NEW PORT RICHEY — Cops found the crime scene before they found the victims. It was a two-story house in a Hudson neighborhood on the banks of a canal.
A spent bullet lay in the driveway. Blood puddled in the garage.
The bodies were stacked less than a mile away, one atop the other, at the summit of a small hill: a woman, her parents and her boyfriend.
Missing was a 4-year-old boy. Sheriff's deputies said he had been taken by his father, Adam Matos, who would become the suspect.
Within a day, police in Tampa arrested Matos at a downtown hotel. The boy was safe. In a jailhouse interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Matos said he was innocent of the four murders.
Three years later, a jury will weigh in. The trial of Matos, 32, is set to begin in a New Port Richey courtroom.
On Monday and Tuesday, lawyers began the tedious process of sorting through scores of potential jurors. They wanted to know what the pool had heard about the high-profile murder case.
They also wanted to know how people felt about the death penalty.
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Megan Brown and her parents moved into the Hudson home in July 2014.
Margaret and Gregory Brown had wanted to be closer to Florida relatives. Matos, Megan's ex-boyfriend, came with them from Pennsylvania.
Though the young couple had a relationship that family members said was volatile, they tried to stay together for their son, who has autism.
Relatives told investigators that the parents often argued over their respective treatment of the boy. While the rest of the family stuck together, Matos was often alone, holed up in a bedroom playing video games. Unemployed, he worked briefly as a dishwasher at a Hudson restaurant. But he was fired when he stopped showing up.
Megan Brown began dating Nick Leonard, whom she met at her new job as a server at Fisherman's Shack, a bar in Hudson.
Her co-worker Tonya Carlson said Matos was aggressive and rude, calling Megan Brown incessantly, sending nasty text messages, telling her she was a bad mother.
"She was like, 'You know, he's crazy, Tonya,'?" Carlson said in a deposition. "?'You know, he's never going to let me go.'?"
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About 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2014, Megan Brown returned home after a late night with friends, she later told deputies. When she walked into her bedroom, Matos surprised her.
They argued. Matos pulled a knife and held it to her throat, she said. She tried to push the knife away and cut her finger.
Matos ran out, she reported. She saw him through a window fleeing on a bicycle.
Deputies were told to be on the lookout for Matos.
In the days that followed, Megan Brown vanished. So did her parents and her new boyfriend. None of them reported to their respective jobs. None of their friends or families heard from them.
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But several people saw Matos.
He told a neighbor the family had left on a trip to West Virginia, according to an arrest report. On Aug. 29 and 30, he listed ads on Craigslist to sell dogs that Margaret Brown kept in her dog-breeding business. Several buyers visited the house on those days. One later said she remembered a foul odor inside.
On Aug. 31, Matos appeared at the back door of their next-door neighbor, Ryan McCann. He asked if he could share a beer with McCann and his family. McCann said in a deposition that Matos drank with them, but mostly stayed quiet.
Two days later, on Sept. 1, Matos had pizza delivered to the house, according to an arrest report. The delivery driver reported that Matos paid for the food with Margaret Brown's debit card.
He ordered pizza again the next day. The driver, Jesse Fletcher, said in a deposition that he remembered a smell, "like a wet dog and rotten eggs" emanating from inside the house.
That night, Matos asked McCann if he would go with him to a bar. Matos got drunk and became aggressive with some of the other patrons, McCann later said in a deposition.
On Sept. 4, Linda Thomas phoned the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and asked that they do a welfare check on the family. It was then that deputies discovered the crime scene.
After the bodies were found, a medical examiner determined the four had been beaten and shot.
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If Matos is found guilty, prosecutors will ask for the death penalty. If the jury recommends capital punishment, the law now requires that the decision be unanimous.
The trial is expected to last three weeks.
Contact Dan Sullivan at email@example.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.