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Trial in four Pasco slayings begins with harrowing 911 call describing first attack

NEW PORT RICHEY — Megan Brown has been dead three years, but on Friday, her desperate voice filled a courtroom, her moaning and sobs erupting from a 911 audio recording.

"My son's dad put a knife to my throat, and he cut my hand," she reported on Aug. 28, 2014.

Adam Matos had threatened to kill her, she reported.

Later that day, he did just that, while also killing Brown's Hudson parents and her new boyfriend, prosecutors told a jury during opening statements in Matos' murder trial.

After four days of jury selection, the state began its case against Matos, who is accused of killing Megan, Margaret and Gregory Brown and boyfriend Nick Leonard inside a home at 7719 Hatteras Drive.

The harrowing 911 recording captures Brown telling a sheriff's deputy that Matos attacked her with a knife after she returned from a night out with friends. The first attack happened in front of their 4-year-old son.

She did not live to describe what happened next.

Assistant State Attorney Bryan Sarabia told the jury that Matos continuously called Megan Brown throughout the day.

Then, about 3 p.m., the calls stopped.

Margaret Brown, who worked at a Wawa convenience store, left for work at about the same time. She finished her shift about 11 p.m., the last any of the four victims was seen alive.

People walking in the neighborhood that night reported hearing gunshots.

In the days that followed, Matos listed the family TV, and several dogs that Margaret Brown owned, for sale on Craigslist, Sarabia said. He also ordered pizza twice and mingled with neighbors.

Visitors to the home reported a foul smell, Sarabia said.

Several days later, worried family members requested a welfare check.

Less than a mile from the home, a deputy found the four bodies stacked near a berm that blocked a sparsely traveled road.

An examination showed they died from gunshot wounds and injuries "consistent with a hammer," Sarabia said.

Matos, who lived with them, was missing from the home, as was his 4-year-old son, Ismael "Tristan" Santisteban.

Police later arrested Matos in Tampa with the boy.

Linda Thomas, stepmother to Margaret Brown, was among the first witnesses who testified Friday.

At times breaking into tears, she explained that the family had moved from their farm in central Pennsylvania in July 2014 because they wanted to be closer to her and her husband in Key West.

Thomas met Matos when she came to Hudson to help the family move into their new home. She said she did not know that he was Tristan's father.

During the visit, Thomas said Matos and Megan Brown were tense. She described their relationship as "volatile." Thomas found Matos to be polite, but she was afraid of him, she said.

She described Margaret Brown's final Facebook posts, which chronicled a visit to St. Pete Beach. On Aug. 29, 2014, Thomas said she sent an email to her stepdaughter. She did not receive a response.

Over the next few days, Thomas tried to reach her stepdaughter several more times. Again, there was no response.

On Sept. 4, 2014, Thomas called the Pasco County Sheriff's Office to check on the family.

Deputy Miguel Silva arrived at the residence and found no one home. As he walked the property, he passed a broken garage window and smelled something decomposing, he testified. Later, the deputy found a spent bullet in the driveway and a bullet hole in an outside wall. Silva called for backup. With another deputy, they entered the home and searched.

In the garage was a van with dried blood inside. The rest of the home was empty.

As the investigation began, a Pasco County sheriff's dive team searched a canal that ran behind the home. One diver, Deputy Keith Bennett, told the jury that as soon as he entered the water, his feet touched a submerged rifle. It was one of several guns the team found. They also retrieved two crossbows and a hammer.

If the jury convicts him, Matos faces the death penalty. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

Testimony will resume Monday.

Contact Dan Sullivan at Follow @TimesDan.