Triple-murder suspect tries to avoid potential death penalty

- At Bayshore Baptist Church, colorful flowers bloom where a heinous crime occurred.

"I believe that, when we commit crimes, there are consequences to our crimes. It's just like sin," said Pastor Toney Hill.

Pastor Hill has filled the void left by Pastor James "Tripp" Battle, who was murdered on December 4, 2014.

Manatee County deputies say Andy Avalos first killed his wife Amber by hanging, beating, and then shooting her.  Then, according to investigators, he shot and killed neighbor Denise Potter, who was visiting their home.

Deputies said Avalos then drove to Bayshore Baptist Church, wanting to speak with Pastor Battle. As the pastor walked to his office, Avalos allegedly gunned him down.

Three years later, Avalos is preparing for trial.  He appeared in court Monday, shackled.

Pastor Battle's mother sat nearby as Avalos' defense team argued that the death penalty should be taken off the table.  They're arguing it on a technicality.

"The state did not file the notice of aggravating circumstances within 45 days of arrangement," said Avalos' defense team.

Avalos' attorneys said it violated the due process clause.  Judge Diana Moreland listened to the motion, but it'll take a few weeks before her decision is made.

Since Pastor Battle's death, new members have joined Bayshore Baptist Church and not many remember the former pastor, but his memory continues to live on.  A memorial garden, tree, and plaque are all dedicated to the pastor who served and died here.

"The people who knew Tripp who are still here are waiting for closure for this," added Pastor Hill.

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