Family and friends gathered at J.C. Bermudez Park Saturday night after news that a body was discovered in Levy County. His good friend Sebastian Arias told NBC 6 South Florida that the friendship they shared was "one of the most valuable."
The parents of missing University of Florida student Christian Aguilar believe that the body found in Levy County by hunters is their son, but they will wait until it is officially confirmed, his father said Saturday.
“I just want to make sure that everybody knows that our prayers have been heard. We, as a family believe that Christian has been found, but we will wait until the authorities confirm it," said his father Carlos Aguilar during a news conference in Gainesville.
“At this moment the only thing we want to say as a family, is to thank every single person that supports our family during this horrible time," he added.
Aguilar's parents also said they had not seen the remains, so the identification of the body was not confirmed yet,. They said they were glad they had a sense of closure.
The Gainesville Police Department on Saturday said they assisted the Levy County Sheriff's Office after the body was discovered, but the identity of the remains has not been confirmed.
The body was found around 2:30 p.m. Friday by hunters at the Gulf Hammock Hunting Club, east of Cedar Key, according to the Gainesville Sun. Gainesville Police, in Alachua County, said they responded to the area, located off State Road 24 on Parker Boulevard, at the request of the Levy County Sheriff’s Office. Gainesville is about 60 miles northeast of the area where the body was found.
"Two young fellas were looking for firewood by themselves," Fred Oliver, a volunteer with the sheriff’s office, was reported as saying to the Gainesville Sun. "They picked up the scent, the odor of something dead."
The body was found six miles off paved road, Oliver said.
"It looked like somebody tried to bury it, unsuccessfully,’’ The Miami Herald reported Oliver as saying. "They saw the skull, realized it was face down, and they realized it was not an animal.’’
Blue Vans shoes, duct tape and blue jeans were found with the body, the Gainesville Sun reported.
The newspaper said that even though the clothes match what Aguilar was wearing when he went missing, the remains still must be identified through testing, according to a source.
"They're almost sure they know who it is," Oliver was quoted as saying.
The student's father, Carlos Aguilar was in Gainesville with the police on Saturday.
"The police tell me they have a body that matches Christian,'' he was quoted as saying by the Herald. "I am just going to see if this is my son."
The 18-year-old was last seen Sept. 20. with
, his friend and former classmate, at a Gainesville Best Buy, authorities said.
"While some people still hoped to find Christian alive, the unfortunate reality is going to sink in," Gainesville Police spokesman Ben Tobias told the Gainesville Sun. "I'm glad the family is finally going to get some closure."
Police arrested and initially charged Bravo, also 18, with depriving a crime victim of medical care, but he was charged with murder after police say they found blood in Bravo's SUV and found Aguilar's backpack hidden inside a suitcase in Bravo's closet.
Police also said Bravo bought a shovel and roll of duct tape days before the student vanished.
On Thursday, a vigil led by Father Luis A. Rivero of St. Thomas University was held at Carlow Park in Sweetwater.
Volunteers from around the state had helped in the effort to find Aguilar, and on Twitter, people used #HelpFindChris as a hashtag. There was also a Facebook page set up and dedicated to the search. Police recently changed the search from rescue to recovery.
Also, two of Agular's relatives were having trouble getting visas to leave Colombia and join the family in the United States.
Sen. Marco Rubio's office says two of Aguilar's aunts have been trying to secure humanitarian travel visas but were denied. His office has been trying to assist them.
The visas were denied on grounds that the women failed to present strong enough ties to Colombia. Both have pending green card applications.