Battle in December 2014.

Law enforcement officials say Avalos shot Amber and hung her body in the home. When their neighbor and friend, Denise Potter came to the scene, he shot her five times, according to prosecutors. He then traveled to Bayshore Baptist Church, where he gunned down their pastor, Tripp Battle. Prosecutors say he believed Battle and his wife were having an affair.

Defense attorney Andrew Crawford told jurors Avalos was paranoid and fixated on the belief his wife was having an affair, and that his enemies were out to get him.

“Is there a delusion of prosecution when someone sees a helicopter overhead and thinks it’s his enemies?” Crawford asked the jury.

Meanwhile, prosecutors argue Avalos killed the three people “with a cold brutality, not born out of a delusion, but out of jealousy.”  Assistant state attorney Art Brown said the defendant’s motive was “born out of a jealousy fueled by months of drug and alcohol abuse.”

Avalos had confessed to strangling his wife, Amber.  In closing arguments, Brown reviewed evidence and showed juror’s photos of Amber’s body.  “If there is one method of murder that unmistakably proves intent to kill, is the act of strangulation, choking off someone’s air supply,” said Brown.

According to witnesses’ testimonies, Avalos claimed he knew right from wrong when he killed the three victims.  

Closing arguments will wrap up on Friday, before the jury reaches a verdict.

If Avalos is convicted, the state is expected to seek the death penalty.

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