The Gold Star Club of Manatee is offering a reward of up to $15,000 for the arrest of Andres “Andy” Avalos, 33, who is wanted in connection with the slayings Thursday of his wife Amber Avalos, 33; neighbor Denise Potter, 46; and James “Tripp” Battle, 31, lead pastor at Bayshore Baptist Church in Bradenton.
“We are operating under the assumption he is still in the area,” Manatee Couny Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dave Bristow said.
Earlier Friday, deputies said they found Andres Avalos’ gold Suburban at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Bradenton about 9 p.m. Thursday.
“We sat on it last night hoping he’d come back for it,” Bristow said. “But he didn’t.”
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Battle was shot to death at Bayshore Baptist Church early Thursday afternoon. Following information given to them at the scene, investigators went to the Avalos home in Northwest Bradenton and found the women slain there.
The cause and manner of death of the women is still unknown by detectives, as they await a report from the medical examiner’s office.
Amber Avaloses’ family was gathering at the couple’s home Friday. Through tears, her mother recalled her as an 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 have not seen or spoken to the Avalos children since they were taken into protective custody, one sister said.
“They are in a safe house,” she said. “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 additional family members.
“She was literally the glue in the backbone of our family,” 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.”
The grieving sister 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. 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 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.”
On Thursday there was speculation about the motive of the killing spree. Investigators have not released any details of what they believe the motive was.
“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. “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. She’d do anything to help anyone before she helped herself, no matter what their past was or what they were going through,” Alexandra said.