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Prayer Coalition offers vigil for murder victim

Abigail Villalpando 18  graduate West AurorHigh School was found  murdered Sunday Feb. 3 2013. | 
Submitted photo

Abigail Villalpando, 18, a graduate of West Aurora High School, was found murdered on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013. | Submitted photo

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Updated: March 14, 2013 6:34AM

The Aurora Prayer Coalition for Reconciliation is planning a prayer vigil for the city’s first murder victim in more than a year.

The vigil for 18-year-old Abigail Villalpando will be at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Fifth Street and Waubansia Avenue, Montgomery.

Aurora police have charged Juan Garnica Jr., 18, of the 400 block of East Ashland Avenue, with the murder of Villalpando. Police said he hit her over the head several times with a hammer on Jan. 31, then set her body on fire before dumping it into a field near the site of the vigil.

This will be the third vigil held for Villalpando, who was also a popular waitress at Denny’s Restaurant at Westfield Fox Valley Mall. The first was held under the High Street bridge in Aurora, where police found the victim’s burning car; the second was also at the Fifth Street and Waubansia Avenue location. Both were organized by the victim’s family and friends as they tried to cope with the violent and seemingly random murder.

Loved ones say Villalpando was a long-time friend of Garnica, as well as Enrique Prado, 19, of the 400 block of Jefferson Street, Aurora, and Jose Becerra, 20, of the 0-99 block of Seaton Creek Drive, Oswego, who are charged with helping conceal the homicide.

In a press release from the Prayer Coalition, which formed during the 1990s when Aurora was experiencing 20 or more murders a year, Cheryl Maraffio asked that anyone affected by the crime — Aurora’s first murder in more than a year — to attend Thursday’s vigil and “take a very public stand against this unthinkable act of violence.”

The funeral service and burial for Villalpando were held on Monday.

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