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Three face charges in death of Aurora teen

Juan GarnicJr.  |  AurorPolice photo

Juan Garnica Jr. | Aurora Police photo

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Updated: March 5, 2013 6:32AM

AURORA — Police have charged an Aurora man with first-degree murder in the death of an 18-year-old Aurora woman, whose body was found burned beyond recognition Saturday morning in Montgomery.

Two other men have been charged with concealing the murder, Aurora police said.

Juan Garnica, Jr., 18, of the 400 block of East Ashland Avenue, was charged Sunday evening with two counts of first degree murder and one count of arson in the death of Abigail Villalpando, 18, of the 1900 block of Lilac Lane, police said.

Enrique Prado, 19, of the 400 block of Jefferson Street, Aurora, was charged with arson and concealment of a homicide, and Jose Becerra, 20, of the 0-99 block of Seaton Creek Drive, Oswego, was charged with one count of concealment of a homicide, according to Aurora police.

Police said that Villalpando’s body was discovered around 9 a.m. Saturday by a Kane County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit in a wooded area near Fifth Street and Waubansia Avenue, in Montgomery.

On Sunday morning, the Kane County Coroner’s Office confirmed that the body was that of Villalpando through dental records in an autopsy.

Villalpando was a student at West Aurora High School, according to district spokesman Mike Chapin. A crisis team will be available at the school Monday morning for students and staff. Villalpando had just transferred to West High from East Aurora High School in mid-December, according to Chapin. Grief counselors also were to be at East Aurora High School, district officials said.

Villalpando was last seen by a family member around 1 p.m. Thursday when she left her home to go to her job at Denny’s Restaurant, 4330 Fox Valley Center Drive. Around 5 p.m. Thursday, another employee called her home, saying Villalpando never showed up for work.

The family reported Villalpando missing around 2:30 a.m. Friday.

On Saturday, loved ones handed out posters around the city with Villalpando’s photo and description — short and thin, with long brown hair and brown eyes, and a Hello Kitty tattoo on her wrist.

At about 10:40 a.m. Friday, Villalpando’s empty car, a 2003 Nissan Altima, was found fully engulfed in flames underneath the High Street Bridge over the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks on Aurora’s near East Side.

During the investigation into her disappearance, detectives learned that Villalpando went to visit Garnica and Prado, both of whom she knew, at Prado’s home, just a couple blocks from where her car was found, shortly after leaving her residence, police said.

According to police, sometime during that meeting, Garnica hit Villalpando several times in the head with a hammer after Prado left the room. Police said that it is unclear why Garnica started beating the young woman.

Garnica then stuffed Villalpando’s body into a tote container and hid the body in Prado’s garage, police said.

Sometime in the overnight hours Thursday, Garnica drove Villalpando’s vehicle to the area where it was later found torched, police said.

Around 9 a.m. Friday morning, Garnica met up with Prado, and the two went to a downtown gas station and filled a gas can with gasoline. After dropping off Garnica at the scene where Villalpando’s vehicle was parked, Prado returned home. Garnica then set the vehicle on fire and ran back to Prado’s house, police said.

Garnica then burned Villalpando’s body in a barrel in the backyard and enlisted Becerra’s help in dumping the body, police said.

Later that afternoon, at around 3 p.m. Friday, Garnica and Prado showed up at the police department for questioning and were taken into custody.

Becerra was taken into custody Saturday afternoon at his home, police said.

The preliminary cause of Villalpando’s death at today’s autopsy was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head, according to Aurora police. Detectives had not yet established a definitive motive as of Sunday evening.

All three men were scheduled for Monday morning video bond calls in front of a Kane County Judge.

Kane County Sheriff’s deputies and officers from the Montgomery Police Department assisted in the investigation.

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