BRADENTON, Fla. — A jury handed down a verdict Saturday afternoon in the triple murder trial of Andres Avalos, 36.
Avalos was found guilty of killing his wife Amber, her friend Denise Potter and their pastor Rev. James “Tripp” Battle in December 2014.
The jury deliberated for more than twelve hours before reaching a verdict.
Avalos was found guilty of second-degree murder for the death of Amber Avalos, and first-degree murder for the deaths of Denise Potter and Pastor Tripp Battle.
An investigation into the killings revealed Avalos shot his wife, Amber and hung her body in the home. When their neighbor and friend, Denise Potter came to the scene, he shot her five times. He then traveled to Bayshore Baptist Church, where he gunned down their pastor, Tripp Battle. Prosecutors say he believed Battle and his wife were having an affair, and that he admitted to all three killings during interviews with detectives.
In closing arguments on Friday, Avalos lawyers tried to prove their client was suffering from a delusional disorder at the time of the killings.
Defense attorney Andrew Crawford told jurors Avalos was paranoid and fixated on the belief his wife was having an affair, and that his enemies were out to get him.
“Is there a delusion of prosecution when someone sees a helicopter overhead and thinks it’s his enemies?” Crawford asked the jury.
Prosecutors argued Avalos killed the victims “with a cold brutality, not born out of a delusion, but out of jealousy.” Assistant state attorney Art Brown said the defendant’s motive was “born out of a jealousy fueled by months of drug and alcohol abuse.” Brown reviewed evidence and showed juror’s photos of Amber’s body. “If there is one method of murder that unmistakably proves intent to kill, is the act of strangulation, choking off someone’s air supply,” said Brown.
According to witnesses’ testimonies, Avalos claimed he knew right from wrong when he killed the three victims.
The jury will be back Monday morning for a second phase.
The state is expected to seek the death penalty.
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