‘You need to go find this guy,’ they warned police. Then came the home invasion.

Pavel Florea.
Pavel Florea.

The suspect in a Sept. 28 fatal home invasion and fire was a meth addict with a violent history who had tried to get clean, but relapsed.

Those who knew Pavel Florea well, including the mother of one of his children, describe a man who apparently rebuffed efforts to help him, and who displayed concerning behavior in the days leading up to the fire. Court records show the 35-year-old Nampa man was convicted of a violent felony in 2014 and had been released from jail, with possible prison time pending, just days before the home invasion.

Three people — including Florea — died in the fire at a secluded southwest Ada County home. Authorities confirmed Florea’s identity through DNA testing, the Ada County Coroner’s Office said while announcing his name Monday.

The Boise Police Department is leading a Critical Incident Task Force investigation into the home invasion and fire. A BPD spokeswoman Monday confirmed Florea is the man suspected of confronting police and breaking into the home.

A few days before the home invasion, two men who were concerned about Florea’s behavior went to Nampa police to warn them that he was abusing drugs and out of control.

They were alarmed when Florea posted a message asking his Facebook friends to bring him his ex-girlfriend alive and kill her new boyfriend for a bonus.

“Pavel, I would be careful of the words you put on here. I am pretty sure this is nearing a legal line,” one person commented.

The two men went to police on Sept. 25 to tell them about the threatening Facebook post, Florea’s drug abuse and his pattern of erratic, at times violent, behavior toward family members.

“I told police that this guy is dangerous and a menace to society,” said one of the men, who asked that their names be withheld due to concerns about their safety. “I said to them, ‘You need to go find this guy. He’s going to hurt himself and other people.’ 

Nampa Police Sgt. Tim Riha said police did not take any action at that point because they did not have evidence that Florea had committed a crime. In a police report, an officer said he told the men to notify police if they got any new information about Florea threatening to kill or harm his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend.

Ada County Sheriff Stephen Bartlett discusses the details of an armed home invasion and fire in Meridian that left three people dead on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017.

One of the men said he got a call from an Ada County sheriff’s detective a couple of days after he filed that police report. She was investigating a home invasion and fire, and Florea’s vehicle was found at the scene.

Investigators said deputies watched a gun-wielding man — now identified as Florea — pound on the door of a house at Amity and Linder roads late on Sept. 28 , threatening the residents inside with a gun.

Responding deputies fired on Florea, who went into the house. Soon after, the home caught fire. Three residents were inside: Carmen Abbott, 84, perished in the blaze. Her son, Scott McAlister, 55, died the next day at the University of Utah Burn Center. McAlister’s wife, Lily, was the sole survivor.

The shooting prompted the CITF investigation. It’s unclear if Florea also fired at the deputies.

History of domestic violence

Florea, who is from San Bernardino, Calif., was twice arrested for domestic violence in Canyon County over two years.

Christina Marie Budlong, his estranged wife, told the Idaho Statesman that he was mentally and physically abusive before they got married in 2008 — and throughout their marriage — but she didn’t have many resources and didn’t know how to get away from him.

“When he’d go to church, he’d talk the talk and act like he was walking the walk,” Budlong said. “The second he’d walk out the door [of church] he was a totally different person.”

She said she focused on caring for and protecting their daughter, now 8.

In 2013, they moved to Idaho. Florea’s father lives in the Treasure Valley and Florea thought he could make a fresh start with help from fellow Romanian-Americans and local churches, Budlong said. He found work here in construction, including apparently starting his own company at one point.

Florea’s criminal record in San Bernardino County included a 2008 conviction for misdemeanor DUI (for which he still owes $1,630 in fines and fees), online court records show.

He was charged in 2013 with domestic battery or assault in the presence of a child and disturbing the peace, but both charges were dismissed, according to Idaho court records. Budlong filed for divorce that year.

In 2014, he was charged with felony attempted strangulation and misdemeanor domestic battery. He pleaded guilty to one count of felony battery-domestic violence with traumatic injury and received a withheld judgment, which meant he had the opportunity to have the case dismissed if he successfully completed five years of probation. He was fined $570.50 and given 180 “discretionary” days in jail that could be imposed by his probation officer.

He has since violated that probation in at least three ways, according to state probation and parole staff. A report filed with his court record claims he absconded from supervision in early 2017 after being evicted from where he was living, that he tested positive for meth use in March 2016 and that he dropped out of a court-ordered batterer’s treatment program in late 2015/early 2016. It’s not clear why the earlier violations were not filed with the court until this year, but prosecutors submitted all three in June 2017, along with a probation and parole officer’s suggestion to have Florea sent to a prison-based treatment program.

Florea was arrested and sent to the Canyon County Jail on Sept. 7. He was released on $20,000 bond Sept. 22. Court records show an evidentiary hearing on the probation violation scheduled for this Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Churches try to help him stay clean

Several Nampa churches supported Florea in a variety of ways: helping him get clean, get a job and get a vehicle. But Florea relapsed a couple of years ago, and church members lost regular contact with him.

“Several times in the last couple years I said, ‘The only way we’ll help is if you get clean,’ ” the pastor of one church said. “With those boundaries, he didn’t come around.”

Florea had been violent with family members, and at least one concerned acquaintance called Florea’s parole officer and police to report it. He said he didn’t get a call back from the parole officer.

“Police said, ‘We can’t do anything because no one wants to do a report,’ ” the man said. Florea was more dangerous than his record showed, the pastor said.

Budlong left Idaho in late 2014.

“What I want people to know about this is, if you’re in a bad situation … when you are safe and able to get out, you don’t need to stay,” she said. “There’s no reason that you should let people hold you down.”

Ada County Sheriff Stephen Bartlett discusses the details of an armed home invasion and fire in Meridian that left three people dead on Thursday.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller