Donors asked to step up for children left behind by Tampa Bay murders

by Joni Hannigan , Editorial Staff |

BRADENTON, Fla. (Christian Examiner) – People's heartstrings have been tugged by the 10 children whose parents were involved in a tragic triple murder involving a Southern Baptist pastor in the Tampa Bay area yesterday, and already $3,385 as been raised in 18 hours to help offset the costs of funerals.

gofundme.com fundraising iniative is set up for all three families, and a Jacksonville church established an account that can get emergency funds to the pastor's family. People are asked to give from charitable hearts to help pay for burials, but there also are other considerations like the upcoming Christmas holiday and long term expenses such as the children's education.

James "Tripp" Battle, 31, lead pastor of Bayshore Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida, was shot and killed in a courtyard at the church, while Amber Avalos, 32, and her neighbor, Denise Potter, 46, were murdered in the Avaloses' home.

Amber Avalos, 32

The alleged shooter was Amber Avalos' estranged husband Andrés  "Andy" Avalos, 33, who was still sought by police Friday morning, according to news reports. He is considered "armed and dangerous."

Tripp Battle leaves behind a wife, Joy, who works as a secretary at the church, a 6-year-old daughter, Sophie, and 3-year-old son, Joshua.

Amber Avalos and her husband are the parents of six children who are in the custody of family members, and Denise Potter has three children who also have been taken in by family, according to news reports.

Dan Sardinas, pastor of Northwest Baptist Church in Bradenton, and Timmy Brister, elder at Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, set up the community funding site.

"A pastor and children's ministry director have been murdered," Brister shared on his Facebook page. "The grief and shock that has landed on these two families is unimaginable. The challenges that these families must face in the coming days and weeks are enormous, but the financial challenges does NOT have to be one of them."

Brister said he and Sardinas, who was a close ministry friend to Tripp Battle, decided the families needed to be taken care of "by their bigger church family and loving community."

Reports have said Amber Avalos and Denise Potter were friends and cleaned homes together.

"Together we can tangibly show the love of Christ to these grieving families and precious children," Brister said.

After initially establishing the site for just the Battle and Avalos families, Brister added Potter when it was learned she was the third victim and that she left behind children.

(Facebook)

The Southern Baptist pastor murdered at his small church yesterday did not have life insurance, according to James People, president of the Florida Baptist Convention.

Peoples said the pastor of First Baptist Church in Orange Park, Florida, near Jacksonville, has set up an E-giving site for funds to assist the pastor's wife, Joy, and the children -- and the funds will be sent after the first of the year.

"Joy will be informed that the gift she is receiving comes along with many prayers from the members of First Baptist Church of Orange Park and others in our Jacksonville Baptist Association and Florida Baptist Convention networks," the church's pastor, David Tarkington tells people, on the site.

Tarkington, told Peoples in a text message shared with Christian Examiner, the fund is a "quick fix" in lieu of a memorial fund he is sure will be set up at a later time. "Every little bit will help."

John Cross, senior pastor of South Biscayne Church in North Port, Florida, said Friday it's "unbelievable" and "past human comprehension" what happened to his friend and colleague, Tripp Battle.

Noting Battle was "young and healthy," Cross, said he was saddened to find out the young man did not have life insurance.

Cross married Dawn Pollock after her 44-year-old husband, the late Forrest Pollock, who was senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, died when the single-engine plane he was piloting went down tragically killing him and his 15-year-old son, Preston, in the mountains of North Carolina May 12, 2008.

"We all tend to think we have plenty of time to talk about the awkward things when we are young," Cross said. "I personally would encourage local churches to do their best to take care of their pastors as much as possible."

Bayshore Baptist was a small church, Cross recalled, and "by God's grace and for His Glory," Battle was being used to revitalize it.

"Great things were happening and people were coming to Christ," Cross said.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Avalos spent time in jail in Hillsborough County, Florida, for multiple DUI convictions from 2004-2012, and in 2003 was involved in a crime in which he used a gun.

Avalos' father, Andy Avalos Sr., according to the Bradenton (Fla.) Herald has been featured as a mentor for young Latinos. He leads a service in Spanish for a ministry sponsored as an outreach of Woodland Community Church in Bradenton, the church confirmed.

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