Gainesville Police are sending home volunteers who have been assisting in the search for missing University of Florida freshman Christian Aguilar.
“Now we feel really helpless,” Nicole Montero, a high school friend of Aguilar's from Miami, told the Miami Herald. “We can’t do anything else. Now it feels kind of like it’s really over.”
Hundreds of volunteers from the Miami area, around the state, and beyond have responded to father Carlos Aguilar's pleas for help finding his son, and then for help finding his son's body. Multiple law enforcement agencies from South Florida also sent manpower, ATVs, and dogs to Gainvesville, where the search has centered on wooded areas and remote properties with lime stone driveways.
Aguilar, 18, has been missing since September 20, when he was last seen with fellow Doral Academy grad Pedro Bravo. The two friends both moved to Gainesville from Miami over the summer, when Aguilar began classes at University of Florida and Bravo enrolled at Santa Fe College.
The two began to argue that evening over Aguilar dating Bravo's ex-girlfriend from Doral, also a Santa Fe student, and Bravo eventually told police he punched Aguilar in the face, forced him out of his Chevy Blazer, and left him severely beaten by the side of a road.
But detectives searching Bravo's apartment found a receipt showing he purchased a shovel and duct tape with cash in the days before Aguilar disappeared -- and found Aguilar's backpack hidden inside a suitcase in Bravo's closet. Police are rushing a blood test to determine if blood found in Bravo's Blazer is Aguilar's.
The teen has been charged with Aguilar's murder in the first degree, but no sign of a body has been found and Bravo is no longer talking to police as he is held without bail in the Alachua County Jail.
The volunteer check-in will close at 5 p.m. Friday and not re-open. But Gainesville PD spokesman Ben Tobias emphasized that the search for Aguilar will continue without volunteers -- and that officials simply want to make sure any discoveries are handled by professionals.
“Anything that is found at this point of the investigation will be considered evidence – and we can’t risk the integrity of that evidence being handled by anyone but law enforcement,” Tobias said, according to NBC6.
Previously this week in the case:
View more videos at: http://nbcmiami.com.
Pedro Bravo's Chevy Blazer
Pedro A. Bravo
In this undated photo provided by the Gainesville Police Department, a shovel is shown similar to one police say the person of interest bought days before a fellow University of Florida student, Christian Aguilar went missing. Aguilar, 18, was last seen Thursday at a Best Buy store in Gainesville, police said. He was with Pedro Bravo, 18, who faces a third-degree felony charge of depriving a victim of medical treatment. Bravo was arrested Monday and was being held on $100,000 bond. (AP Photo/Gainesville Police Department)