MANATEE -- The defense attorney for Bradenton triple murder suspect Andres "Andy" Avalos has filed a motion requesting his client undergo a PET scan.
According to court documents, the motion filed March 12 by assistant public Defender Franklin Roberts requests the Manatee County Sheriff's Office transport Avalos to US Pet Imaging, 3830 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, for the imaging technique.
PET stands for "positron emission tomograph," which produces three-dimensional images of radioactive substances in the body. A PET scan can provide visual information about the activity of the brain.
Avalos, 33, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths Dec. 4 of his wife, Amber Avalos; neighbor, Denise Potter; and Pastor James "Tripp" Battle.
The State Attorney's Office announced last month it is seeking the death penalty.
According to the motion document, Avalos' counsel "has reasonable grounds to believe that the testing is necessary in order to properly prepare mitigation for the defendant."
If Avalos is found guilty of first-degree murder, the defense will present mitigating evidence to convince the jury and judge to keep Avalos off death row and instead sentence him to life in prison without parole.
The motion goes on to state experts who have been retained by the defense believe a PET scan is necessary to complete a comprehensive examination.
Calls to Avalos' defense counsel and Assistant State Attorney Arthur Brown were not immediately returned.
"The defense has an obligation to investigate all possible mitigation circumstances," said Bradenton-based crimi
nal defense attorney Adam Tebrugge. "One very important factor is or can be whether the defendant suffers any brain damage."
Trebugge said PET scans have been used over the past 10 to 15 years in these kinds of cases to look for areas of brain damage.
"Typically, the defense would conduct a full neuro-psychological examination of the client," Tebrugge said. "A neuro-psychological evaluation is looking for brain damage by doing physical and mental testing. The PET scan can help confirm the results that the neuro-psychologist obtained and it gives you something that you can actually show in court. If the PET scan shows brain damage, you'll actually have pictures of the brain that you can show to the jury or to the judge to demonstrate the difference between a normal brain and a damaged brain."
Trebrugge added the Avalos case is a long time away from going to trial, but it's critical for his defense to handle this part of the case correctly.
A hearing on the motion is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. April 6.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.