HUDSON, Fla. (AP) – A man suspected in the killings of four people whose bodies were found decomposing outside of Tampa, Florida appeared in court Saturday.
Police said they arrested Adam Matos, 28, at a hotel in downtown Tampa on Friday morning. Officials tricked him into leaving his room at the Floridan Palace Hotel, where he was staying with a boy.
The boy was unharmed and is in state custody. Results were pending of a DNA test that would determine whether Matos is the father of the boy.
Matos denied any involvement in the killings to reporters. Police say Matos is the only suspect in the killings but he has not been charged. He was due in court on a warrant for aggravated assault charges.
"I love my son and I hope that he's safe right now," Matos told reporters as he was led to a police car outside the hotel Friday. Officials said an investigator who specializes in talking to autistic children was interviewing the boy. They were not sure whether he might have witnessed the killings.
After Matos' arrest, the boy seemed fine, said Jane Castor, Tampa's police chief.
"He is in good spirits," she told a news conference. She said she did not know whether Matos had a weapon in the room.
Matos is the only suspect in the deaths of the four people whose bodies were found in Hudson, some 45 miles away from the Tampa hotel, authorities said. Pasco deputies on Saturday released tentative identifications of the deceased. A news release said Megan Brown, 27; her parents, Margaret and Greg Brown, both 52; and another man, Nicholas Leonard, were the victims. All recently lived in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, as did Matos.
Officials also said that Matos lived in a home in Hudson with the Browns; Leonard did not live there.
Margaret and Greg Brown owned a Lehigh Valley kennel that had recently lost its license for employing a man who had once been convicted of animal cruelty at another kennel, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Tara Cellini of Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, who owns the home with her husband, Ben, and rented it to the Browns, said the couple and their daughter abruptly moved south a few months ago, saying "they were just tired of all the work up here and they wanted to go down there to slow their lives down and enjoy their lives."
She also said the family had trouble with Matos, whom Megan Brown had dated.
Detectives released only a few details about what specific evidence ties Matos to the slayings. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco did say Matos had been seen in the Hudson area recently and quickly became a suspect.
Court records in Pennsylvania show Matos had been arrested numerous times for harassment, theft, burglary, trespassing, assault and driving under the influence. He pleaded guilty to some of the charges, and others appear to have been dismissed.
He appeared in a Hillsborough County court Saturday on a charge of aggravated assault, related to an incident on Aug. 28, when the boy was last seen at his home. His mother called police and said Matos had threatened her with a knife and then fled, said Nocco. She told investigators she was scared of Matos, but authorities could not find him.
On Thursday, Pasco sheriff's deputies were checking on the family, but no one was home.
They noticed a bad odor in the area and about three-quarters of a mile down the street found the bodies of two men and two women in a pile in a grassy area out in the open with birds circling overhead, police said. The bodies had apparently lain unseen for several days in the working-class neighborhood with houses big and small that abuts canals leading to the Gulf of Mexico.
"It's been quiet around here," said Mark Evans, who helps run a storage facility and landscaping service that overlooks the area where the bodies were found. "We mow some lawns over on that street, and we didn't see anything out of the ordinary."
A tip from a cab driver who had driven a man and a boy the hour and a half or so to Tampa led officials downtown, Nocco said. There, witnesses said they'd seen Matos at a bus station, asking about fares. Authorities said they thought he planned to travel to Key West. A ticket wasn't available, officials said, so he headed to the hotel.
Once he checked in — and called the front desk at least once, asking how to connect to the Internet — staff called police, and the SWAT team gathered in the lobby.