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Auroran could face life in prison in teen girl’s murder

Juan GarnicJr.  |  AurorPolice photo

Juan Garnica Jr. | Aurora Police photo

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Updated: March 17, 2013 6:21PM

ST. CHARLES — A public defender was appointed Thursday to represent the Aurora man suspected of beating an 18-year-old girl to death late last month.

And an Aurora alderman will serve as the defense attorney for an accomplice charged with helping him burn the girl’s body.

Judge James Hallock on Thursday appointed the public defender’s office to represent Juan Garnica, of the 400 block of East Ashland Avenue, in the beating death of 18-year-old Abigail Villalpando, and later setting her body on fire.

Garnica, also 18, told Judge James Hallock he was unemployed and that he believed his family was trying to find a private attorney to represent him on the two counts of murder and a single count of arson.

As part of Garnica’s first formal court appearance Thursday, Hallock explained to Garnica that he potentially faces between 20 years and a life sentence if convicted of Villalpando’s murder.

Hallock also noted Garnica remains on conditional discharge — a lesser form of probation — in connection to a 2011 stolen vehicle charge that was reduced to a trespassing conviction.

Garnica is being held on $5 million bail and returns to court March 22.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jody Gleason offered no new details of Villalpando’s death during the hearing.

Prosecutors allege Garnica beat Villalpando with a hammer after she visited him and a second man, Enrique Prado, 19, on her way to work at a Denny’s Restaurant at Westfield Fox Valley Mall on Jan. 31. Police found her car engulfed in flames under the High Street bridge the next day. Police said Garnica and Prado bought gasoline and torched the car.

The pair then returned to Prado’s home in the 400 block of Jefferson Street in Aurora and burned Villalpando’s body inside a barrel in the back yard, according to authorities.

The two men then contacted a third man — Jose Becerra, 20, of the 0-99 block of Seaton Creek Drive, Oswego — who helped them dump the body in a field near Fifth Street and Waubansia Avenue in Montgomery, according to police.

Police previously said Prado told them where to find Villalpando’s body.

Villalpando’s family did not speak to reporters after the hearing Thursday.

Aurora Alderman Richard Irvin, an attorney, filed his appearance to represent Prado on Wednesday. Irvin also filed a motion to move Prado’s case out of Hallock’s courtroom.

As he has said in the past, Irvin said Thursday that “one thing has nothing to do with the other” when it comes to his legal work and his role on the City Council.

Prado, charged with concealment of a homicide and arson, remains in the Kane County Jail on $100,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in court Friday.

Becerra’s next court date is Feb. 21. He is charged with concealment of a homicide and concealment of a death, and is also being held on $100,000 bail.

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