The search for

Blood, backpack found in UF teen murder case


A father focuses on finding his son’s body, but asks that justice be served in the case of the teen charged in Christian Aguilar’s death.

A backpack belonging to missing University of Florida student Christian Aguilar was found hidden in the closet of murder suspect Pedro Bravo, and investigators also found blood in Bravo’s SUV, according to an arrest report charging Bravo in Aguilar’s murder.

Police have charged Bravo with first-degree murder in the death of Aguilar, though the body of the Miami-Dade teen still has not been found after nine days of exhaustive searching through the Gainesville area.

Bravo, 18, also from Miami-Dade, was denied bail Saturday morning as he made his first appearance in court.

Bravo, who is on suicide watch at the jail, looked straight-faced into the jail camera during the proceedings, wearing a black spongy suicide-prevention smock stretching from his shoulders to his feet.

While scores of police officers and volunteers — and, for a brief time, Gov. Rick Scott — searched the woods and brush again Saturday for Aguilar, prosecutors said so much time has passed that Aguilar should be presumed dead.

“There is a reasonable assumption that he is deceased," said Bill Cervone, Alachua County’s state attorney.

Aguilar, a UF freshman who graduated from the Doral Academy Preparatory School in west Miami-Dade, disappeared Sept. 20. He was last seen alive that day at a Best Buy store with Bravo, a friend and classmate from Doral Academy.

Bravo, a student at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, told police that he met Aguilar on the UF campus on that afternoon and the pair went to Best Buy and other spots around Gainesville, according to an arrest report. They got into an argument, Bravo told police, because Aguilar had begun dating Bravo’s ex-girlfriend, Erika Friman — also a graduate of Doral Academy, and a Santa Fe student.

Bravo initially denied any physical confrontation with Aguilar, and told detectives that he dropped Aguilar off along the side of the road in northwest Gainesville. He changed his story under questioning: He said he punched Aguilar, forced him from the SUV, then beat him for 10 to 15 minutes “until the victim lost consciousness,” the report says.

Bravo then told detectives he left Aguilar “barely breathing and not moving, lying on his back partially in water” near a Gainesville motorsports shop. Bravo then turned off Aguilar’s cell phone and threw it into the woods, the arrest report says.

Bravo took police to the area where he said he left Aguilar, but they found no sign of Aguilar or the phone, which has a red cover.

“We feel this is a big piece of the puzzle,” Gainesville Police spokesman Ben Tobias said of the phone. “The hope is that it can tell us something about the timeline.”

Detectives searched Bravo’s apartment and found Aguilar’s backpack hidden inside a suitcase in Bravo’s bedroom closet, the report says. Police also found blood stains in “several locations” in Bravo’s Chevy Blazer. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is rushing a test comparing the blood to DNA samples to determine if it is Aguilar’s.

Police also found a receipt showing Bravo had purchased a shovel and duct tape four days before Aguilar’s disappearance. Neither the shovel nor the tape have been found.

With the help of University of Florida researchers, detectives found traces of lime rock on Bravo’s truck, leading them to suspect that Aguilar’s body “may be located near areas of lime rock,” police said.

More than 300 volunteers — the most so far — joined police on Saturday to scan the brush around Gainesville, but again they found no evidence of Aguilar.

When the search concluded for the day, Aguilar’s father — who implored volunteers from around the state to continue the search for his son did not want to talk about the case.

“My focus right now is finding my son,” he said.

The search will resume Sunday morning.

Before Bravo’s Saturday morning court hearing, a family friend read a statement from Carlos Aguilar:

“The Aguilar family extend their condolences to Pedro Bravo’s family,” the statement read. “They understand that there are two families suffering today. That being said, they do ask that justice be served.”

Ron Kozlowski, one of Bravo’s attorneys, said Bravo’s parents, who live west of Sweetwater, are praying for Aguilar’s family.

“There’s pain on both sides of this case,” Kozlowski told members of the media gathered outside the courthouse.

He said Bravo has been told not to talk to police about the case.

“He drove [police] around town. He showed them what he said he knew,” Kozlowski said. “Since then, he has retained his right to remain silent.”

Read more Top Stories stories from the Miami Herald

System designer Andy Dobrowolski looks on as the 200,000-gallon tank (actually two connected tanks) at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters in Marathon is filled.

    Going with the flow: Water trickles into new Florida Keys aquarium

    Watching water trickle slowly into an empty 200,000-gallon fish tank isn't that far off from watching grass grow or paint dry.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">FAMILY BONDS:</span> The De Soto family, Dan, Marilyn and son Matthew, 13, help fill Easter baskets at St. Louis Catholic Church in Pinecrest, on Palm Sunday.  Volunteers from the church filled and delivered 1,800 baskets containing candy and snacks for children and toiletries and personal items for seniors. The church works with charities, hospitals and other churches.

    Easter Sunday

    South Florida faithful approach Easter as a time for service

    In the weeks leading up to Easter, church members have gone into overdrive, making goodie bags for the homeless, filling Easter baskets and distributing food to help those in need.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, left, and center Chris Bosh watch from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in Miami. The 76ers defeated the Heat 100-87.


    Greg Cote: Dynasty or dismantling for the Miami Heat?

    A Heat playoff run is the annual gift we slowly unwrap together, our two-month emotional thrill ride ever since LeBron James grandly announced he was “taking my talents to South Beach” that summer night in 2010. Well, buckle up again, South Florida. Prepare for exhilarating highs and work-productivity lows. Prepare for late nights walking drained from the downtown bayside arena. Prepare for hearts to soar or plunge on whether a basketball swishes through a nylon net or bonks off a painted rim.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category