The case that authorities say led to a quadruple homicide actually began several days ago when Megan Brown called deputies to her home in Hudson, where she said Adam Matos threatened her with a knife.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office began a search for Matos right away, but days passed and by the time they found him four people were dead, a 4-year-old boy with autism was missing and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said Matos was the only suspect in the crime.
Matos' trail from Pasco led to a Tampa hotel where he was arrested Friday morning and the boy rescued. He was transferred to the Land O' Lakes Detention Center.
The victims in the quadruple homicide in Hudson include Brown, 27, her mother and father, Margaret and Greg Brown, both 52, and Megan Brown's boyfriend, Nicholas Leonard, 37, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and an affidavit for a search warrant filed Friday. Leonard was not living at the residence, but Matos was, deputies said.
The warrant, for Room 1803 in the Floridan Palace Hotel in downtown Tampa, where Matos and his son, Ismael Tristan Santisteban, were located early Friday morning, also said police were searching for a firearm and a knife, believed to be the weapons used in the grisly homicide.
Matos, the subject of a statewide manhunt, was taken into custody without incident and the child was recovered safe and uninjured from inside the room in the hotel, located across the street from the federal courthouse.
Matos, 28, took Tristan after the four bodies were found near the boy's Hudson home, according to Tampa police and Pasco sheriff's deputies.
“I love my son,” Matos told reporters as he was being led to a waiting patrol car outside the Tampa Police Department downtown. “I hope he's safe right now.”
Matos denied involvement in the homicides.
When asked why he took the boy, he replied, “Because he's my son,” he said.
Matos arrived in Tampa after he had taken a cab from Hudson to the Greyhound bus terminal in downtown Tampa, said Tampa police Chief Jane Castor. It was the cab driver, who picked up Matos and the boy about two blocks from the boy's house, who was among the first to alert Pasco County sheriff's deputies about Matos' whereabouts.
At the bus station, Matos asked about routes and fares to South Florida, but didn't buy a ticket, Castor said. From there, he checked into the upscale Floridan Palace Hotel, 905 N. Florida Ave., around midnight, she said, under his own name.
She said Tampa police used a “ruse” to lure Matos out of the room and away from the boy, but she would not be more specific. Pasco sheriff's officials who later held a news conference Friday afternoon also declined to go into details.
“We came up with it as a group,” Castor said, “and we were able to make contact with him and get him to come out of the room.”
She said he didn't struggle, but looked resigned to the fact that he was being taken into custody.
“He appeared to be pretty calm to me,” she said.
He was booked into the Hillsborough County jail on a warrant out of Pasco charging him with aggravated assault. Bail on the warrant was set at $200,000.
The affidavit said Pasco deputies were called to the home at 7719 Hatteras Drive on Thursday for a welfare check and when they entered, found a lot of blood, a projectile “and an odor consistent with a decomposing body.”
“Further investigation showed an aggravated assault had occurred at the residence on Aug. 28, ... involving Adam Matos and a victim, Megan Brown. During the aggravated assault, a knife was used,” the affidavit said.
“It was later discovered that Megan Brown, her father, Greg Brown, her mother, Margaret Brown and another person, Nicholas Leonard, were all missing from the residence.”
That day, the affidavit said, the bodies of two men and two women were found a short distance from the home in a grassy area. Detectives said that Matos had been seen going into and coming out of the home on Tuesday.
Sheriff Chris Nocco had previously said that the woman who reported being threatened by Matos on Aug. 28 was the boy's mother. On Friday Nocco asked for the help of anyone who might know about his movements and whereabouts since Aug. 28.
Nocco said Tristan, who is autistic, is in the custody of the Pasco sheriff's child protective investigations unit and the sheriff's office is in contact with family members to find someone who might be able to take him.
“We want to make sure someone can take care of him because he has special needs,” Nocco said.
The sheriff said when the SWAT team went into the hotel to take Matos into custody, they took special care with Tristan, who was confused.
“He said, 'where am I going now? Why am I being moved from place to place,' ” Nocco said.
Castor said the child “wasn't visibly upset” at the arrest of Matos, though.
“He was high-fiving the officers,” she said.
The joint operation involved not only deputies from Pasco County and police from Tampa, she said, but the agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI.
“Everybody worked together seamlessly,” Castor said, “and this was a very positive outcome.”
On Thursday, authorities said Matos was considered armed and dangerous. Castor did not know whether a weapon was found in the room.
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said Matos was caught by surprise and did not put up a fight.
“Thank God Tristan is OK,” Nocco said.
Although Matos said he was Tristan's father, Nocco said their relationship was unclear.
Matos had asked about catching a bus to South Florida, planning to go to Key West, records show he has family in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Nocco said the sheriff's office has information that a DNA test may have been done in Pennsylvania that would verify whether Matos is the boy's father, and investigators are trying to verify that.
Pennsylvania records show Matos was arrested numerous times for offenses that ranged from retail theft to harassment to trespass to assault. He drew sentences that ranged from probation to jail time, though the court records don't specifically say how long he served in jail. His probation appeared to have been completed.
So far, little is known about the four people who were killed.
Margaret and Greg Brown owned a kennel in Pennsylvania 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 Florida 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.
Nick Leonard was a regular at the Fisherman's Shack bar but wasn't a big drinker and wasn't one to cause trouble, said Sandi Reilly, who had been a bartender there.
“He was quiet. He was always smiling,'' Reilly said. “He was good to everybody. Everybody loved him.”
Reilly said she last saw Leonard about a week and a half ago. She had gone into the Fisherman's Shack and he was at the bar by himself, she said.
“He didn't seem stressed,” said Reilly, who is now a bartender at the Hay Loft in Hudson. “He didn't seem like anything was wrong. He smiled.”
She said she learned about Thursday night from friends on Facebook that Leonard was dead.
“I was devastated,” Reilly said. “He's never been a problem. I can't see him in an issue with anybody. He's never been a troublemaker.”
Staff writer Jose Patino Girona and the Associated Press contributed to this report.