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Winter storm didn’t stop vigil for slain Aurora teen

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Updated: March 10, 2013 6:19AM

An ugly winter storm Thursday evening did not keep Ricardo Villalpando from attending a second candlelight vigil in memory of his younger sister Abi, who was murdered last week.

“I don’t know how many other people will be there, but I’m going, no matter what,” the 20-year-old Aurora man said earlier in the day, as darkness — along with a dismal mixture of ice and snow — settled over the Fox Valley. “I’ll be there for my sister, no matter what.”

About 100 people felt the same way, as they huddled around the white cross near Fifth Street and Waubansia Avenue in Montgomery, close to where the charred body of 18-year-old Abigail Villalpando was found.

Included in the group were several U.S. Marines in full dress uniform as well as a representative of the National Guard, who came at the request of friends to honor Abi’s memory and help collect funds for her burial.

Friends and family had also gathered Tuesday for a similar vigil under the High Street bridge in Aurora, where her empty car had been discovered a week ago engulfed in flames.

Aurora police say Villalpando was killed by Juan Garnica Jr., who hit her several times in the head with a hammer, then set her body on fire, burning it beyond recognition before dumping it in a Montgomery field.

In addition to first degree murder charges against Garnica, police have charged Jose Becerra with concealment of a homicide and concealment of the death of a person. A third man, 19-year-old Enrique Prado, is also charged with arson and concealment of a homicide.

“Who would have known that these guys who she’s known since she was 12 would do this to her?” Abi’s brother Ricardo said. “She was too nice. She always helped them out ... she took them everywhere. Look what they did to her.”

Police began searching for Villalpando, described as well-loved and hard-working, after she failed to show up for her job as a waitress at the Denny’s Restaurant on the city’s far East Side. According to authorities, 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. Police said Garnica and Prado torched the car, then returned to Prado’s home, where he burned the body and contacted Becerra to help them dump the remains.

Local musician Bradley Keven Green played the guitar and sang a song he wrote just for Abi — even though he had never met her. Green talked about how her life had a powerful effect on others.

Villalpando’s murder is the first homicide in Aurora in over a year.

The family of the victim is requesting donations to help pay for Abi’s funeral, which will be held Monday. Donations can be made at Chase bank locations in Ricardo Villalpando’s name. The last four digits of the account are 7717.

At the conclusion of the vigil, heart-shaped balloons were released into the darkness as someone said: “Rest in peace, Abi. We love you.”

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