Bravo indicted for murder in Aguilar case

Pedro A. Bravo, 18, shown in inset jail mug, has been indicted for first-degree murder in the case of missing University of Florida student Christian Aguilar. (Submitted photo)

Published: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 6:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 10:27 p.m.

An Alachua County grand jury Monday returned first-degree murder and kidnapping indictments against Pedro A. Bravo, 18, in the disappearance of his friend, Christian Aguilar, 18, a University of Florida student.

Aguilar has been missing since Sept. 20.

Aguilar's family sat in a row in the courtroom Monday when the indictments were read. They were close, shoulders touching, and they wore white T-shirts that said "help find Chris" on the back.

Although Aguilar's body has not been found, State Attorney Bill Cervone said he's confident in the case.

"There will be a continuing effort to find him," Cervone said, "a kid his age does not fall off the face of the earth."

Cervone said there is no new evidence in the case, but that some details have been sharpened up, although he declined to say which.

Bravo reportedly told police he beat Aguilar unconscious and left him in a parking lot on Northwest 13th Street.

Aguilar was last seen with Bravo in a Best Buy store on Sept. 20, police said. Police, family and friends have been searching for Aguilar since he disappeared that same day.

Bravo bought a shovel and duct tape several days before the altercation with Aguilar, police have reported.

The men were friends in Miami, and both moved to Gainesville. Aguilar was a freshman at UF and Bravo was enrolled at Santa Fe College.

The next step of the process, Cervone said, would be an arraignment, in which the defendant generally enters a plea of not guilty. In Alachua County, he said, first-degree murder cases could take about a year to go to trial. As for Bravo, Cervone said he is under no compulsion to talk or help find Aguilar.

"He has no obligation to ever say anything again, good bad or indifferent," Cervone said. "It's the burden of the state to prove the case."

All first-degree murder charges must be indicted by a grand jury, according to Florida law.

"We only have to prove that Aguilar is dead," Cervone said. "And that's normally very easy."

According to UF law professor George R. "Bob" Dekle, a murder case without a body isn't unprecedented.

"No body murder prosecutions are rare, but they are doable," he said.

Dekle, a state prosecutor for more than 30 years, said a high profile case can challenge the prosecution. It can take away from the preparation of a case, he said, when "people are poking around your shoulder and following you around with TV cameras."

There's also the issue of double jeopardy, he said. If Bravo is exonerated and information for a conviction appears later, he can't be tried for the same crime twice.

"You only get one shot at it," he said. "You have to make it the best."

Also on Monday, the grand jury indicted Gainesville man William Lee Thomas Sr. of first-degree murder.

Police said he locked his girlfriend, Rosemary Jenkins, in the trunk of her own car, where she was found unconscious and with injuries to the right side of her head last month.

Jenkins later died.

After the decision to indict Bravo was read, the family members hugged. Cervone talked to them privately about the case, and some walked out of the courtroom in tears.

Bravo is in Alachua County jail on the charges, and he is ineligible for bond.

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