MANATEE -- Amber Avalos was the glue that kept her family together.
Her family doesn't know how to move on without the "backbone" of their family as they and other families linked by tragedy grieve.
Amber Avalos, 33; her neighbor, Denise Potter, 46; and the Rev. James "Tripp" Battle, 31, were all killed Thursday. Avalos' husband, Andres "Andy" Avalos, is being sought by Manatee sheriff's investigators in all three slayings.
"She was literally the glue in the backbone of our family," Amber's eldest sister Deanna Freniere said. "Amber's life was giving to others. If I had to say anything about my sister, Amber's life was giving to others more than herself."
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Many who know Andres Avalos, 33, describe him as a troubled and aggressive man who abused alcohol and drugs. The massive manhunt for him continued through a second night. He is considered to be armed and dangerous.
"We are operating under the assumption he is still in the area," sheriff's office spokesman Dave Bristow said.
The Gold Star Club of Manatee (www.goldstarclub.com) is offering a reward of up to $15,000 for the arrest of Andres Avalos.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Avalos should call 911, or call Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.
One former friend recalled that Avalos never went anywhere without at least one of the handguns he owns.
"They were always under the seat," the former friend said Friday. "And he always had one in his center console" of his vehicle.
He came to know Avalos for the man's heavy use of drugs and alcohol, even while driving, alleged affiliations with gangs and his aggressive behavior.
"He wasn't a very nice person,
which is why I disassociated with him about a year ago," he said. "He was pretty aggressive with his wife in the time I knew him. They argued quite a bit."
Earlier Friday, deputies disclosed that they found Andres Avalos' gold Chevrolet Suburban at the Walmart Supercenter at 6225 State Road 64 E. about 9 p.m. Thursday.
"We sat on it last night hoping he'd come back for it," Bristow said. "But he didn't."
Battle, lead pastor at Bayshore Baptist Church in Bradenton, was shot to death at the church early Thursday afternoon. Following information given to them at the scene, investigators went to the Avalos home in Northwest Bradenton and found the two women slain there.
The cause and manner of death of the women has not been released, pending a report from the medical examiner's office.
Amber Avalos' family gathered Friday at the couple's home.
Through tears, her mother recalled her as amazing person.
"She worked three jobs and took care of all the children," she said. "He never worked."
The family knew the couple was having troubles, and that she had sought help.
"She had sent him to the preacher for a couple weeks," she said. "Amber was a very Christian person. For her, being married is staying married."
The family has not seen nor have they spoken to the Avalos children since they were taken into protective custody, one sister said.
"They are in a safe house," she said, asking not to be named. "They won't let us have them until they catch him."
The family was permitted to speak to the children briefly before they were taken to the safe location Thursday, she added. Only the three oldest children were told of their mother's death. The six children range in ages from 4 to 15.
The family was still in shock Friday as they awaited the arrival of other family members.
Deanna Freniere had a message for her brother-in-law.
"Andy, I don't know where you're at and I don't know what you're going through, and I hope to God that you realize what you have done to your family," Amber's grieving sister said. "And how dare you not think of the six kids that you have, and the future that they're going to have now. I pray that you come out of hiding, and I pray that you give yourself up."
The family suspected trouble, and knew that Andres Avalos was struggling.
"He has been acting strange lately. We didn't know all the details, because Amber is a very guarded person," Freniere said. "So in her mind she just prayed through this and thought, 'I'm going to keep my family together and God's going to fix us.' And I really believe that that's what she thought until the end."
Avalos' troubled past includes an arrest record. In the past 10 years he has been arrested at least five times for driving under the influence in Hillsborough County and once in Pinellas County for violation of probation.
Her sister had tried to get him help, she said, but it wasn't easy.
"I mean, what do you do when you love someone so much and you try to seek that help, but there's no help to be found?" Freniere said. "There aren't many options in Bradenton and Sarasota for things like this."
Relatives and friends of the third victim, Denise Potter, remained secluded Friday.
Former Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino sent a short email statement to the Herald about Potter, whom he knew.
"Denise was a good neighbor of mine for about three years," he wrote. "She had a kind soul and loved her boys very much."
Investigators have not released details of what they believe the motive might have been.
"I know a lot of people were saying this is a crime of passion, and we won't get into details, but he was messed up lately," Freniere said of the suspect. "They were high-school sweethearts; they've been together since they were 16 years old; they had six kids together. Something like drugs can wreck a family this bad."
Many members in the community have expressed their desire to help the family.
"We haven't set anything up with the kids yet, we haven't even really discussed it, because this is all so sudden," Freniere said.
Alexandra Freniere cried softly as her mother spoke about her aunt.
"My aunt was an amazing person. She was one of the bravest, strongest women I know," the 16-year-old said. "She'd do anything to help anyone before she helped herself, no matter what their past was or what they were going through."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.
Kate Irby, Herald online reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Follow her on Twitter at @kateirby.