A central Florida jury found Pedro Bravo guilty of all charges for the murder of his one-time friend, University of Florida student Christian Aguilar.
Bravo was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the murder. The sentencing came after the Aguilar family gave impact statements in the court and Bravo addressed the court. Carlos Aguilar addressed the court saying, "I cannot tell you the quantity of pain that we have been going through."
Once the Aguilar familiy spoke, Bravo once again spoke to the court. He remained defiant in the final words he spoke in the courtroom.
Bravo told the court, “I know in my heart I did not do anything to hurt my friend that would cause him to die. I know in my heart what I did, I know God knows what I did. I'll take life or life without parole, and I'll do it."
Bravo's words drew gasps in the courtroom.
The jury convicted Bravo on charges including first-degree murder, kidnapping, poisoning, tampering with evidence, giving false information to the authorities and mishandling a body. The verdict came shortly after 8 p.m. Friday night after three hours and fifteen minutes of deliberations.
Prosecutors said Bravo strangled the 18-year-old Aguilar on Sept. 20, 2012, after the two former high school friends met to discuss Bravo's depression and suicidal thoughts over his breakup. At the time, Bravo was reeling after learning that Aguilar was dating his ex.
Bravo, who testified in his own defense, said he and Aguilar got into a heated fight but that when he left him bleeding and injured on the street, his friend was still alive.
In a packed Gainesville courtroom Friday that included both men's parents and the former girlfriend Erika Friman, jurors were reminded that in the hours following Aguilar's disappearance, Bravo lied many times to police.
Prosecutor Bill Ezzell showed numerous journal entries and notes penned by Bravo, including one they called his "plan journal." In it, Bravo wrote that a "problem has occurred. You need an alibi. A way around this."
Showing pictures of Bravo in two hardware stores, Ezzell said Bravo bought the "murderer's starter pack," which also including a shovel, just days before meeting with Aguilar.
"He's now armed with what he needs to kill Chris and how to kill Chris," Ezzell said. "He just needs the opportunity to kill Chris."
Bravo used a mutual friend to convince Aguilar, who had been ducking Bravo's calls, to meet with him and discuss Bravo's suicidal thoughts. They went to a fast-food restaurant and an electronics store to buy a CD before parking in Wal-Mart parking lot, where prosecutors say Bravo slipped into the backseat of his SUV and strangled Aguilar.
Ezzell said Bravo first told detectives that Aguilar had left his car unharmed, but after police said they'd found Aguilar's blood in his car, he said they fought.
He posted pictures in the courtroom of the duct tape eventually found wrapped around Aguilar's body, which was buried in a wooded area miles from Gainesville. Tear marks on the edge of the tape found on Aguilar's ankle matched tears on tape stuck to Aguilar's car window.
"When you know who duct taped him, you know who buried him," Ezzell said.
Ezzell reminded jurors that a rare mineral found in the area where Aguilar was buried was also identified by experts on Bravo's shovel, which he said was hidden under a wooden walkway at his apartment complex in Gainesville.
Defense attorney Michael Ruppert noted that Bravo was suicidal, not homicidal, when he met with his friend.
Ruppert said police never tested the place where Bravo said the fight occurred -- a parking lot about a half mile away from the Wal-Mart -- for blood or evidence.
"This is not some smoke and mirrors argument by the defense," Ruppert said. "This is a legitimate concern and lack of evidence that law enforcement in the state failed to get."