Police say they have found what appears to be the remains of murdered University of Florida student Christian Aguilar, 18, who was last seen September 20.
The body was discovered by hunters 8 miles off State Road 24 in rural Levy County, about 60 miles southwest of Gainesville. There was duct tape found with the remains along with blue Vans shoes and blue jeans, fitting the description of what the biomedical engineering student was wearing when he was last seen.
Though authorities have not made an official confirmation of identity, police have notified Aguilar's family. His father Carlos, who has searched tirelessly for his son, said at a short press conference he believes the remains are his son's:
"Our prayers have been heard," Carlos Aguilar said. "We as a family believes that Christian has been found, but we want to wait until the authorities confirm it. Our family is going to be grieving until the... confirmation, and at that moment we are going to have the honor of taking Christian back home and have his funeral.
"If it wasn't for the prayers, for the support, for all the angels that came through and that they care about my family and that they care about a missing student..."
Levy County Sheriff's Office volunteer Fred Oliver told the Gainesville Sun the hunters were looking for firewood when they discovered the remains around 2 p.m. on Friday.
Oliver said the young men thought they had stumbled onto the remains of a dead deer, and maybe they could get a set of antlers. What they found was a decomposed, partially buried body.
"It was obviously human," Oliver said, adding that it was near the dirt road.
The men called the Levy County Sheriff's Office, and Oliver said he got the call about the discovery at 2:30 p.m., with the Gainesville Police Department notified shortly thereafter.
Aguilar's friend Pedro Bravo, also 18, was charged with his murder on September 28 after police found Aguilar's backpack hidden inside a suitcase in Bravo's closet and blood in Bravo's Chevy Blazer.
Bravo initially told police he dropped his friend off in a parking lot September 20 after an afternoon hanging out and going to Best Buy, but later changed his story and told police he assaulted Aguilar and left him unconscious by the side of a road.
Both students had attended Doral Academy together in Miami before moving to Gainesville over the summer, and Bravo told police the pair had gotten into a fight that night because Aguilar had begun dating Bravo's ex-girlfriend from Doral, who was enrolled at nearby Santa Fe College with Bravo.
But in a search of Bravo's apartment, they found a receipt showing he had purchased a shovel and duct tape with cash several days before Aguilar went missing. Bravo remains in an Alachua County Jail, charged with first-degree murder.
Earlier Saturday morning the family had issued a statement on the "Find Christian Aguilar" Facebook page:
According to the Gainesville newspaper, the remains of a body with Christians’ characteristics have been found. We, the Aguilar-Gallego Family are still stunned about the news. Still forensics have not confirmed the information, and they will not do so, until, next Tuesday, October 16, 2012. Due to this occurrence, the volunteer activities for this weekend have been canceled. We are asking you to still pray for us and as soon as more information becomes available we will keep you posted. Thanks.
This is a developing story.
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)