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Originally published September 5, 2014 at 6:21 AM | Page modified September 6, 2014 at 2:37 AM

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Suspect in 4 deaths caught at Florida hotel

Police on a manhunt swarmed a Florida hotel early Friday and arrested a man suspected in the killings of four people whose bodies were found stacked on the ground and decomposing in a neighborhood some 45 miles away.


Associated Press

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HUDSON, Fla. —

Police on a manhunt swarmed a Florida hotel early Friday and arrested a man suspected in the killings of four people whose bodies were found stacked on the ground and decomposing in a neighborhood some 45 miles away.

Detectives found the bodies a day earlier when they went to check on a 4-year-old boy believed to be the suspect's son, who authorities say is autistic.

Police said they arrested Adam Matos, 28, after tricking him into leaving his room -- where he was staying with the boy -- on the 18th floor of the historic Floridan Palace Hotel. Matos had checked in under his real name, they said.

Results were pending of a DNA test that would determine whether Matos is the father of the boy, Ismael Tristan Santisteban.

"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. He denied killing the victims or knowing who did. Officials said an investigator who specializes in talking to autistic children was interviewing Ismael. 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 declined to release the names pending the conclusion of autopsies. But a search warrant obtained by both The Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times lists them as Megan Brown, 27; her parents, Margaret and Greg Brown, both 52; and another man, Nicholas Leonard. All recently lived in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, as did Matos. The Associated Press could not obtain a copy of the warrant.

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 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.

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 is due in a Hillsborough County court Saturday to face 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.

The names of the four victims were not released pending identification, Nocco said.

"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.

_____

Associated Press reporter Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.

Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush



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