Even though there have been no signs of the 18-year-old University of Florida freshman in the week since he disappeared, his father Carlos Aguilar said Gainesville Police are telling him not to give up. Gainesville Police spokesman Officer Ben Tobias and Doral Police Officer Orlando Saavedra spoke about the case.
No new evidence was uncovered as numerous law enforcement agencies and volunteers continued to search for missing University of Florida freshman Christian Aguilar Thursday, Gainesville Police said.
But investigators are still receiving tips and processing leads, as the search area extends past the city limits, police spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said in a late afternoon update.
Though there have been no signs of the 18-year-old student in the week since he disappeared, his father Carlos Aguilar said Gainesville Police are telling him not to give up.
“They feel that my son is still alive, and that they’re gonna – it’s something about this story that has not been told,” he said.
The missing teen's brother sounded a similar note.
"The fact that we haven't found him is still a good sign, because he might still be alive," Alex Aguilar said.
A group of current and former students from the Doral school Christian Aguilar attended departed on buses early Thursday morning to help join the search for the teen.
The group left from Doral Academy Preparatory High School around 1 a.m. in the hopes of finding Aguilar, who disappeared last Thursday.
"We're praying for the best and we hopefully can find him and help the family," said Lely Supanik, who doesn't know Aguilar but graduated from Doral two years ago. "Hopefully everything turns out, everyone's praying out there."
Stephanie Rincon, who helped organized the trip to Gainesville, said everyone wants closure.
"It's been a great tragedy, we are looking for answers, we are looking for closure and we're not giving up," Rincon said. She also thanked Walmart and Publix for donating goods to the search party.
Gainesville Police said Thursday that they are still treating it as a live search "unless we receive definitive evidence otherwise."
An estimated 10 square miles of wooded areas in Gainesville have been searched by foot, police said in a statement. Other areas have been searched by helicopter, ATV, K-9 and mounted patrol units.
Friends, family and authorities have been searching for Aguilar, 18, for the past six days. Civilian volunteers are now joined by 17 law enforcement agencies from across the state in the effort. Six are from South Florida, including Doral and Sweetwater Police, Miami-Dade Police, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and Miramar and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
Tobias emphasized that the FBI, U.S. Marshals and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement all have been involved.
Aguilar's friend and former classmate, Pedro Bravo, has been charged with depriving a crime victim of medical care related to the disappearance.
Bravo, 18, was arrested Monday. Gainesville Police say he told investigators he was involved in an altercation with Aguilar the day he disappeared. Bravo's attorney said Tuesday that his client is very concerned about Aguilar.
On Wednesday, Gainesville Police said Bravo bought a shovel and roll of duct tape "several days" before the disappearance, and they believe Bravo knows where Aguilar is.
"We believe that he's the only person that knows the whereabouts of Christian, so I know for us and for the family with him having that information it's kind of frustrating," Tobias said Wednesday. "It's frustrating because he knows where he is and obviously at this point we've been searching for days and we're not uncovering anything."
The shovel and duct tape haven't been found, Tobias said. Aguilar's cell phone, which was turned off at 8:14 p.m. Thursday, also hasn't been found, but investigators are analyzing the cell phone data.
“Now that there’s a shovel potentially involved, we’re going to kind of go from an above-ground search to looking for where ground may have been disturbed," Tobias said Thursday.
Carlos Aguilar said Bravo’s parents were going to visit their son in jail Thursday.
“They’re telling me that they’re gonna, as soon as they get here face to face, that they’re gonna confront Pedro with all the information that they had already by the media, that has been exposed there, and they’re going to try to see if he’s going to talk," he said.
Meantime, fundraisers in South Florida said they raised about a thousand dollars in just one day to support the continuing search. The funds will go to the Aguilar family and sponsor more volunteers.
Doral Academy alumna Maria Albelaez doesn't know Christian Aguilar, but she plans to go to Gainesville to help – and hopes others will join her.
"We're trying to raise funds to help find Chris, to just get hotel rooms, buy bottled water," she said.
Anyone with any information in the case is asked to contact Gainesville Police Department's Criminal Investigations Bureau at 352-393-7670. Anyone wishing to volunteer their help can call the volunteer hotline at 352-393-7511. A Facebook page called Find Christian Aguilar has been set up and the hashtag #HelpFindChris is being used on Twitter.