|Jump to section:||1: Missing Persons||2: First Investigation||3: Finding Aguilar||4: At Spyglass|
The day Christian Aguilar was reported missing, University Police Officer Tim Peck got two reports almost simultaneously.
He called it unusual.
The station informed him that several students were worried about their friend, Christian Aguilar. He hadn’t shown up at his dorm or answered any calls or texts from his girlfriend, Erika Friman.
Pedro Bravo, a Santa Fe student, arrived at the station to report his missing friend. He was the last person to see Aguilar, so Peck began questioning him first.
Bravo told Peck that he and Aguilar were meeting to discuss Bravo’s suicidal thoughts.
On Sept. 20, 2012, the pair met at the UF Hub at around 2, according to surveillance stills shown to the jury by Mike Kutna, who works for UF Information Technology.
Bravo and Aguilar walked to the Student Health Care Center so Aguilar could get a flu shot, Bravo told Peck.
They drove to Zaxby’s because Bravo was hungry. Then they went to Best Buy, where footage viewed by the jury placed the boys in the store at 3 p.m.
They drove around Gainesville aimlessly, Bravo told Peck, discussing Bravo’s emotional problems.
Between 4 and 5, Bravo told Peck he picked up a hitchhiker. They dropped him off between 5 and 6 near the Gainesville mini storage units.
Security footage from the old Wal-Mart on Northwest 13th Street shows a blue SUV similar to Bravo’s Chevrolet Blazer stopped there at about 4 p.m. and left at 6:49 p.m.
Then, Bravo said, he and Aguilar got into an argument. Aguilar asked to be let out of the car, so Bravo dropped him off at a heavily wooded area near Streit’s Motorsports off Northwest 13th Street.
Then he got McDonald’s, went home, took sleeping pills at around 8 and slept the whole night.”
Bravo arrived to the police station with “very bloodshot eyes” and covered in splashes of black paint, Peck said.
He was very cooperative and helpful, even volunteering information about Aguilar, including that Aguilar had scars on his upper arms from cutting himself in high school.
Bravo also volunteered that the duct tape he bought to repair his cracked windshield was now gone.
After he finished telling Peck what happened, Peck said Bravo began to get upset and cry. Bravo was worried “everyone is going to think it’s his fault that (Aguilar)’s missing.”
Peck decided it was time to search Bravo’s car, which was parked in the UPD parking lot.
They found a can of Rust-Oleum black paint, with a loosely closed lid.
There were reddish-brown stains, which tested positive for blood, covered with black paint spills. Bravo told officers he carried paint around because he liked to paint on the 34th Street Wall. He said the paint can tipped over three days earlier.
Later investigation of the paint stains by Gainesville Police Officer Marc Trahan led him to conclude that this probably wasn’t the case.
“It didn’t strike me as a stain where the can rolled around the floor,” he told the jury.
Photos shown to the jury show the stains were around the other reddish-brown stains, covering them. In the case the can had toppled, Trahan said the stains would have looked more like a puddle.
Also found in Bravo’s backseat was a brown woven belt, which the State suggests may have been the murder weapon. Aguilar’s cause of death was strangulation.
Michael Ruppert, Bravo’s lawyer, pointed out that the belt appeared in different places in the car in the crime scene photos. Officers explained that the photos were from different points in the investigation.
While Peck and Officer Ken Beerbower began the search, Carlos Aguilar was calling UPD.
He told officers he was worried Bravo had “done something bad” to his son. He received a call from Friman, who told him the last time Aguilar was seen, it was with her ex-boyfriend, Bravo.
Peck began the protocol for missing students. He sent officers to check the Springs Complex, where Aguilar lived, Alachua County Jail logs and local hospitals. Officers waited outside Aguilar’s scheduled classes, called his cell phone and talked to his friends.
Sept. 20, 1:26 p.m. was the last time Aguilar used his keycard to access the Springs Complex.
Officers briefly believed Aguilar was on campus when they checked the UF Wi-Fi, but it was just Friman using Aguilar’s login on her smartphone at the UF police station. The last time Aguilar used the university Wi-Fi was the day before at 2:09 p.m.
The search continued for 22 days, until two men wandering the 30,000-acre Gulf Hammock hunting club in Levy County found human remains.
Jesse Everidge and his brother-in-law, James Rains, were looking for jasmine vines, which they planned to sell to a local man who makes herbal medicines.
On Oct. 12, the two men parked Everidge’s truck on the limestone road that runs throughout the preserve — North Spur Road.
They began walking, when Everidge “smelled death.” Because it was bow-hunting season, the pair assumed it was a deer someone had shot and not recovered. They figured they would check for a pair of leftover antlers.
“We tried to see if we could find a little trophy for the walk,” Everidge said.
But as they approached the source of the rank odor, they began to get suspicious. They stopped about 15 yards away.
“What caught my eye strange was the roundness of the bones that I could see,” Everidge said.
The duo was stunned, Rains said.
“We looked at each other and I said ‘That ain’t no deer,’ and he said ‘is that what I think it is?” he said.
They immediately left the area and called the police. When the officers arrived, they led them to the spot, about a 20-minute drive from the main entrance. From other entrances, the drive to the shallow grave might have taken as long as two hours.
Sgt. Surendra Narayan, a detective at the Levy County Sheriff’s Office, knew immediately who it could be. He knew the only missing person in the area was Aguilar, so when he found Vans near the remains, he asked Alachua officers what type of shoes Aguilar was last seen in.
Officers confirmed that Aguilar had been wearing Vans, but the final identification wouldn’t happen until Aguilar’s dental records were matched with the Levy County body.
Dr. Enrique Gallo, Aguilar’s Miami orthodontist, sent the records to GPD.
Aguilar had a distinct feature, he said. He had gotten a restoration on tooth number 30.
Bravo lives in Spyglass Apartment, in Y177 with two random roommates, both UF students.
Roberto Finale and Eric Skipper lived with Bravo in the two-story apartment. Skipper said Bravo “wasn’t very social” and didn’t spend a lot of time at home.
He saw Bravo leave around 1 or 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 probably for his meeting with Aguilar, scheduled for 2 p.m. at the UF Hub.
Finale last saw Bravo between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.
They exchanged greetings, then Bravo walked out the door five minutes later.
Skipper arrived home at around 10 or 11 p.m., he said. Skipper, his girlfriend and a friend all hung out and watched TV until about 4 a.m. They saw no sign of Bravo, he said.
A few days later, the small apartment was suddenly filled with crime scene tape and police officers with cameras.
GPD Officer Ahipo Doualehi photographed and searched Bravo’s room. He found spray paint, sketchbooks and snapbacks bearing a leering Marvin the Martian.
He also found Aguilar’s black JanSport backpack crumpled inside Bravo’s white backpack, tucked into Bravo’s closet.
Inside Aguilar’s backpack was his wallet, including his driver’s license, Gator 1 and debit card. The receipt for Aguilar’s free UF flu shot, dated for Sept. 20 was also found in the backpack.
A plastic Michael's bag full of trash was found hanging on Bravo’s desk chair. Inside, officers found empty packages and emptied tablets of ZZZQuil and Equate Acetaminophen PM. Receipts found in his room show Bravo bought the sleeping pills at Wal-Mart a few days earlier, along with duct tape and a knife. He used cash.
They found a Gerber knife in the top drawer of the dresser, the same kind Bravo bought at Wal-Mart. The same night, a receipt in his room showed Bravo also bought a shovel and two bottles of Gatorade at Lowes.
A few days later, Skipper moved some wet clothes from the washer to the dryer in his apartment. Then he realized they were Bravo’s and called the police.
Officers arrived to pick up Bravo’s clothes — a black hoodie with a white camelback logo on the back, dark blue Levi jeans, Adidas black and blue underwear, and socks. They matched the clothes Bravo was seen wearing for his meeting with Aguilar.
Brian Kramer, the lead attorney for the state, pointed out that they were the only clothes in the washer, even though there was other dirty laundry in Bravo’s room.
The state will continue to call witnesses on Monday, including the lead detective for the case, Detective Randy Roberts.
Alex Harris is the online editor of the Alligator and a 22-year-old journalism and sustainability studies senior. She likes cooking, spending time in the sun and making convincing cat noises.