After several hours of deliberation following a two-week trial, the jury has found Pedro Bravo guilty in the first-degree murder of his former high school friend and University of Florida student Christian Aguilar.
Bravo, 20, was found guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping-false imprisonment, poisoning, improper transportation of human remains, giving false information to law enforcement in a missing person case, tampering with evidence, and providing false reports following the 2012 disappearance of Aguilar.
Bravo looked stoic during the reading of the verdict. Erika Friman and Claudia Aguilar were seen crying in the courtroom after the reading of the verdict.
Judge James Colaw sentenced Bravo to natural life in prison with no possibility of parole on count one of murder in the first degree. For count two, false imprisonment, Bravo received five years to be served consecutively. On count three, poisoning, Bravo was sentenced to 30 years to be served consecutively. On counts four and five, tampering with evidence and providing false reports, Colaw sentenced him to five years each to be served consecutively. On count six, giving false information to law enforcement, Bravo was sentenced to one year in the county jail and given credit for time served. And lastly, on count seven, improper transportation of human remains, Colaw sentenced him to 60 days in the county jail with credit for time served.
Bravo spoke before the sentencing and maintained he did not kill Christian Aguilar. “I know in my heart and I know in my actions that day and God knows that I did not kill Christian Aguilar.”
Christian Aguilar, 18, went missing on Sept. 20, 2012 and his body was found more than a month later. Surveillance video gathered at the time at Best Buy on Archer Road lead police to believe that Bravo was the last person seen with him that day.
The state claimed Bravo killed Aguilar in part because he started dating Bravo’s ex-girlfriend, Erika Friman.
The three of them went to school together at Doral Academy in Miami, and Friman testified in court that she broke up with Bravo before moving to Gainesville to attend Santa Fe College. Bravo said he changed his plans of attending Florida International University and transferred to Santa Fe College in order to win Friman back.
Bravo testified he met with Aguilar on Sept. 20 to talk about his troubles with depression.
Friman testified that she contacted Bravo after Aguilar didn’t show up for plans with her that night, knowing the two had been together. Bravo then told her the two of them had gotten into a fight.
Friman and Bravo reported a missing person to Gainesville Police Department and University of Florida Police, after which a community-wide search was launched for Aguilar. The search was called off on Oct. 5, but hunters found his remains in a shallow grave on Oct. 13 in wooded area in Levy County.
The state claimed Bravo drugged and then strangled Aguilar with a moving strap on the night of Sept. 20 in the parking lot of the old Wal-Mart on NW 13th street. Police recovered the belt from the back seat of Bravo’s blue Chevy Blazer.
Bravo’s former cellmate, Michael Angelo, told the court during his testimony that it took Bravo 13 minutes to kill Aguilar with the moving strap found in the back seat. Angelo said Bravo told him he put Aguilar’s body in the ground after he dug a hole and covered it up with a shrub and rock.
The defense maintained the two men fought, but that Bravo did not kill Aguilar.
Gainesville Police Detective Matthew Goeckel performed a forensic examination of Bravo’s phone and determined that Bravo’s phone was in the area of Wal-Mart for over two and a half hours on Sept. 20. System logs show that the flashlight application on Bravo’s phone was also used that night for over 48 minutes.
A number of Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab analysts testified with several pieces of evidence presented by the state. One piece of evidence was a Gatorade bottle containing acetaminophen and diphenhydramine, drugs which are used in manufacturing pharmaceutical products. Bravo told the jury that he drank the poisonous concoction in a failed suicide attempt.
Additional testimony from FDLE revealed that duct tape recovered from the ankle of Aguilar came from the same roll of tape found on Bravo’s car windshield.
Greg Brock, one of the analysts, obtained a DNA profile of Aguilar from a toothbrush. The profile was then used to determine that blood on a floor mat, a paint can and a shoe insert in Bravo’s car matched the DNA of Aguilar.
Associate Medical Examiner Martha Burt testified as the state presented photos of Aguilar’s remains. She recalled going to the site and seeing a “gray, duct tape like material” looped around the wrists, ankles and neck of the body. Burt said dental records were used to positively identify Aguilar.
Pedro Bravo testified in his own defense on Thursday. He was the only witness the defense called while presenting its case to the jury.
Bravo testified that he and Aguilar fought after having a discussion about his suicidal thoughts, but then left Aguilar on the side of the road.
While in jail, Bravo wrote in a suicide note, “It’s selfish, it may be the wrong move, but I’m in here so the move has already been made” and ”I am a monster for hurting Chris.”
When the prosecution cross-examined Bravo, he maintained he did not kill Aguilar.
Bravo: “I didn’t kill him.”
Prosecution: “I’m not asking you if you did. I think you have that answer.”
Get a recap of the trial on Twitter @WUFTPedroBravo.