GAINESVILLE – Pedro Bravo’s former cellmate turned jailhouse informant testified today that Bravo watched the clock on his SUV’s radio as he strangled a University of Florida student with a moving strap in 2012.
Michael Angelo, a convicted Crips gang member, testified during Bravo’s murder trial that Bravo confided in him about killing 18-year-old Christian Aguilar in September 2012 and disposing of the body.
Bravo’s defense immediately called Angelo’s credibility into question, indicating he was testifying in exchange for a lighter sentence in his own trial and had informed in other cases.
Bravo, 20, is charged with murder, kidnapping and other charges related to Aguilar’s death. He has pleaded not guilty.
Jurors watched as Angelo, clad in red and white jail clothes, described in granular detail how he met Bravo shortly after Bravo’s arrest, when the two were put in the same cell.
Bravo cried a lot, and stared at the ceiling for hours when they first met, Angelo said. Angelo said he read about Bravo’s arrest the next day in the newspaper, so knew about his case.
“I said, ‘You probably killed that kid,”’ Angelo recalled, referring to Bravo’s weepy demeanor. “He really didn’t answer or say anything.”
Angelo said the two bonded over drawing and doing graffiti, and that they began to talk.
Bravo asked him for a pen to write a suicide note to his parents, and for Angelo’s shoelace so he could commit suicide. Angelo said he gave him the pen, but not the shoelace.
Prosecutors say Bravo wrote the letter, which was later found by a guard in the cell.
In it, Bravo said he was “a monster for hurting Chris the way I did,” according to a copy of the letter read in court.
After being isolated on suicide watch for a couple of weeks, Bravo returned to the same area of the jail and restarted communications with Angelo, prosecutors said.
Angelo said Bravo slid a note under his cell door one day asking for his help to cover up the murder.
“I guess because before all this occurred I had some recruiting charges, gang charges. And he looked at it like I had people on the street who could do something for him,” Angelo said.
Bravo’s attorney said Angelo had offered to move Aguilar’s body for $2,000, an accusation denied by Angelo on the stand.
In their conversations, Angelo said Bravo admitted to being angry that Aguilar was dating his ex-girlfriend. Prosecutors say Bravo was obsessed with his ex, and presented writings showing he moved to Gainesville from Miami in an effort to win her back just before Aguilar’s slaying.
Bravo told Angelo that he convinced Aguilar to meet with him to talk about his depression, and had researched ways to kill and dispose of a body before the two met up.
“(Bravo) told the kid he just wanted to talk,” Angelo said.
According to Angelo, Bravo said he and Aguilar ended up parked on the edges of a Wal-Mart parking lot after a couple of hours of talking.
“(Bravo) got out like he had to find something in the back seat ... and then he put a moving strap around the kid’s neck and braced himself on the seat,” Angelo said. “(Bravo said) he was watching the clock on the radio and that it took 13 minutes for the kid to die.”
Bravo got startled by a security guard who came by shortly after the attack, Angelo said, and that Aguilar was “making weird noises.”
Angelo testified that Bravo said he had researched wooded areas in which to bury the body, but that when he started digging he hit a layer of hard ground that his shovel could not get through.
“He put the kid’s body in the ground and covered it up and put a little shrub over it and a rock to make it look normal, or like nothing was there,” Angelo said Bravo told him.
Angelo eventually led prosecutors to where Bravo said he hid the shovel: under a wooden walkway at his apartment complex. Prosecutors did find a shovel there later.
After the killing, Bravo told him he ditched his shoes in a trash can and got something to eat.
“(Bravo) said that he went to get something to eat after he had washed the bottom of his truck off at a car wash.”