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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

ABC’s ‘Death in the dorms’ revisits the murder of a UF student

New docuseries discusses 2012 death of Christian Aguilar

<p>Pedro Bravo testifies in court Thursday to share his version of the events of the day Christian Aguilar disappeared and the days following.</p>

Pedro Bravo testifies in court Thursday to share his version of the events of the day Christian Aguilar disappeared and the days following.

The murder of 18-year-old UF freshman Christian Aguilar made headlines in 2012 following his disappearance. Now, a new ABC docuseries revisits the crime.

“Death in the Dorms” documents six killings across U.S. college campuses. Episode Two, titled “Christian Aguilar,” tells the story of how the romantic obsession of Aguilar’s friend Pedro Bravo mutated into a grisly murder. 

In 2014, 20-year-old Bravo was convicted of first-degree murder. Although Bravo denied killing Aguilar, his various detailed journal entries documented his obsession with his ex-girlfriend Erika Friman. After breaking up with Bravo in 2012, Friman began dating Aguilar.

Friman and Bravo were high school sweethearts at Doral Academy in Miami until Friman ended their relationship before attending Santa Fe College. However, Bravo subsequently transferred from Florida Aeronautical University to Santa Fe College to be closer to Friman.

Having been friends with Bravo in high school, Aguilar and Friman kept their relationship a secret, even when Bravo questioned how much time they spent together. That September, Bravo said he needed help and was undergoing a depressive episode, so Aguilar met with his friend for support. 

Aguilar was reported missing Sept. 20. His body was recovered 22 days later. 

Bravo was convicted of poisoning and strangling Aguilar in his car before he left his body 60 miles outside of Gainesville. Although he was sentenced to life in prison, during the 2014 trial Bravo maintained his stance that he did not kill his friend.

“I know in my heart and I know in my actions that day and God knows that I did not kill Christian Aguilar,” Bravo said at the beginning of the trial.

Bravo’s declining mental health remained at the forefront of his relationship with Friman and only appeared to worsen throughout Bravo’s journal entries, which showcased his relentless obsession with Friman and his desire to win her back. 

The state reported that Bravo drugged and strangled Aguilar outside of a Wal-Mart on NW 13th street, before transporting the body to the woods. During the trial, Bravo’s former cellmate provided information based on conversations with Bravo. Bravo told his cellmate that it had taken 13 minutes to kill Aguilar with a moving strap.

Police reports confirmed that Bravo’s phone remained in the Wal-Mart parking lot for about two hours that night, and lab reports found that an empty Gatorade bottle in Bravo’s car had been packed with acetaminophen and diphenhydramine, used to poison Aguilar. Bravo claimed the poison was for a suicide attempt. 

Additionally, DNA findings from the duck tape on Aguilar’s ankle match what was in Bravo's car, and the blood stains in the car matched Aguilar.

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Bravo remained adamant in court that he had discussed his suicidal thoughts with Aguilar and entered a brief physical fight before the two friends parted ways. In prison, however, Bravo wrote suicide notes mentioning his remorse over what he did to Aguilar.

Kevin Boyd, a 28-year-old UF graduate and biology and music double major, was a freshman when Aguilar went missing.

“I heard a couple people mention that somebody was missing,” Boyd said. “As time went on, the search got bigger.”

Bravo’s 2014 trial brought Aguilar back into campus conversation, Boyd said, alongside growing safety alerts and notifications about assaults on campus. 

“There were a series of assaults, I think around 2013-2014,” Boyd said. “There was one directly after a football game, as well. That was definitely on everybody's mind for a couple of years, as far as being out late and on campus.”

September marked ten years since Aguilar’s body was found in Gainesville. “Death in the Dorms” could be a chance to educate the public about campus violence and security, but Boyd said there is a flip side, too.

“There's also a risk for glorification of those crimes,” Boyd said. “I think a lot of times it's easy for documentaries and shows like that to spend too much time focusing on the killer as opposed to the victims.”

“Death in the Dorms” is available to stream on Hulu as of Jan. 5.

Contact Sophia at Follow her on Twitter @sophia_bailly.

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Sophia Bailly

Sophia Bailly is a second-year journalism major and covers politics for the enterprise desk. Some of her favorite things include The Beatles, croissants and Agatha Christie books. When she's not writing stories she's either reading or going for a run.

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