LAND O'LAKES — Adam Matos doesn't believe he can change any minds.
After the bodies of his ex-girlfriend, her parents and her new boyfriend were found baking in the sun atop a hill in northwest Pasco County, authorities called him the only suspect.
But in an exclusive interview Tuesday with the Tampa Bay Times from the Pasco County jail, a despondent Matos said he's no murderer. He's a nice guy, actually. Easy to get along with. And he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Everybody's looking at me like I did it," he said. "All the fingers point to me, you know? So I'm not going to change anybody's beliefs."
Matos, 28, landed in the middle of a case that captivated the Tampa Bay area last week. After the bodies were found, he and Ismael "Tristan" Santisteban, his 4-year-old son with autism, were missing for a day before a SWAT team caught up to the pair in a downtown Tampa hotel. Matos was arrested. Tristan is now safe with family.
Matos has not been charged in the murders. He is being held on a separate aggravated assault charge.
For most of the jail interview, he answered questions monosyllabically. The scruff on his cheeks lent to his deadpan look. He cracked a smirk only when he joked about wishing he had stayed at a more modern Hilton instead of the aged Floridan Palace Hotel in downtown Tampa where he was arrested, and when he used an expletive to describe what life has been like since his arrest.
He contradicted a story, told by authorities, that he threatened Megan Brown, his son's mother, with a knife early on Aug. 28, the last day anyone heard from her. He says that didn't happen. That morning, he said, he and Megan argued over "something stupid." Then she asked him to leave. He says that was the last time they spoke.
Matos also offered a new theory for who killed Megan, her parents Margaret and Greg Brown, and Nicholas Leonard, whom Brown started dating recently. He said there was a woman, possibly someone who knew Leonard, who'd taken to stalking Megan. She left Megan threatening letters and voice mails. The woman even confronted her at the family's home on Hatteras Drive in Hudson. Matos said he never got a look at the woman or knew her name.
His story was pocked with other gaps and contradictions. Among the questions Matos could not answer or was evasive in his response:
What happened in the week between his leaving the Hatteras Drive house and being arrested at the Floridan on Friday?
He said he lived on the streets for a few days. At the advice of his attorney, a public defender, he said he couldn't divulge any more.
How did he get Tristan before leaving for Tampa?
He wouldn't say.
Where was he planning to go after the Floridan?
"I don't know."
Why did he leave for Tampa?
"I guess I just needed time to think."
Why would the Sheriff's Office point to him as its only suspect?
"I don't know."
When did he find out Brown was dating Leonard?
The morning he was arrested and led out of the Floridan, he said, reporters asked him, "Did you know she was dating Nick?"
What did he think about that?
"If she was, that's her decision."
He said he was born in Philadelphia and went to Parkland High School in Allentown, Pa. After that, he studied at the Institute of Audio Research in New York City and worked as a DJ.
He said he met Brown through a friend six years ago, that he loved her and still loves her. They were on-and-off most of that time. When Tristan was born, he shared the responsibility of taking care of the boy. He said they had talked about marriage. It was something he wanted.
Other people contradict this picture of a mostly happy relationship.
Tonya Carlson, manager at the bar where Brown worked, said Brown called her on Aug. 28 in tears, saying she was afraid of Matos and that he was acting crazy.
Ismael Santisteban, an ex-boyfriend of Brown's, for whom her son is named, said she confided in him her fear of Matos.
He has been arrested several times before in the Lehigh Valley north of Philadelphia, according to the Morning Call, the valley's largest newspaper. He has faced charges that include marijuana possession, auto theft and trespassing at an apartment of another ex-girlfriend and assaulting her male companion, according to the newspaper.
Matos and the Browns left Pennsylvania for Hudson two months ago. They all hoped for a better life in Florida. But two weeks ago, Megan told him she wasn't happy in their relationship anymore, Matos said. He said they ended things on good terms.
After the breakup, he considered going home to Pennsylvania but decided to stay with the Browns and with his son.
He described Tristan as great, wonderful, "the sweetest kid you'll ever know."
Did he have anything left to say to the public?
"I want the people to know that I didn't do it," he said, "and that I love my son very much, and that I hope he's okay, wherever he is."
Contact Alex Orlando at email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.