Love for friend drives search for missing teen
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 8:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 8:50 p.m.
If you just saw the four friends walking on the side of the road, you'd never know. You might not even take a second look.
You wouldn't know that Sebastian Arias was combing the side of Southwest Williston Road for clues, for anything really, to help find his missing friend Christian Aguilar.
You wouldn't know that the two had dreams of being doctors together, or that the 18-year-old says he'd switch with Aguilar in a second. How he aches for his friend, and he wants to stay busy, even if it means walking in the sun along a long stretch of road.
When he talks about him, it's in the present tense, about how smart and motivated Christian is. How bright his future is.
“He will be someone,” Arias said about his friend. “It'll be a shame if this becomes a tragedy, but it makes you value life more and the people around you.”
Sunday marked the 11th day Aguilar has been missing. The case has gone from a disappearance to a fight and abandonment to a murder investigation. Pedro Bravo, 18, is in jail charged with murder after he reportedly admitted to police that he beat Aguilar in a dispute over a girl and left him somewhere.
The murder charge is unusual in that the victim's body remains missing. Prosecutors said it is based on Aguilar's backpack, found in Bravo's possession, and on blood in Bravo's SUV. Investigators don't have all of the answers, and Bravo won't talk.
So, the search continues.
The people who have been here since Aguilar went missing on Sept. 20, the friends and the family, will still be out here, until he is found.
The Florida Farm Bureau, the command center for volunteers, was bustling early Sunday afternoon. People sat in circles on the grass and ate lunch and put on bug spray while they waited for a Gainesville Police Department van to take them out to search again.
Arias and three friends — Marion Martorell, 18, Sofia Figueiredo, 19 and Valentina Otero, 18 — jumped in a GPD vehicle and headed out.
Craig Ferrell, a police service technician with GPD, had brown evidence bags sticking out of his back pocket. The group headed north.
They were told to look for blue shoes, blue jeans, a cellphone with a red case — and anything they think could be pertinent.
“We've collected a lot of evidence,” Ferrell said, but added that he doesn't know how much will be relevant to the case.
Besides this group, others were spread out around the county, and mounted patrols searched south of Paynes Prairie on U.S. 441. The plan on Sunday, Ferrell said, was for groups to search a two-mile radius from Archer and Interstate 75.
Arias and his friends walked north and talked. They kept the topics light and tried not to mention the sadness.
“In a sense, yes, it feels like fiction, like it should be on TV,” Figueiredo said about her missing friend. “It doesn't seem real.”
Although they still hope, they are realistic.
“As days go by everyone knows there's less of a chance,” Arias said. “But if you know Chris you know. He still has a fighting chance, in my opinion.”
Ferrell said officers in ATVs searched the side roads and groups on foot took the main drags.
A couple walked out of a Williston Road house between two pink plastic flamingos. The man explained that there's a marshy area across the street and a stretch of forest that no one goes into.
The woman hugged Arias when he told her what he was doing. I'm so sorry, she said.
Arias said he likes Gainesville.
“It sucks one has to remember it like this,” he said, and shook his head. “We should be coming here for kicks man.”
Then he lowered his voice.
“I sometimes wish it was reversed,” he said. “I would've given my life for Chris.”
There are moments when it's quiet, between the noise of passing cars. Moments when they could just be some friends walking down the road joking with each other, and there would be no pain, and no loss. Just friends.
“We're all here together for the wrong reason,” Arias said. “But the right cause.”