Gainesville police will continue their search Wednesday for missing University of Florida student Christian Aguilar while they try to locate a hitchhiker seen with “a person of interest” in the case.
After searching all day Tuesday by helicopter and with bloodhounds along the Interstate 75 corridor, police said they had found no concrete sign of Aguilar, an 18-year-old freshman from Miami-Dade who was last seen on Thursday. Late Tuesday night police said they were processing a shoe found by volunteers, but added it did not appear to be the type worn by Aguilar.
Detectives were still poring over cellphone records and other data to better pinpoint Aguilar’s travels before his disappearance, said Officer Ben Tobias, a Gainesville police spokesman. Aguilar’s cellphone is no longer active.
Aguilar, who graduated from the Doral Academy Preparatory School last year, was last seen around 3 p.m. at a Best Buy in a shopping mall on Archer Road, southwest of the campus.
Police have identified Pedro Bravo, a former Doral Academy classmate, as a “person of interest.” Bravo, also 18, gave police conflicting stories about a fight he had with Aguilar on Thursday night. Bravo told police that he left Aguilar in the parking lot of a motorcycle shop, police said. Police searched the parking lot but found nothing.
Bravo was arrested Monday on charges of “depriving a victim of medical care.” He is being held on $100,000 bail.
Police said Tuesday that they are also seeking information about the hitchhiker whom Bravo picked up sometime that day. Among those in Gainesville helping in the search for Aguilar is the girl said to be at the center of the conflict between Aguilar and Bravo.
Erika Friman, who broke up with Bravo and recently began dating Aguilar, rejected the idea she was the reason the one-time best friends fought.
“I don’t think this has to do with me,” Friman, a student at Santa Fe College, told Miami Herald news partner CBS4. “Pedro didn’t approve at first of me dating Chris, but I think he came to accept it ...it was like whatever makes me happy.”
Friman and Bravo had dated while students at Doral Academy, where all three graduated in June. Friman said she is baffled and “confused” by Aguilar’s disappearance. “I want Chris back safely.” At Doral Academy, students and teachers have become consumed with the search for Aguilar. Some have already made their way north to help, including the school’s principal, two vice principals and close to a dozen teachers.
On Tuesday night, students held a vigil and have launched an intense social media campaign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #helpfindchris.
They are sporting the phrase on their arms and palm of the hand. Students also are collecting funds to help finance the Aguilar family’s stay in Gainesville.
The search for Aguilar will continue Wednesday, police said.
Miami Herald staff writer Luisa Yanez contributed to this report.