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Family, friends remember murder victim at vigil

Friends family murder victim Abigail Villalpando gather by candlelight under High Street bridge for vigil Tuesday February 5 2013 near

Friends and family of murder victim Abigail Villalpando gather by candlelight under the High Street bridge for a vigil on Tuesday, February 5, 2013, near the spot where her burnt out car was found last Friday. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Request for

Aby Villalpando’s brother, 21-year-old Ricardo Villalpando, said Tuesday the family is requesting donations to help pay for her funeral.

Donations can be made at Chase bank locations in Ricardo Villalpando’s name. The last four digits of the account are 7717.

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Updated: March 7, 2013 6:31AM

ST. CHARLES — A judge on Tuesday ordered Jose Becerra held on $100,000 bail in connection to the murder of West Aurora High School student Abigail Villalpando.

Becerra, 20, who appeared via video feed from the Kane County Jail for a brief hearing, is charged with concealment of a homicide and concealment of the death of a person. If convicted, Becerra faces a minimum of a year in prison, although he could be placed on probation. He must post $10,000 to be released from custody.

Becerra was arrested Saturday after the discovery of Villalpando’s badly burned body in Montgomery. Jose Garnica Jr., 18, of Aurora, is accused of beating the teen to death with a hammer, setting her body on fire and then dumping it in a field. Garnica is charged with Villalpando’s murder and remains in jail on $5 million bail. A third man, 19-year-old Enrique Prado, also of Aurora, is charged with arson and concealment of a homicide. He is being held on $100,000 bail.

Speaking at his monthly press briefing, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon declined to discuss a possible motive in the case but said the details released by authorities thus far “certainly paint a picture of a vicious attack on a young woman.”

Police questioned Garnica and Prado, both of whom Villalpando had known for some time, Friday and Saturday as they investigated her disappearance. Villalpando’s co-workers became concerned Thursday afternoon when she failed to show up for work at the Denny’s Restaurant on the city’s far East Side. Authorities said Prado told investigators that Villalpando was dead and directed them to where her body could be found.

Villalpando’s family last saw her Thursday when she left for work. Police said she met up with Garnica at Prado’s home, where she was beaten with a hammer by Garnica, who then stuffed her body into a container in Prado’s garage. Late Thursday, Villalpando’s car was parked under the High Street bridge, where police found it fully engulfed on Friday morning. Police said Garnica and Prado bought gasoline and torched the car. The pair then returned to Prado’s home and burned the body inside a barrel in the backyard, according to authorities. The two men contacted Becerra to help them dump the body in a field near Fifth Street and Waubansia Avenue in Montgomery.

Garnica has been charged in the last two years with possession of a stolen van and threatening a man with a knife. At the time of his arrest in Villalpando’s death, Garnica was on conditional discharge, a less intensive version of probation, as part of a plea that saw the felony stolen van case reduced to a misdemeanor trespassing, court records show.

Becerra told Judge Christine Downs that he has lived in Oswego with his mother for the last two or three years after spending the previous 14 or 15 in Aurora. He worked as a cook at an International House of Pancakes, but said, “I think I got fired because I haven’t been there in a few days.” He acknowledged previous trips to jail after Assistant State’s Attorney Anne Stanfa detailed previous drug and disorderly conduct arrests in the last three years. He also had his bond forfeited in previous cases for failing to appear in court.

Becerra, who prosecutors said was born in Mexico and could be a flight risk, is scheduled to return to court Feb. 21. Garnica and Prado are set to appear again on Feb. 14 and Feb. 15, respectively. Prosecutors requested the men appear on different days.

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