ME Testifies In UF Student Murder Trial
South Florida Crime
GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) – The jury in the murder trial of Pedro Bravo heard from more forensics experts on what the discovered during their investigation into the death of his friend Christian Aguilar.
Bravo is accused of strangling Aguilar, 18, in September 2012 because of his obsession with his former girlfriend Erika Friman. Bravo, Aguilar and Friman all attended the Doral Academy.
On Tuesday, prosecutors showed a screen grab of Bravo’s iPhone which read “I need to hide my roommate.”
Bravo’s attorney pointed out the screen grab was among hundreds of pictures that were on Bravo’s phone and that the search may not have been initiated by his client.
“This is not evidence that he ever did an inquiry, looking for some information online for needing to hide his roommate,” Bravo’s attorney asked Gainesville police department Det. Matthew Goeckel who had taken the stand.
“Correct,” replied Goeckel.
Bravo is accused of drugging and strangling his former inside his SUV in a Walmart parking lot then partially burying his body 60 miles west of Gainesville in very remote wooded area. Goeckel, a forensic expert, dissected cell phone data from both men and said it appears both phones were at the Walmart.
By tracking Bravo’s cell phone ‘pings’, police followed his movements the day Aguilar disappeared. An expert said those signals showed Bravo was heading west, in the general direction of where Aguilar’s body was found. Goeckel testified at 8 p.m. that night, the signal disappeared for nearly five and a half hours.
“I can tell that the phone is still on, it tells me the phone was intentionally disconnected from the network,” said Goeckel.
He added that that the flashlight feature on Bravo’s phone was used for nearly an hour.
“I see activation time,” said Goeckel indicated the phone app, “It’s 48 minutes and 18 seconds.”
Prosectors used the forensic evidence to infer that the flashlight app was used out in the woods where Aguilar’s body was buried.
Also taking the stand was the Dr. Martha Burt from the county’s Medical Examiner’s Office.
“The manner of death I assigned was homicide,” Burt told the jury.
Burt testified that it appeared Aguilar’s wrists, ankles and neck were wrapped in duct tape. While she could not pinpoint the exact cause of death, she said he could have been strangled, like police believe.
On Monday, the jury heard Bravo’s second interview with police where he admitted to beating up Aguilar after the two argued and dropping him off. On the video, Bravo said when he drove off Aguilar was still alive.
“I pushed him out of the car, then I got out of the car then I kept punching him,” said Bravo. “I really hope he’s okay. When I left the scene it was me, I was just there whaling on him, then I kept going until I could see he was okay but he couldn’t move anymore. Then I drove away.”‘
Aguilar’s body was found dead weeks later, partially buried in a wooded section.
After leaving Aguilar, Bravo told University of Florida police Sergeant Stephen Wilder “I was really mad and annoyed. I didn’t care to look back.” He said he later regretted not going back.
Bravo said he had trouble sleeping that night. He said he took four sleeping pills and went to bed. He said he woke up in the middle of the night, checked his phone and went back to sleep. Bravo said he then woke up around 3 a.m. and the power went off. He said he later got a call from Erika asking if she had heard from Aguilar.
Last week, Mark Trahan, a Gainesville Police Department Crime Scene Investigator, testified that he found traces of blood on the bottom of a paint can and a shoe insole from inside Bravo’s car. He added the shovel Bravo bought to bury Aguilar was found under a boardwalk in an apartment complex.
Prosecutors also played security footage from Walmart and Lowes appearing to show Aguilar purchasing the shovel, and other items, including a knife.