But on Saturday, after the worrying and waiting, the father and family rushed to Levy County an hour outside of Gainesville. They came after the discovery of a body in the woods, likely that of Aguilar, the teenager who united strangers in South Florida and Gainesville in a relentless but futile three-week search.
More than anything, Carlos Aguilar wanted to bring his son home.
Volunteers from across the state combed dense patches of woods, but it was 60 miles southwest of the campus town that hunters scouring for firewood discovered the body of a young man on a rural dirt road, with blue jeans and blue Van sneakers — clothing that matches the description of what Aguilar was wearing when he disappeared Sept. 20.
The hunters, searching on the grounds of the Gulf Hammock Hunting Club near Cedar Key, noticed a stench and stumbled onto a skull and decomposing body on Friday afternoon. They thought it was a dead deer and hurried over, thinking they’d remove the antlers. While it will take a few days to make an official identification, police believe it’s Aguilar.
Gainesville police, who are leading the investigation, are assisting the Levy County Sheriff’s Office in the forensic processing of the body. They do not expect an official confirmation before Tuesday.
Now, the tedious task of piecing together the 18-year-old’s last hours begins. What is known is that he went out to Best Buy with Pedro Bravo, his high school friend from Doral Academy Preparatory, to buy a Kanye West CD.
Bravo, an 18-year-old Santa Fe College student, has been indicted by an Alachua County grand jury on murder and kidnapping charges. He remains in the Alachua County Jail.
Arrested four days after Aguilar’s disappearance, Bravo later told police he beat Aguilar and left him bleeding and barely breathing in a parking lot. He said the two had a dispute over Aguilar’s girlfriend, who Bravo dated previously.
But police never found any evidence of the fight or signs of Aguilar in a massive search that spanned the southwest section of the city. Day after day, hundreds of people — most of whom never met Aguilar — showed up along with police agencies, cadaver dogs and mounted units from across Florida. Gov. Rick Scott joined the search two weeks ago.
They crisscrossed woods and marshes, parking lots and alleys for any sign of Aguilar. Even as the search grid shifted and the headquarters changed location, volunteers came, from students to soldiers to grandparents.
“While some people still hoped to find Christian alive, the unfortunate reality is going to sink in,’’ said Gainesville police spokesman Ben Tobias. “I’m glad the family is finally going to get some closure.”
(Miami Herald staff writers Diana Moskovitz and Mike Finch II, and Chris Alcantara and Benjamin Brasch of The Independent Florida Alligator in Gainesville, contributed to this report.)