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Villalpando vigil: ‘There is no more room for this’

Participants sing 'Let There Be Peace Earth' during prayer vigil for murder victim Abigail Villalpondo Thursday Montgomery. | Mary Beth

Participants sing "Let There Be Peace on Earth" during a prayer vigil for murder victim Abigail Villalpondo Thursday in Montgomery. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 16, 2013 6:11AM

MONTGOMERY — It’s been two weeks since police say three men dumped her charred body in a remote location here — and the city of Aurora is still praying over Abigail Villalpando.

In the shadow of the Montgomery water tower, the Aurora Prayer Coalition for Reconciliation held the third prayer vigil for 18-year-old Villalpando Thursday afternoon at Fifth Street and Waubonsia Avenue in Montgomery, the site where her charred remains were found.

The Rev. David Engbarth, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Aurora, said the Villalpando family and the family of her alleged killer are devastated by this senseless murder.

“We want to send a message — to shout out to our city: there is no more room for this. There is no more time for this. Aurora is not going to stand for this kind of behavior,” Engbarth said. “We pray that (God touches) the lives of all of those who have been victimized by this insanity.”

Engbarth said that although Aurora celebrated a no-murder year in 2012, Villalpando’s death reminds that one murder is too many and of the hundreds that have been killed before her. A city once torn apart by drug and gang-related violence now struggles with incidents of domestic violence, he said.

“We are responsible for what we do with our anger,” Engbarth said. “This didn’t have to turn out this way ... We are responsible to care for one another and this is why the act is so unacceptable to us.”

Through tears, Bences Maravilla, director of the Aurora Township Youth Center, said in the past two decades, he’s lost seven children in township programs to violence in Aurora. Villalpando’s murder was especially brutal and shocked the city, he said. Villalpando was beat to death with a hammer and her body was burned.

“We can’t allow these types of brutal murders to come to the United States,” he said — ones synonymous with the drug cartels in Mexico.

Villalpando was a student at West Aurora and popular waitress at Denny’s Restaurant at the Westfield Fox Valley Mall. The first Villalpando vigil was held under the High Street bridge in Aurora, where police found her burning car; the second was also at Fifth Street and Waubansia Avenue. The funeral service and burial for Villalpando were held on Monday.

The Prayer Coalition, which formed during the 1990s when Aurora was experiencing 20 or more murders a year, has prayed at more than 250 vigils since 1994, Engbarth said.

Aurora police have charged Juan Garnica Jr., 18, of the 400 block of East Ashland Avenue, Aurora, 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.

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.

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