Crime

Sheriff: Andres Avalos Jr., charged in Bradenton triple homicide, faces new attempted murder charge for trying to kill inmate

Andres Avalos Jr. charged with killing wife, 2 others in December 2014

In December 2014 video, the Bradenton Herald's Kate Irby lays out a timeline of triple homicide suspect Andy Avalos' actions on the day of the killings, his subsequent capture and his first court appearance.
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In December 2014 video, the Bradenton Herald's Kate Irby lays out a timeline of triple homicide suspect Andy Avalos' actions on the day of the killings, his subsequent capture and his first court appearance.

MANATEE -- Andres "Andy" Avalos Jr., the man charged with murdering his wife and two others in December 2014, faces a new charge of trying to kill another inmate at the Manatee County jail, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Avalos and Jesse "Green Eyes" Cruz knew each other 20 years ago when they were in the same gang, and found themselves housed together at the Manatee County jail last month, according to an arrest report. But Avalos told a deputy he was tired of Cruz bringing up things from the past.

During an attack that was captured by security cameras at the jail, the sheriff's office said Avalos tried to kill Cruz by stabbing him in the head, face and neck with two sharpened toothbrushes at 2:29 p.m. Dec. 7 in the day room area of the pod where both men were being housed. The charge was not filed until 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, however.

An arrest report for the new charge includes details of recorded telephone calls Avalos made from jail in which it appears he admits to attacking Cruz.

"He was trying me," Avalos told a man the day after incident, according to the report. "I was not going to let him get his re-sentencing so I had some shanks and stabbed that (expletive) in his neck .. I tried to kill him ... Green Eyes was begging for his life ... I don't care if they're listening ... They gonna put me on death row ... Another inmate saved him ... God did not allow me to kill him ... You tell everyone about this."

Twenty-five minutes, Avalos made a second call, this time to a woman.

"I stabbed your friend's boyfriend in the neck," Avalos said, according to the report.

Sheriff's office spokesman Dave Bristow said it took about a month to file the charges because they wanted to thoroughly investigate the incident and Avalos was remaining in jail regardless. The case was reviewed by the state attorney's office before the new charge was filed.

"I mean, he's not going anywhere," Bristow said.

Avalos is now facing a second-degree attempted murder charge, in addition to three first-degree murder charges from 2014.

At 2:29 p.m. Dec. 7, Cruz was sitting at a table near the entry door to the pod, the report states. Avalos came downstairs from his cell, walked over to the table and then to the door and looked out the window. He then walked to the back of the pod for about 30 minutes.

When Avalos walked back towards the table and the door, he removed what appeared as "shanks" from his pants, walked over to Cruz and stabbed him 10-15 times, according to the report.

Avalos continued to stab Cruz as he fell to the floor. Another inmate in the pod intervened, reportedly pushing Avalos away. Avalos continued to come toward Cruz, who used the table as a shield.

A deputy entered the pod 47 seconds after the stabbing began, the report states, citing the time stamps on the video recordings. As the deputy entered, Avalos continued to shout at other inmates, he reported.

"The suspect said to (the deputy), 'I have no problem with you. It is an old beef I am dealing with'," Detective Todd Zink wrote in the report.

Avalos dropped the "shanks" seconds later. Zink got to the pod then and saw Cruz standing in the kitchen area with blood on the front of his white t-shirt and holding paper towel or a rag to the left side of his neck.

Inside the pod, Zink found two toothbrushes, one purple and one blue, that had been sharpened down to a point, laying on the floor next to where Cruz had been sitting. There was blood on the purple toothbrush, the table and floor.

Cruz said he didn't see the attack coming, Zink wrote. A cut on his face was closed with a sterile strip and the two stitches were required for the wound on his neck.

The only thing Cruz told Zink he heard Avalos say was that he was a "prophet." Cruz was not interested in pressing charges, he also said.

Cruz has since recovered from his injuries, according to Bristow.

Avalos was taken to a different housing area in the jail after the stabbing. He seemed depressed, a deputy reported so he walked over to him.

"The suspect told him that the victim kept bringing up things that happened when he was in the gang and that he was threatening him about past incidents and that is the reason he had to do what he did," Zink wrote. "The suspect continued to state that he has gone through enough and was tired of the victim bringing up things from the past."

Cruz, 35, is at the Manatee County jail awaiting a resentencing hearing for a first-degree murder conviction from 1997 when he was sentenced to life in prison. At the time of his initial sentencing he was a juvenile.

Avalos is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the Dec. 4, 2014, slayings of his wife, Amber Avalos; neighbor, Denise Potter, 46; and the Rev. James "Tripp" Battle, 31. He is scheduled to stand trial in October, according to Assistant State Attorney Art Brown.

Investigators said Avalos hanged his wife from a cord in the laundry room of their northwest Bradenton home, beat her and then shot her in December 2014.

He also gunned down Potter, who had been visiting his home, investigators said.

After the women were slain, investigators said Avalos dropped his 4-year-old son off at day care and went to the Walmart Supercenter on State Road 64 where he left his vehicle. He then took a taxi to Bayshore Baptist Church, 6502 14th St. W., where investigators and witnesses said he shot and killed Battle.

Avalos was arrested Dec. 6, 2014, 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 six children.

He was arrested in a mobile home park less than two blocks from Bayshore Baptist Church a few hours after his father's plea.

After his arrest, Avalos admitted to the slayings, Brown said in court.

Prosecutors have said they are seeking the death penalty for Avalos.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049 or jdeleon@bradenton.com. You can follow her on Twitter@bradenton.com. You can follow her on Twitter@kateirby.

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