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‘I Am A Monster’: Florida Man Killed College Student Friend In ‘Gainesville Love Triangle’ Murder
A romance turned deadly for Florida college freshman Christian Aguilar.
There are alligators crawling around the city of Gainesville, Florida. But they’re not the only predators.
On Sept. 20, 2020, Erika Friman filed a missing persons report after not hearing from her boyfriend, Christian Aguilar, an 18-year-old University of Florida freshman.
“The night before he was supposed to spend the night with her and he never showed up,” Det. Randy Roberts, of the Gainesville Police Department, told “Floribama Murders,” airing Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen.
Christian wasn’t at his home. His parents hadn’t heard from him and he wasn’t answering calls.
Roberts spoke with Pedro Bravo, a friend of Christian Friman, who had accompanied Friman to the police station. He said that the day before he and Christian had gone to grab a bite and then to Best Buy to get a Kanye West CD.
“On the way back from Best Buy he picked up a hitchhiker,” said Roberts, adding that Bravo described the stranger as a man in his 50s or 60s with gray hair.
While seated in the backseat, the hitchhiker was fiddling around with some duct tape, according to Bravo. After the hitchhiker got out, the two friends argued over how Bravo was handling personal issues. Christian then asked to be let out of the car, Bravo told sheriffs.
He said he dropped off Christian on the side of the road near a business that sold four-wheel vehicles. It was adjacent to a wooded area.
Bravo claimed he never saw Christian again.
As the last person to have seen Christian, Bravo was key to the case. Detectives asked Bravo to show them the exact route he and Christian had driven the day before.
During his interview with police, Bravo said he had suicidal feelings that he had wanted to discuss with Christian. In accordance with the Baker Act, Bravo was taken into custody for a 72-hour hold to determine if he was a harm to himself, Roberts told producers.
A search team looked for Christian in the woods near the four-wheeler shop. If he was injured, time was of the essence. Dangerous animals that inhabit the area include alligators, water moccasins, and rattlesnakes, said State Attorney Brian Kramer.
As detectives searched, they also considered the possibility that Christian had been abducted by the hitchhiker or an unknown third party.
The search for Christian expanded to an air unit and hundreds of volunteers joined, including Christian’s family members from Miami.
Det. Matthew Goeckel, of the Gainesville Police Department, determined that Christian’s phone had been intentionally powered down.The phone being turned off indicated a strong possibility of foul play, said Goeckel.
Two days passed and searchers turned up no trace of the missing student or the hitchhiker.
Meanwhile, Bravo was released after it was determined he wasn’t suicidal.
“He would say those things to the people around him in order to manipulate them,” Kramer said.
Had Bravo tried to manipulate the police? He was brought back for another interview to determine if he told the truth earlier. His account of events kept changing. He claimed that after dropping off the hitchhiker, the disagreement with Christian got physical.
“I stopped the car … and I just punched him in the face,” he told sheriffs in a recorded interview.
Bravo then said that he “kept punching” Christian after he was out of the car: “I could see he was OK but he was not gonna get up anytime soon. And then I got in my car and left.”
Bravo’s apparent lack of concern raised a red flag.
“There were things that were not adding up,” Goeckel told producers.
Four days into the case, investigators dug deeper into the relationship between Christian and Bravo. The young men and Friman had graduated from the same high school in Doral, Florida. Friman had dated Bravo but had broken things off with him during their senior year. Friman and Christian began dating after starting college.
Bravo found out through mutual friends that she was dating Christian.
“The situation between Pedro and Christian was very strained because Pedro felt like he had tried to go behind his back to date Erika,” said Roberts.
Detectives devised a way to keep Bravo behind bars to buy time while they looked for incriminating evidence.
“Pedro was arrested for failure to render aid, based on his statements about harming Christian and leaving him helpless,” said Goeckel.
A search warrant was obtained for Bravo’s vehicle. Inside detectives found a Gatorade bottle and a roll of duct tape. Dirt and limestone found on the vehicle’s undercarriage was determined to be from Levy County in Gainesville.
On Oct. 12, two people in that area were alerted to what they believed to be the smell of a decomposing animal. They had stumbled upon human remains in a shallow grave and contacted sheriffs. Only skeletal remains were found, according to detectives. Clothes found in the area matched what Christian was wearing.
DNA from a hip joint and dental records confirmed the body was Christian Aguilar.
Duct tape found with the remains were sent to the crime lab, where it was compared to duct tape from Bravo’s vehicle. Analysts determined that tape at Christian’s burial site was from the same tape roll found in the car, investigators said.
Detectives initially believed that Bravo acted in a fit of rage. But analysis of the Gatorade bottle revealed that it was laced with sedatives, which indicated the crime was premeditated, according to “Floribama Murders.”
Bloody fluid from Christian’s lungs that seeped into the carpet indicated that he had most likely been strangled.
A search warrant was secured for Bravo’s home, where detectives found a receipt for a shovel. They also found journals filled with disturbing entries detailing Bravo’s step-by-step plan to win back Friman “by making Christian disappear,” said Kramer.
Bravo was arrested on Sept. 28 for Christian’s murder.
As police and prosecutors worked to solidify the case against him, they learned that Bravo allegedly shared his plan with another Alachua County Jail inmate to have other murders committed to make it look like the killer was still at large, according to “Floribama Murders.”
“It kind of just makes the back of your hair stand up,” said Kramer.
Investigators confirmed that the cellmate was telling the truth because his information led them to the shovel used in the crime. The piece of evidence fortified an already-strong case.
On Aug. 4, 2014, Bravo’s trial began. An entry from his journal was read in court: “ I am a monster for having hurt to Christian,” reported Gainesville.com.
Bravo, then 20, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
“We didn't celebrate,” Christian’s grieving father told producers. “There was nothing to celebrate.”
To learn more about the case, watch “Floribama Murders,” airing Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen. You can stream episodes here.