GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The father of missing University of Florida student Christian Aguilar believes a body matching the teenager's description is his son, he said at a press conference Saturday.
"...Our prayers have been answered and heard, and we want to wait until the authorities confirm it," said Carlos Aguilar. "We want to ... as a family, thank every single person that supported our family during these horrible times, during this pain, during this agony."
Aguilar traveled from Miami to Gainesville on Saturday to identify his son's body after investigators told him two hunters found human remains in Levy County.
Authorities told the Gainesville Sun that Aguilar's remains were found off a rural dirt road at about 2 p.m. Friday.
Authorities said they found blue Vans shoes, duct tape and blue jeans with the decomposed remains.
The clothes matched the description of what Aguilar was wearing on Sept. 20, the last day he was seen alive. A source close to the investigation said the remains still need to be identified through forensic methods.
According to a post on an Aguilar family Facebook page, forensics won't confirm any information until Tuesday.
However, Fred Oliver, a volunteer with the Levy County Sheriff's Office, told the Sun that authorities are almost positive of the findings.
"They're almost sure they know who it is," Oliver said.
Oliver said that hunters discovered a body on the grounds of the Gulf Hammock Hunting Club, a private club with about 300 members.
The men found the remains eight miles off State Road 24 on Parker Boulevard, about six miles west of Otter Creek.
"Two young fellas were looking for firewood by themselves," Oliver said. "They picked up the scent, the odor of something dead."
Oliver said the young men thought they had stumbled onto the remains of a dead deer, and maybe they could get a set of antlers. What they found was a decomposed, partially buried body.
"It was obviously human," Oliver said, adding that it was near the dirt road.
The men called the Levy County Sheriff's Office, and Oliver said he got the call about the discovery at 2:30 p.m., with the Gainesville Police Department notified shortly thereafter.
In addition to the Levy County Sheriff's Office, GPD detectives, forensics, Florida Fish and Wildlife and the 8th District Medical Examiners Office responded to the scene. A caravan of more than seven vehicles could be seen departing on the dirt road at around 8 p.m.
The case, which attracted national media attention, went from a disappearance to a fight and abandonment to a murder investigation.
Pedro Bravo, 18, is in the Alachua County jail and recently was indicted on first-degree murder and kidnapping charges after police said he admitted beating Aguilar in a dispute over a girl and leaving him somewhere.
Aguilar was last seen with Bravo in a Best Buy store on September 20, police said. He was seen in a photo leaving the store wearing blue shoes and jeans.
Crews of volunteers and law enforcement from all over Florida have pitched in to search for Aguilar, but police recently stopped taking volunteers in the search because the mission had switched from a rescue to a recovery.
On Thursday night, concurrent candlelight vigils were held in Miami and Gainesville. Aguilar's body had not yet been recovered, and friends and family still clung to hope.
When asked about the incident late Friday night, GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said he knew it was going to be a bittersweet time for friends and family of Aguilar.
"While some people still hoped to find Christian alive, the unfortunate reality is going to sink in," Tobias said. "I'm glad the family is finally going to get some closure."
A memorial service for Aguilar was set for 7 p.m. Monday at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Gainesville.
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