BRADENTON (FOX 13) - The call that Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Joel Perez got on December 4, 2014 caught him off guard. It was from his nephew, Andres "Andy" Avalos.
"I said, ‘What? He said that he was serious," Perez recounted to the courtroom Monday. “He had left two bodies at the house and I needed to get somebody over there before his children got home.”
Investigators rushed to the home, where they found a gruesome scene. Avalos' wife Amber had been beaten and killed. Denise Potter, a neighbor in the wrong place at the wrong time, was shot to death.
"I was drawn back. I did take him serious. I did not ask him any further questions," said Lt. Perez.
A couple of hours later, Pastor James "Tripp" Battle was gunned down outside Bayshore Baptist Church.
After a manhunt that lasted two days, Lt. Perez got another call from his nephew.
"He was ready to turn himself in," he recalled.
Avalos was arrested at a mobile home park just a few blocks away from Pastor Battle's church. Prosecutors said he confessed at that time and said he was ready to face the consequences.
They said he was fueled by rage, believing his wife had been unfaithful to him with several men, in particular Pastor Battle.
But his attorneys say Avalos was not mentally stable.
"Would you say he was extremely paranoid?" asked defense attorney Andrew Crawford.
"Yes,” Lt. Perez responded. “It always reverted back that people were following him.”
"People trying to kill him?” asked Crawford. “People trying to murder him?"
"Yes," replied Perez.
Avalos' defense attorneys said, four months before the murders, Avalos was diagnosed with anxiety and was told to get marriage counseling. His attorneys are working to set up an insanity defense.
"There were other fears that he had as well, weren't there? Regarding his wife?" questioned Crawford.
"Yes," answered Lt. Perez. “Infidelity.”
“How strongly did you believe that?" asked Crawford.
"I did not believe that," insisted Perez.
The trial will resume Tuesday morning.
If Avalos is found guilty, the prosecution will seek the death penalty.