Officers, volunteers continue to band together to search for missing student


Valentina Otero, 18, left, looks in the water in a culvert under SW Williston Road as GPD service technician Craig Ferrell, right, watches her search for any evidence in relation to missing person Christian Aguilar, south of Gainesville on Sunday. Otero is a friend of Aguilar.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 7:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 7:22 p.m.

Thirty officers from five agencies, 40 volunteers, bloodhounds, cadaver dogs, four-wheelers and officers mounted on horses continue to band together to search through the Florida brush for any signs of missing University of Florida student Christian Aguilar.

Gainesville Police Department public information officer Ben Tobias said volunteer numbers have started to decline, but people continue to show up daily to search for any clue of the missing student.

“This is an anomaly for me, it's an anomaly for so many officers,” Tobias said. “It's just astounding.”

Tobias said the sheer number of volunteers that have consistently flocked to join the search party is something he has never seen before.

But Tobias has begun to warn volunteers that what they find may be something that they can never erase from their memories. He posted on the GPD Facebook page that “what is recovered will likely be disturbing.”

“People still think they are going to find Christian alive in the woods,” Tobias said.

He said it is particularly difficult to explain to Aguilar's friends that the previous search and rescue mission has now become a search and recovery mission.

“It's just a tough, tough reality to get out there to somebody,” he said.

It's not just manpower that continues to flow in for Aguilar, it's also water.

Bottled water has been donated to GPD in huge supply by many different people and businesses. Tobias recalled seeing a man with a case of bottled water strapped to the back of his motorcycle, hoping to donate to the search party.

Information has also continued to surface, with new tips being relayed at a consistent pace.

“The leads are still steadily coming into our department,” Tobias said.

Tobias said it's the little things that remind people of details that may cause them to call in with additional information for the police, like the color of a certain shirt that Aguilar was wearing or a specific word in an article.

Tobias said he believes the reason for the interest and dedication in finding Aguilar is because the people that make up this community really care about each other.

“He was only here a short time, but he was a Gator. That Gator Nation, they rise up for their own,” he said.

United Way of North Central Florida, in partnership with GPD, is accepting donations for Aguilar's family to help pay for lodging and food while they are in Gainesville. To donate, visit unitedwayncfl.org. To volunteer to help find Christian, go to the Florida Farm Bureau Building between 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 5600 SW 34th St. Gainesville, FL 32608, or visit the GPD's Facebook page for updates on daily search parties.

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