Mounted police units, Texas Equusearch join search for missing UF student

Suspect confessed to beating Christian Aguilar

Published On: Sep 30 2012 07:06:17 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 01 2012 01:33:38 PM EDT
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -

The mounted horse division of the Gainesville Police Department and members of Texas Equusearch on Sunday afternoon joined the search for a missing University of Florida student from Miami.

Cpl. Tracy Fundeburg, of GPD, said the effort is to exhaust all resources in the hunt for 18-year-old Christian Aguilar.

"We're doing what we call a grid search, at this point. One person will stay on the main path or a little bit off it," Cpl. Fundeburg said.

Aguilar went missing Sept. 20. His friend, Pedro Bravo, 18, has been charged with murder in Aguilar's disappearance.

Fundeburg described the advantages horses bring to a search in such a rural community.

"The obvious one is the height. You can look around you and see what you can see," Fundeburg said. "We can see far and we can see into the taller grass."

Gainesville police charged Bravo with Aguilar's murder Friday. Bravo had been arrested earlier in the week for depriving a victim of medical treatment.

Detectives told Channel 4 that they had enough cause to charge Bravo with murder because his statements about beating the teen were enough to assume Aguilar was dead.

A police report obtained by Channel 4 revealed Bravo "stated that he had punched the victim (Christian Aguilar) in the face with his fist and forced him to get out of his vehicle during the argument. ... He attacked the victim and beat the victim for ten to fifteen minutes. ... The (defendant Bravo) stated that he was unconscious on top of the victim punching him until the victim lost consciousness. The (defendant) stated that the victim was barely breathing and not moving, lying on his back, partially in water, at the time that the (defendant) left him."

Investigators said they found blood inside Bravo's blue Chevrolet Blazer and found Aguilar's backpack inside a suitcase in Bravo's apartment.

A judge denied bond for Bravo, who appeared in court Saturday morning wearing a suicide prevention jacket.

Sgt. Art Forgey, of the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, said it is a preventative measure and that Bravo is being monitored to make sure he doesn't try to kill himself.

Forgey said it is a preventative measure because of statements Bravo made early on when he checked himself into a mental health facility.

Bravo is being kept in the Alachua County jail's medical unit under "close observation."

Gov. Rick Scott aided in the search with Aguilar's family Saturday, but did not speak with the media afterwards.

On Friday, police asked for the public's help in determining where Bravo was over a 17-hour period, the time-frame Aguilar went missing. Investigators have been unable to account for Bravo's whereabouts on Sept. 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.

Police released photos Friday of Bravo's 2004 Chevrolet Blazer. They noted the different front right wheel and tire, saying it is hopefully unique enough that someone remembers seeing the vehicle sometime within that time window.

Bravo originally told police that he wrecked his Blazer about a week before Aguilar's disappearance, causing him to have to replace that rim, but police said none of that information could be confirmed.

Investigators were also asking for all business owners to check their outside surveillance video to see if that vehicle was seen on video. Police said they've reviewed a lot of video from Gainesville, but they were seeking areas outside of Gainesville due to the time window being so large.

They are encouraging property owners, residential or business, who may have lime rock roads on their property that are accessible to the general public to search those properties for any suspicious areas of ground that appear to have been disturbed.

"We had figured out some sort of a timeline for Christian on the last day he was seen. Now we're kind of switching gears to Pedro's timeline to figure out exactly where he was and see if we can kind of plug in some holes there," Gainesville police spokesman Ben Tobias said Friday morning.

Anyone who may have captured the SUV on video is asked to call police at 352-393-7670.