MANATEE -- Four days before investigators say Andres Avalos Jr. killed his wife, a neighbor and a Baptist minister, he appeared to Raymmar Tirado to be an average "street kid" high on drugs.
Tirado said he was shocked by a phone call Dec. 4 from a friend indicating a man on television accused of going on a murder rampage was the same guy he had spoken with at a birthday party four days earlier.
"It is not something you think about while sitting at dinner with friends and great food enjoying the camaraderie of a family birthday celebration," Tirado wrote on his blog. "But this particular party would quickly be overshadowed by the actions of one young man."
Avalos, 33, is charged with three counts of second-degree murder.
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Investigators say Avalos last Thursday hanged his wife from a cord in the laundry room of their northwest Bradenton home, then beat and shot her. He also gunned down his neighbor, Denise Potter, 46, who apparently was visiting at his home, investigators said.
After the attacks, investigators say he dropped his 4-year-old son off at daycare and went to the Walmart on State Road 64 where he left his vehicle. Avalos then took a taxi to Bayshore Baptist Church, 6502 14th St. W., where investigators and witnesses say he shot and killed the Rev. James "Tripp" Battle, 31.
Tirado said Wednesday he didn't foresee the man he chatted with about hip-hop music becoming a killer.
"His eyes were bloodshot," Tirado said. "I figured he was probably high on marijuana but I didn't think much of it."
At one point, Tirado said Avalos offered him cocaine.
"I knew he was a street kid," Tirado said. "But I never suspected anything."
Other members of the Avalos family were present at the party, and he recalls think
ing what a nice family they seemed to be. Amber Avalos and the couple's six children were not at the party.
"I didn't even know he was married until I got the news," Tirado said.
Avalos was arrested Saturday after a 51-hour manhunt led by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and a public plea from his father to turn himself in for the sake of his children, who were being held in a safe house until his capture. He was arrested in a mobile home park less than two blocks from Bayshore Baptist Church.
After his arrest, Avalos admitted to the slayings, a prosecutor said in court Sunday morning.
Investigators said they did not intend to test Avalos for drugs at the time of his arrest, however, because too much time had passed for the tests to detect any drugs in his system at the time of the attacks.
He is being held without bond at the Manatee County jail.
Avalos could still face a more serious charge of first-degree murder, which could carry the death penalty.
Known by friends to always carry a weapon, Avalos had one gun in his possession at the time of his arrest, according to sheriff's office spokesman Dave Bristow. No guns were found in his vehicle.
Although the sheriff's office will not release the make, model or caliber of the gun, it did confirm it matched casings found at the crime scenes. Avalos did not have a license to carry a concealed weapon to Bristow's knowledge.
Avalos' past includes at least five arrests for DUI and a documented connection with a local street gang, according to Bristow and court records.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeleon1012.