Pedro Bravo Takes The Stand In UF Student Murder Trial
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GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) – The man accused of killing former classmate Christian Aguilar took the stand Thursday morning in his own defense.
Pedro Bravo, 20, announced his decision Thursday morning in court and took the stand around 10:40 A.M. Bravo’s testimony lasted through the afternoon–and wasn’t excused from the stand until around 5 P.M.
Both sides are expected to begin Friday morning presenting their final arguments and the jury will begin deliberation after.
Bravo, on the stand Thursday, said that he tried to commit suicide 10 to 12 times but said that a part of him “just wouldn’t let go.”
Bravo, during his testimony, said that Aguilar was someone he could relate to, and that he was a cutter, from what he remembered.
Bravo, who said at the time he was still “enamored” with his former girlfriend Erika Friman, wanted to attend the University of Florida so that he could try to get back with her.
At one point, during questioning, Bravo said “those are my handwritings” about the journal that was read during the trial.
While in Gainesville, Bravo found out, through two friends, that Aguilar and Friman were dating. He said he was “crushed” and wanted to speak with Aguilar. He said he that things were adding up in his life, which led him to decide he was going to kill himself the following week but that he wanted to speak with Aguilar first.
Bravo said he used a payphone to “reach out” to Aguilar because he was afraid Aguilar would not pick up his call. He said he wanted to tell him how he “felt like a failure” and wanted to tell him that he was “breaking apart piece by piece.”
Aguilar and Bravo, according to Bravo’s testimony, ended up meeting for coffee at The Hub and then the two walked over where Aguilar got a flu shot. The two teens then got into the car to get something to eat—that’s when Aguilar, Bravo said, wanted to go to Best Buy to purchase the new Kanye West CD. After Best Buy, the two started to drive around.
Bravo said that he and Aguilar drove around, and began to discuss his situation in Gainesville. While parked in the parking lot of a strip mall, by a Walmart, Bravo asked Aguilar about his relationship with Friman. Bravo said that Aguilar at first denied the relationship, but then said that the two had indeed been dating.
The discussion, according to Bravo, began to get “very heated.” Bravo said that while driving, he turned around and hit Aguilar in the nose with his fist and that his nose started bleeding. Bravo said his adrenaline was rushing so he pulled over into a small driveway with some “skinny trees.”
The two, Bravo said, began to fight. Bravo said he landed on top of Aguilar. When asked if Aguilar hit his head Bravo said he wasn’t sure. Bravo left Aguilar there, said he only remembered him on the ground as he was leaving.
Later that night, while at the gas station, Bravo said he noticed that Aguilar’s belongings—including his phone—were inside his car. He said that he wanted to leave him without a phone because he “wanted to be a prick.” The day after, Bravo said he noticed a roll of duct tape he kept in his car was missing when Friman asked if anything of Aguilar’s was inside his car.
Bravo was asked about Aguilar’s condition when he left him to which he answered he couldn’t say he was unconscious, but that Aguilar was still moving but couldn’t get up.
Bravo, in the hours after his fight with Aguilar, said he composed a suicide note. He also said that he turned off his phone, got in his car, drove for miles and finally pulled off the road where he planned to attempt suicide.
Bravo said he found a tree and inscribed “Pedro Andres Bravo, 9-20-12” because it was going to be the last day of his life. He said he drank a bottle of sleeping pill powder and pesticide mixed with Gatorade but that his body rejected it and that he ended up throwing up. He was on the ground “wheezing” and decided to return back to Gainesville.
After Bravo’s recount of his suicide attempt, the court went into recess for about an hour.
When testimony resumed, Bravo was questioned about about that night. He said after making a run to McDonalds run he returned to Spyglass at 1:12 a.m. He said he was stressed because his parents would be angry about the state of the car so he went to Scrubs car wash.
Bravo said he returned to Spyglass at 2:53 a.m. and washed his vomit-stained clothes. He said he didn’t do a full load because he was worried about stains. He said he then went to sleep.
Bravo said Friman called him at 4:15 a.m. asking about where Aguilar was.
When talking with the UF police the next day he didn’t mention the fight because, “I didn’t want to get in any trouble if I could avoid it.”
The prosecution then asked about a hitchhiker Bravo said he had picked up in an interview police. Bravo said he and Christian had picked up an hitchhiker earlier in the day. He couldn’t really remember what he looked liked but did think he was making his way north.
Questioning then turned to what he told police who interviewed him about Aguilar’s disappearance. Bravo said he told police about the fight and where he dropped Aguilar off.
He said as the police interview dragged on he became more concerned because Aguilar was still out there and needed to be found.
Bravo said he and officer Randy Roberts then went to the Honda dealership where he had dropped off Aguilar. He said when they arrived about a dozen police officers were already there searching the area. Bravo said they weren’t looking for signs of a struggle or blood, they were looking for Aguilar.
Bravo said he was questioned as to whether this was the spot where he had left Aguilar and he replied yes. He said Roberts drove him to other locations in the area asking if Bravo may have dropped off Aguilar there and Bravo said he replied no each time.
While in jail, Bravo said that Michael Angelo, who testified against Bravo Wednesday, threatened him physically and coerced him to write the serial killer letter.
Angelo saw Bravo’s parents’ address, Bravo said, and threatened to harm them if Bravo didn’t give him food or write the letter.
Bravo said that Angelo threatened to hurt him where the jail cameras couldn’t catch him.
The letter was a series of posts about how Bravo wanted to speak with Aguilar regarding the suicidal thoughts. In the letter, which Bravo read, he refers to himself as a monster because he felt “like a terrible person” for fighting and leaving his “best friend.”
Bravo described Aguilar as his “safety net,” saying he was the one that kept him from “falling on his head.”
The letter mentioned Bravo wanting to get Aguilar off campus, alone, and he wondered whether Aguilar was afraid of Bravo’s “true intentions.”
Bravo was questioned regarding the Google searches on his phone. Said he Googled the “unsolved murders” because of a show he watched on the Discovery Channel.
Bravo’s version of what happened addressed nearly every point made by prosecutors–including why he bought a shovel–the one investigators said was used to dig Aguilar’s grave.
Bravo said he did buy the shovel, with cash, for the purpose of digging his own grave. Bravo went on to say he used shovel to collect different types of dirt to mix moss and buttermilk so he could make living graffiti.
“It can be formed into like, a type of paste, that when sprayed onto a wall and misted frequently, can begin to grow,” Bravo said.
Bravo said he placed the shovel under the walkway so that the moss mixture would grow better.
After a short recess, Bravo returned to the stand for cross-examination by prosecutor Brian Kramer.
Kramer begins rapid fire questioning of Bravo, and Bravo begins giving one-word answers.
Bravo emphasizes during questioning that he Aguilar for what felt like 10 to 15 minutes and told the prosecutor that he hid Aguilar’s backpack in his room because he didn’t want his parents to see it.
Kramer then insinuated Bravo only told police about the backpack once he knew that his room would be searched.
When asked why he didn’t take Aguilar’s stuff to the police station, he said it was because he was saving it to give back to Aguilar.
Kramer hammered Bravo on his separate purchases, including the shovel, which he used cash. “Cash, Mr. Bravo. You can’t trace that,” Kramer said.
The state during cross-examination insinuated that Bravo used the sleeping pills to give Aguilar during the car ride.
Later, the state played an audio conversation between Bravo and Friman while he was in jail where Bravo said, about Aguilar, “he’s not here anymore.”
Bravo denied telling Angelo where the shovel was but, as Kramer pointed out, that nobody found the shovel until Angelo told Elsey.
Defense attorney Michael Ruppert continues questioning Bravo on the stand. After questioning, where the defense brings up Bravo getting gas, addresses the separate purchases, Bravo is excused and the state calls Dr. Martha Burt.
Dr. Burt testified that Aguilar’s remains did not show a death by skull fracture, nor any evidence that suggests that kind of trauma.
Earlier Thursday, the last witness for the defense was Assistant State Attorney Christopher Elsey.
Elsey oversaw jailhouse snitch Angelo’s case. He told the jury he met with Angelo and discussed having him testify against Bravo in return for lessening his sentence. Angelo reportedly gave Elsey a letter that Bravo had given him and a map of Spyglass Apartments, where Bravo lived.
Elsey testified that Angelo’s tip led police to discover the shovel that the state believes was used to bury Aguilar.
Angelo got Bravo to tell him the location of Aguilar’s body by offering to have someone move the body for money.
Bravo is accused of strangling Aguilar, 18, on September 20th, 2012 because of his obsession with his former girlfriend Erika Friman, who Aguilar was dating. Bravo, Aguilar and Friman all attended the Doral Academy.
On Wednesday, Angelo’s testimony took center stage.
Angelo was Bravo’s cellmate in the Alachua County jail.
Angelo said Bravo told him he planned the murder in advance. He said Bravo initially told him he planned to poison him, slit his throat or choke him. He said Bravo even talked about the moment he said he killed Aguilar in his SUV.
“He got out like he had to find something in the back seat, he put a moving strap behind his neck, braced hiself (sic) and it took 13 minutes to die,” said Angelo.
Bravo reportedly told Angelo that as he drove around with Aguilar’s body in the back seat, he continued to pull on the strap. “He was riding around to dispose of the body, he was making a sound like (gasp, gasp) and that’s the reason he held on to the strap while he was riding around because it freaked him out.”
Bravo then explained how he wrapped Aguilar’s body in duct tape and drove about 60 miles out of town where he buried it in a shallow grave in a wooded area, according to Angelo.
The defense countered that Angelo heard the details about the murder on the news. Angelo said he couldn’t recall which dates he and Bravo had their conversations or whether it was before or after Aguilar’s body was found.
When questioned by police after Aguilar’s disappearance, Bravo admitted that he and Christian fought but added that the last time he saw his friend he was alive.
“I pushed him out of the car, then I got out of the car then I kept punching him,” Bravo told investigators at the time. “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 on October 12th, approximately three weeks after he disappeared.
If convicted, Bravo faces life in prison.
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