HUDSON, Fla. — Greg and Margaret Brown, their daughter Megan and her young son moved from Pennsylvania to Florida a few months ago, looking for a fresh start after operating a farm that bred and boarded horses and dogs.
"We are in Hudson Florida for a while," a posting on the farm's Internet site said.
On Thursday, Pasco County sheriff's deputies checking on the family noticed a bad odor in the area, and followed it three-quarters of a mile down the street to a gruesome discovery: the bodies of two men and two women, piled atop each other in an open field. They had apparently lain unseen for several days.
The sheriff's office tentatively identified the victims Saturday as Megan Brown, 27; her parents, Margaret and Greg Brown, both 52; and another man, Nicholas Leonard.
The Brown family recently lived in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, as did Adam Matos, 28, whom police are calling the only suspect in the slayings. Matos has not been charged, and he denied any involvement in the killings to reporters shortly after authorities caught up with him and his son at a downtown Tampa hotel.
He appeared in Hillsborough County court Saturday on a warrant charge, then was transferred to Pasco County Jail.
Police said Matos — believed to be the father of Megan Brown's 4-year-old son — had been staying with the Browns in a rented home along a canal leading to the Gulf of Mexico in Hudson, located in Pasco County about an hour and a half northwest of downtown Tampa. Both Matos and Megan Brown had gotten jobs at restaurants near the home.
Brown worked at a place called The Fisherman's Shack, a wooden building that isn't far from a canal.
"She was a wonderful person," employee Kristina Graham said Saturday. "I didn't know her very well. She did say she had problems with her ex-boyfriend."
Nick Leonard, the other victim in the home, hung out at that bar. He and Brown were friends, Graham said, and he didn't live at the home. Leonard was from Florida, she added.
Matos worked at a similar establishment. A man answering the phone at the Get Hooked Almost Waterfront Restaurant and Bar in Hudson said Saturday that Matos had worked there as a dishwasher, but didn't know any more about him.
Detectives released only a few details about the evidence tying 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 warrant out of Pasco County, where he was wanted on an aggravated assault charge. That stemmed from an incident on Aug. 28, when Megan Brown 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.
A week later, police found the bodies and discovered the boy was missing. They began a manhunt for Matos and the boy. They arrested Matos 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.
Sam Azar, a friend and former neighbor of the Browns, said he occasionally saw Matos at the Browns' home in Pennsylvania. But Matos never made an impression.
"He was a little on the quiet side. He would say hi," Azar said Saturday. "It seemed like he was there a little while, he'd disappear for a while, then come back around."
Maggie Brown worked at a convenience store in Pennsylvania to supplement the family's kennel income, Azar said. Greg Brown also had a job outside the farm, Azar said, but he'd become unemployed and had back surgery right before they moved.
"He had a hard time standing. When they were loading up, he couldn't he touch a pencil, Azar said.
The family seemed to be doing OK in Florida, said Tara Cellini of Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, who owns the Florida waterfront home with her husband, Ben, and rented it to the Browns.
"When we talked to Maggie, what she said to us was they totally love it, they loved the house, they loved the location, they loved everything. She never said she was having problems," Tara Cellini said.
While they were away, Pennsylvania inspectors who visited the Browns' kennel last month found they were employing a man who had once been convicted of animal cruelty at another kennel. The state revoked the kennel's license on Wednesday, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Associated Press reporter Michael Rubinkam reported from in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush