The remains found in Levy County have been positively identified as missing University of Florida student Christian Aguilar, Gainesville Police said Monday.
Police said the positive identification on the remains of the 18-year-old University of Florida student was made through dental records.
Carlos Aguilar said "it was a miracle" that his son's body was found “when the possibilities were minimal."
“We’re grateful that they did (find) my son. That’s something that we’re never going to forget," he said at a news conference Monday.
Additional forensic testing will be performed to determine the manner of death and to document any trauma wounds.
Dozens of candles were lit at a memorial service for Christian Aguilar Monday night in Gainesville – each representing the lives that Aguilar touched in short time at UF.
"It was amazing to see how many individuals really cared," student Angel Hernandez said.
Aguilar's family was involved in the planning of the service, held at St. Augustine Catholic Church. His parents wore shirts that said they are a Gator dad and Gator mom.
“As president of this university, and as a member of this community, I want you to know we feel this loss very deeply,” said University of Florida President J. Bernard Machen.
Carlos Aguilar said one aim of the service was to thank the volunteers in Gainesville who he said “became part of my family searching for my son.”
“They gave me the courage to continue, and I think it was appropriate before we leave town to say thank you to them as well, and given the opportunity, to say goodbye to my son and in honor of my son," he said.
He said family members would start grieving, and hope that authorities give them Christian Aguilar's body within the next few days. He will be given a Catholic burial after that.
Now the Aguilars can begin to find closure, Carlos Aguilar said.
Down the road they will start asking for justice, but "at this moment, our pain is so big that we’re only asking to respect and let us do the Catholic part that we have to do," he said.
The remains were 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.
The remains were found six miles off paved road with blue Vans shoes, duct tape and blue jeans, according to reports.
"It looked like somebody tried to bury it, unsuccessfully,’’ The Miami Herald reported Fred Oliver, a volunteer with the sheriff’s office, as saying. "They saw the skull, realized it was face down, and they realized it was not an animal.’’
"They're almost sure they know who it is," Oliver was quoted as saying.
Carlos Aguilar was in Gainesville with the police on 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," he said then.
The 18-year-old was last seen Sept. 20 with Pedro Bravo, 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 later 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.