GAINSEVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott is planning to help search for a missing University of Florida student a day after authorities charged the victim's friend with murder.
Scott will join the massive search for 18-year-old Christian Aguilar on Saturday, combing through wooded fields and parking lots. Authorities indicated Aguilar may have been buried near a lime rock roadway.
Gainesville police charged Aguilar's friend and former Doral Academy classmate, Pedro Bravo, with his murder on Friday. Bravo had previously been arrested for depriving a victim of medical treatment.
"The body of Christian Aguilar has not yet been recovered. The Gainesville Police Department will continue its search efforts for Christian Aguilar and would still encourage citizens to volunteer to help us in that search," said Gainesville Police Officer Ben Tobias.
Classmates at Doral Academy Preparatory High School reacted to the news that a former classmate had been accused of killing one of their own.
"Most of us came to tears when we heard about the news," said student Claudia Brito.
"Certainly this is a new event in this case that is just really been devastating for all of us," said school principal Douglas Rodriguez
At Doral Academy, Aguilar was a top student and was once good friends with Bravo, the teen police said bought a shovel and duct tape before they had their last argument. Chris disappeared shortly afterwards.
"It's a shame to see that we have one family that's been devastated but we also have another family that I'm sure is devastated by these events," Rodriguez said.
The school has banded together, making videos supporting search efforts. Several organizations, including cheerleaders, have raised money to help Aguilar's family cover the expense of searching for him in Gainesville. Rodriguez said students have raised more than $12,000.
"We try to raise as much money as we can," Brito, a cheerleader, said.
Although Bravo has been charged with murder, hope still exists that Aguilar is still alive and his family will get answers. His body has not yet been recovered.
"They deserve everything. If it's closure, if it's the truth; they just deserve to know the truth and closure," said family friend Kimberly San Martin.
"Our whole philosophy here is we need to bring Chris here and we need to help his family find him," Rodriguez said.
Aguilar was last seen on September 20. According to investigators, Aguilar and Bravo got into a fight that day. Bravo told police that he beat Aguilar up and left him by a field on the UF campus, but has not said much since, according to detectives in Gainesville.
Investigators have been unable to account for Bravo's whereabouts on September 20 from about 3 p.m., when he was seen with Aguilar at an area Best Buy on surveillance video, to about 8 a.m. Friday. Investigators are asking business owners and residents to check surveillance footage for Bravo and his SUV, a 2004 Chevrolet Blazer.
"We would also encourage property owners, residential or business, who may have lime rock roads on their property, that were accessible to the general public, to search those properties for any suspicious areas of ground that appear to have been disturbed," said Tobias. "We are also requesting information from anyone who may have seen a suspicious vehicle, likened to a Blue Chevy Blazer, in any remote areas on the night of Thursday, September 20th."
Bravo remains in jail on a $100,000 bond. He was previously charged with Depriving a Victim of Medical Care, a third-degree felony.
On Wednesday, investigators said Bravo purchased a shovel and duct tape a few days before Aguilar went missing.
A donation station for Aguilar's family will be set up in Sweetwater on Saturday. The family needs water, snacks, machetes, and rubber boots for their search.
Donations can be made out to Doral Academy c/o Christian Aguilar or can be made at Sweetwater City Hall from 1 to 4 p.m.