Landlord didn't tell him about 2014 murders
A family occupied the murder house. That much was clear. There was a tree swing in the front yard, a portable basketball hoop in the driveway and a large SUV parked next to it. A light was on inside. For two years, I wondered who could possibly live in such a place. I was about to find out.
I parked on the street and began walking to the door. Then I heard a dog bark and thought: “You know what, maybe not tonight.’’ I retreated to my car and drove away. Still it bothered me: Who lived there? I turned around and went back.
The neighborhood was tricky and I took a wrong turn, winding up on a dead-end street. I reversed course, only to notice the same SUV that was parked in the driveway coming right at me. The driver got close, took my picture and then turned around and followed me, snapping photos of my license plate. I then forced him to pass until he pulled over a few blocks later. I stopped next to him. He was a big, imposing man. He got out. I was relieved by how pleasant he was.
“Weird question,’’ I said. “But are you the guy who lives in the murder house?’’
Yes, he said, he was. He rents the house in west Bradenton and he moved there with his family in 2014, about a week after Andres “Andy’’ Avalos killed his wife Amber in the laundry room and then shot her friend, Denise Potter, in the hallway. Avalos also went to a Bradenton church that day, Dec. 4, 2014, and killed the Rev. James “Tripp’’ Battle because he thought Battle was having an affair with his wife. He was captured in a trailer park two days later and stood trial this week.
The man who now lives in the house with his family says he was never told by his landlord about the murders before he signed the lease. It was never disclosed. The first clue as to what happened was when he discovered blood from Amber Avalos’ murder in the laundry room underneath a cabinet. Can you imagine?
Efforts to reach the landlord were unsuccessful, but if you are the landlord, how do you keep that nifty little detail out of the home showing as the man alleges?
“Yep, we just put in new carpet, there’s central air and the local schools are absolutely terrific.’’
“What’s this room here?’’
“Oh, that’s nothing, just the laundry room. Say, how about we check out that kitchen again? And did I tell you $1,500 a month? I meant $700.’’
Wait, this gets even more disturbing. Turns out, the Avalos murder wasn’t even the only murder that took place in the house. In 2008, two men broke into the same house, entered the bedroom where 74-year-old Janice Fore was, stuffed a sock in her mouth, wrapped her face in duct tape, tied her hands behind her back, bound her legs and left her to suffocate, all so the two men could steal a computer. They received life in prison for her murder.
Now, take a guess as to how the man in the Avalos house found out about the Fore murder? That’s right, I told him. He never knew until Thursday night.
Again, can you imagine? One person is murdered in your laundry room, another in your hallway and nine years prior a person is killed in your bedroom and no one tells you when you move in?
The man requested his name not be revealed and I am honoring that. He’s just a guy trying to raise a family in peace. He has a wife and kids who attend local schools and has been encountering invasions of his privacy just because of where he lives.
He said he has had at least a dozen people park outside and take photos in recent months. One person, he said, filmed the house, narrated a video and put it on youtube, though if that happened it is no longer there.
According to the man, someone filmed his wife standing in the front yard and made the comment: “She’ll be next to die.’’
The man has a dog, a gun and surveillance cameras inside his house. That’s how he knew I was outside. That’s why he chased me. He wanted to see who I was, what I was doing there, if I had come to harass him like the other gawkers.
He stood in the street and spoke for awhile and you couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Then he said he had to get back, that his family would wonder why he wasn’t home, to where there are trees to swing in and basketball hoops to shoot at, to where there are lives being lived when people aren’t interrupting them.
— Chris Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org