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Authorities investigating triple murder in Manatee County

UPDATE: (Friday, 9:17 a.m.) A Manatee sheriff's spokesman confirmed that authorities found the vehicle Andres "Andy" Avalos was last seen driving in the parking lot of a Walmart on Thursday night. The SUV was located at 6225 State Road 64. Avalos is still at large.

BRADENTON — Manatee sheriff's deputies are searching for a man they consider armed and dangerous who they believe killed his wife, pastor and another woman Thursday.

Authorities have obtained an arrest warrant for Andres "Andy" Avalos, 33, for allegedly shooting to death Bayshore Baptist Church pastor James "Tripp" Battle, 31, about 1 p.m. Thursday, Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow said.

Investigators believe Avalos first killed his wife, Amber Avalos, 33, who was a church employee, and neighbor Denise Potter, 46, at the couple's residence at 1200 67th St. NW in Bradenton. Then, Bristow said, Avalos went to the church at 6502 14th St. W and shot Battle.

Deputies were called to the church when a witness, who only minutes before had spoken with Avalos, heard a gunshot.

Once at Bayshore, Bristow said investigators learned of a possibly related murder scene across town, where they found the women's bodies. Bristow said the medical examiner will determine how the women died.

Avalos was last seen near the church driving a 2003 gold Chevrolet Suburban with the tag number 484VTZ.

"Certainly we believe he has killed three people," Bristow said. "So suffice to say he is armed and extremely dangerous."

He said investigators have several leads on a motive but are not disclosing them at this time.

Amber Avalos worked as the church's nursery/children's director, according to the church's website.

Manatee County records show Andres and Amber Avalos were married in August 2000. The church website says the Avaloses have "six amazing children."

Bristow said the children were not home when their mother was killed and they all have been located and are safe.

Avalos served time in Hills­borough County for multiple DUI convictions between 2004 and 2012. In 2003, Avalos was involved in a physical altercation in which he was shot in the arm. Avalos jumped out of some bushes at a home in Bradenton, put a gun to another's man's head and forced him inside, the Bradenton Herald reported in 2003. The men argued and the gun went off during a struggle.

Andres Avalos' father, Andy Avalos Sr., has been written about several times in the Herald for his work as a prominent mentor for troubled young Latinos.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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