“This is your day of reckoning.”
Those were the words Judge James Colaw said as he sentenced Pedro Bravo to life in prison — with no chance of parole — for murdering UF student Christian Aguilar.
“While Christian Aguilar may have been beyond the protection of the law on Sept. 20, 2012, you are not beyond its justice,” Colaw said.
After almost four hours of deliberation, the jury found Bravo, a former Santa Fe College student, guilty of the first-degree murder of his friend. The state suggested the murder was driven by Bravo’s jealousy. Shortly after a turbulent breakup with his high school love, Erika Friman, she and Aguilar had begun dating.
Throughout the two-week trial, the state presented 26 witnesses and a total of 1,010 pieces of evidence. The defense had one witness — Bravo.
Bravo may not contact Friman or any member of the Aguilar family ever again.
Colaw gave Bravo an additional 46 years for the other charges, which included false imprisonment, poisoning, two counts of lying to police and the improper transportation of human remains.
Bravo took the stand to declare his innocence.
“It doesn’t matter what anyone says. I know in my heart what I did. I did not kill my friend,” he told the court.
The closing remarks of the defense relied heavily on blaming police for an inept investigation, especially concerning searching the parking lot of Streit’s Motorsports, 4820 NW 13th St., where Bravo said he fought Aguilar and left him for dead.
“There was zero effort looking for a sign of a struggle, absolutely zero,” said Michael Ruppert, of the defense. “For these officers to get up here and say they made a genuine effort is wrong.”
The state had evidence showing Bravo’s exact purchases, Internet searches and locations from the weeks around the murder.
The defense agreed with every point except the final cellphone location data, which the state said showed Bravo heading west on Archer Road, toward Levy County.
The defense said Bravo was actually heading northeast to attempt to commit suicide.
In a press conference after the sentencing, the Aguilar family spoke briefly.
“Today is when we start healing,” said Christian’s brother, Alexander Aguilar.
Carlos Aguilar said although he had been willing to forgive Bravo, he cannot do so until Bravo admits his guilt.
The Aguilars’ statements to the press echoed the words of Judge Colaw during Bravo’s sentencing:
“You took everything from Christian Aguilar,” Colaw said. “You took his past, who he had been. You took his future, what he would have been. You took it all from him when you took his life.”
Check out alligator.org/bravo for full coverage of the trial and Wednesday’s edition for a special feature.
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 8/25/2014 under the headline "Pedro Bravo sentenced to life for 2012 Aguilar murder"]
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.