MANATEE -- The killing of three parents ignites a 51-hour manhunt.
A father's sorrowful plea to his son attempts to draw the murder suspect out of hiding.
And after a man turns up behind their house on Saturday, a couple in a mobile home park realize the man's identity, urge him to surrender, and make the 911 call to the sheriff's office.
Andres "Andy" Avalos, the suspect in Thursday's triple homicide that has rocked Manatee County, was arrested Saturday afternoon less than two blocks from the church where one of the victims was killed.
Avalos, 33, is charged with the deaths of his wife, Amber Avavlos, 33; their neighbor, Denise Potter, 46; and the Rev. James "Tripp" Battle, 31. All three were killed Thursday and Avalos Jr. had been the target of a massive manhunt since.
Avalos will make his first appearance before a judge at 8 a.m. Sunday.
Many of details leading up to and concerning the arrest were still unclear Saturday night and Avalos was being questioned late into the night at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, spokesman Dave Bristow said. He added that in order to make its case, sheriff's officers needed to meet with prosecutors to make decisions about what could be released to the public.
What is clear is that less than four hours after his father had made a public plea for him to surrender, Avalos Jr. wandered onto a wooden deck behind a mobile home in the Pine Haven Mobile Home Park, 6320 14th St. W., Bradenton, a small, well-kept community just off U.S. 41. A conversation took place between Avalos and the couple -- who asked not to be identified -- who lived in the mobile home, and Avalos said he wanted to speak to his mother, Bristow said. They urged him to surrender, he said.
The couple called 911 and left their home before a caravan of deputies and detectives came screaming down their quiet road.
Guns and semi-automatic weapons were drawn, neighbors said. Shields were held up.
Avalos Jr. did not put a fight, detectives said, and surrendered before being taken to the sheriff's office for questioning.
Pine Haven residents gathered outside once Avalos had been taken away.
"I'm glad he's caught," said Edie Keatley. "I was scared."
Many there speculated that Avalos Jr. had intended to return to Bayshore Baptist Church, the scene of Battle's fatal shooting.
"That's what I think," Gary Reens said. "Why else would he be up this way?"
Tragedy unfolded Thursday
Battle, the lead pastor at Bayshore Baptist Church in Bradenton, was shot to death at the church 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 of death was confirmed Saturday by a preliminary autopsy report from the medical examiner's office, but the sheriff's office has yet to release it.
The sheriff's office had placed the Avalos' children in a safe house during the search for their father, and they were not permitted to communicate with their family for safety reasons. Only the eldest three of the children had been told of their mother's death. There had been numerous reported sightings of Avalos Jr. leading to his arrest, Steube said.
"They are doing reasonably well, given the circumstances," he said of the six children. "This is a shock not only to the families, but to the communities, based on what has transpired."
Avalos has a troubled past, indicated by his arrest record, which shows 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.
A family's 'backbone' gone
"She was literally the glue in the backbone of our family," Amber's eldest sister Deanna Freniere said Friday. "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."
Since the tragedy, Amber's family members have continued to gather at the couple's home.
Through their tears Friday, her mother recalled, "She worked three jobs and took care of all the children. He never worked," she said.
The family knew the couple was experiencing troubles, but Amber Avalos had turned to her faith for help, they said.
"She had sent him (Andy) to the preacher for a couple weeks," she said. "Amber was a very Christian person. For her, being married is staying married."
A church loses its leader
Battle returned to his hometown of Bradenton about 18 months ago when he was recruited to be lead pastor Bayshore Baptist Church at 6502 14th St. W. in Bradenton.
Since his arrival, church members said church attendance quadrupled and attributed to the pastor's unique personality and leadership.
"We want the world to know what a wonderful man our son was," mother Rhonda Battle told the Herald. "He loved this community. He wanted a church of diversity. He wanted people to love the Lord. If you didn't want to know what the Bible said, you didn't want to go to his church.
Battle's wife, Joy Battle, witnessed the shooting that ended his life Thursday, leaving her wrecked. The beloved minister also left behind two young children and his parents, all devastated by the loss.
Amber Avalos was the church's nursery/children's director. Her family said she was helping Battle and his wife to grow the congregation.
Loss of a single mother
The mother of three, Denise Potter, leaves behind sons ages 10, 15 and 27. Their father died a few years earlier.
"How does a child live through that?" wondered aunt Rosie Dougherty.
Despite having a troubled past of her own, Denise Potter is remembered by those who loved her as always having a smile on her face, no matter the circumstance.
"She was amazing ... an eclectic soul," her sister Darcie Smith said. "When Denise was around, she made everything more interesting."
Potter's family believe she simply was at the wrong place at the wrong time. She and Amber Avalos cleaned houses together, and they suspect Potter may have walked over to the Amber's when Avalos didn't arrive to pick her up.
"Had she not gone over there, I don't think he would have killed her," Dougherty said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.