Miami-Dade County

August 6, 2014

Dark portrait of accused killer of UF student emerges

The ex-girlfriend of Pedro Bravo, accused of murdering a Miami teen, testifies he had grown increasingly despondent over their breakup.

Through dark doodles and brooding prose, Pedro Bravo’s obsession with his ex-girlfriend mushroomed on page after page of his sketch pad.

“I want her back, please. I’ll give anything. I wish I wish I wish.”

“I want to give up everything to be with her again.”

“I feel as if someone stabbed me in the chest,” Bravo wrote in one letter adorned with a bloody skull-and-crossbones. “Two options. Bleed out and die, the easy way out, or cover the wound, stitch the opening and go on and win her back.”

Reading the sketch-pad entries aloud in court on Wednesday: University of Florida student Erika Friman, who completed her testimony having painted a tormented portrait of her onetime boyfriend.

Prosecutors say Bravo tried to no avail to get her back by moving from Miami to Gainesville to be near her. Then, in a carefully planned murder plot, they say he strangled his old friend and her new boyfriend, fellow UF student Christian Aguilar.

Bravo, 20, is on trial in Alachua County, accused of murdering Aguilar, who had begun dating Friman as the two began school at the UF campus in the fall of 2012. All three had been friends at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in South Florida.

Friman took the stand Wednesday for her long, emotional testimony — at one point growing tearful when asked to identify contents from her slain boyfriend’s backpack and wallet.

Aguilar, 18, also a freshman, went missing in September 2012, sparking weeks of searches in the woods around Gainesville, public vigils and headlines around the state. Twenty-two days after Aguilar vanished, his skeletal remains were discovered in a shallow grave about 60 miles from campus. He had been bound with duct tape and strangled.

His defense attorney says Bravo admits to punching Aguilar and leaving him in the woods, but denies killing him.

Much of Friman’s testimony was meant to show Bravo’s obsession with her. She testified that Bravo, during their high school relationship, had grown increasingly possessive and insecure.

She finally broke up with him just before leaving for UF in Gainesville. He flooded her with messages and calls, few of which she acknowledged.

Friman told jurors that she was stunned to learn that Bravo had moved to Gainesville and enrolled in Santa Fe College, all in the hope of winning her back. At the same time, she had reconnected with Aguilar on campus, kindling a romantic relationship.

She refused to entertain Bravo’s attempts to win her back. But she admitted she began reaching out to him when he began telling friends that he was suicidal. During one face-to-face talk, Bravo confronted her with rumors that she was dating Aguilar. She denied it.

“I lied to him. I didn’t think he was ready to hear that,” she told jurors. “He was very sensitive at that point. I didn’t want to throw him over the edge. I didn’t think it was the appropriate time.”

At another meeting at a local zoo, Bravo even showed her love letters he had penned in a notebook.

“I told him I was not interested,” Friman said. “Again I tried to be as concrete as possible. I did not want to start up a relationship with him again.”

Soon after, Bravo reached out to Aguilar to set up a meeting because “Pedro was depressed and he wanted to talk about his depression.”

Aguilar wasn’t thrilled about the meeting, but thought he might be able to help his friend emerge from his funk, Friman said. “We were both concerned about Pedro,” she said.

The two teens met up that afternoon, even going to a Gainesville Best Buy store to buy CDs. When Aguilar vanished that night, Friman frantically barraged his phone with calls and text messages.

Finally, at 4 a.m. the next day, with barely any sleep, she dialed Bravo. He admitted he had “gotten into an argument” with Aguilar, and had dropped him off on a road somewhere past a local YMCA building.

“He was kind of vague as to what street,” Friman told jurors Wednesday.

In that phone call, Bravo made a strange reference to picking up a hitchhiker, she recalled. But he never mentioned that the two came to blows — a story Bravo later told to detectives who found blood in Bravo’s blue sport utility vehicle.

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