MANATEE -- Just three months prior to being charged with killing his wife and two other people, Andres "Andy" Avalos Jr. called deputies to the couple's home to report a gun missing, according to Manatee County Sheriff's Office records.
The thief, Avalos told deputies, was his wife, Amber.
Avalos, 33, is charged with three counts of second-degree murder.
Investigators say Avalos hanged his wife from a cord in the laundry room, beat her and shot her Thursday. He also gunned down his neighbor Denise Potter, 46, in the Avalos' northwest Bradenton home, investigators said.
After dropping off his 4-year-old son at daycare and heading to the Walmart on State Road 64 where he dropped off his vehicle, Avalos 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.
On Sept. 5, Avalos called the sheriff's office to his home at 1208 67th St. NW, Bradenton, to report his Winchester Glock Model 30 .45-caliber handgun and a box of ammunition had been taken from his bedroom.
"He suspected that his wife, Amber, may have taken it and given it away to an unknown male friend," the
investigating deputy reported. "He asked his wife but she denied it."
Avalos told the deputy the gun was taken between Aug. 15 and Sept. 3. Amber Avalos was not available to interview, the deputy noted.
Sheriff's office spokesman Dave Bristow declined to say Tuesday whether investigators think the gun reported stolen was the one used in the slayings.
Friends said Avalos had several guns and always carried a weapon.
The theft report was not the first time the sheriff's office had been to the Avalos residence.
On March 25, 2013, an abandoned 911 call was made from the home, according to sheriff's office records. And two calls were made July 4 to the sheriff's office from the home to report suspicious circumstances.
Most recently, an Oct. 9 call to the sheriff's office was made by Amber Avalos, according to Bristow. The mother of six asked about programs to help discipline her teenager, he said.
Andres Avalos Jr., was arrested Saturday after a 51-hour manhunt and a plea from his father to turn himself in for the sake of his six children. The children, who range in age from 4 to 15, were all placed in a safe house without any communication with family until he was captured.
Avalos is being held without bond at the Manatee County jail on the second-degree murder charges.
Assistant State Attorney Art Brown said Tuesday it is possible Avalos will face the more serious charge of first-degree murder, which could carry the death penalty. Second-degree murder carries a maximum charge of 30 years to life in prison.
"We are considering the degree of homicide," Brown said. "That decision has not yet be made."
First-degree charges would certainly be an appropriate charge in this case, said Brown, who added a decision could be made by next week.
Funeral arrangements for Amber Avalos were not available.
Potter's family has planned a private service for immediate family only, a family member said.
Battle's funeral will be open to the public. Visitation will be from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church of Bradenton, 1306 Manatee Ave. W., and a celebration of his life is set for 6 p.m. Friday at the same location.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.