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updated: 2/5/2013 8:28 AM

Bail set in hammer murder, burning of Aurora teen

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  • Abigail "Aby" Villalpando

      Abigail "Aby" Villalpando

  • Jose M. Becerra

      Jose M. Becerra

  • Enrique Prado

      Enrique Prado

  • Juan Garnica Jr.

      Juan Garnica Jr.

  • A white cross in memory of Abigail Villalpando was placed near Fifth Street and Wabansia Avenue in Montgomery. Authorities said the burned body of Villalpando, 18, of Aurora, was found there. Three men have been charged in connection with her murder, which was the first homicide in Aurora since late 2011.

       A white cross in memory of Abigail Villalpando was placed near Fifth Street and Wabansia Avenue in Montgomery. Authorities said the burned body of Villalpando, 18, of Aurora, was found there. Three men have been charged in connection with her murder, which was the first homicide in Aurora since late 2011.
    Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

  • A white cross in memory of Abigail Villalpando was placed near Fifth Street and Wabansia Avenue in Montgomery. Authorities said the burned body of Villalpando, 18, of Aurora, was found there. Three men have been charged in connection with her murder, which was the first homicide in Aurora since late 2011.

       A white cross in memory of Abigail Villalpando was placed near Fifth Street and Wabansia Avenue in Montgomery. Authorities said the burned body of Villalpando, 18, of Aurora, was found there. Three men have been charged in connection with her murder, which was the first homicide in Aurora since late 2011.
    Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

 
 

Bail was set Monday for two of three men charged in the hammer attack murder of 18-year-old Abigail Villalpando, the first homicide in Aurora since late 2011.

Villalpando was beaten to death with a hammer, her body set on fire and moved to a wooded area near Montgomery where it was found Saturday burned beyond recognition, police said.

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A judge set bail at $5 million for Juan Garnica Jr., 18, of the 400 block of Ashland Ave., Aurora, and $100,000 for Enrique Prado, 19, of the 300 block of South Avenue, Aurora.

Garnica is charged with first-degree murder and arson; Prado faces charges of arson and concealment of a homicide, court records show.

Jose M. Becerra, 20, of the 0-99 block of Setton Drive, Oswego, is due in bond court Tuesday morning on charges of concealment of a homicide.

Villalpando, a senior who transferred in December from East Aurora High School to West High, was reported missing after she failed to show for her 5 p.m. shift Thursday at Denny's near the Westfield Fox Valley Mall.

"That raised a red flag right there, her not being on time," said Denny's General Manager Ben Richter, who noted Villalpando had worked there nearly three years and was never late.

Known as "Aby," she was a "model employee" respected by co-workers as well as customers, Richter said.

"She had a friendly personality ... always came in with a bubbly attitude and ready to work," Richter recalled. "She's going to be greatly missed. We've lost a family member. How can I put it. ... It's hard to comprehend. It's tragic. It's been a rough couple of days."

According to Aurora police, Villalpando was last seen at 1 p.m. Thursday before she went to visit Garnica and Prado, both of whom she knew, at Prado's home on the city's east side.

Police said Garnica hit Villalpando several times with a hammer after Prado left the room. Garnica then stuffed her 4-foot-10-inch, 105-pound body into a container and hid it in Prado's garage.

Police said Garnica drove Villalpando's car to the High Street bridge at the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks on the city's east side where it was found at 10:40 a.m. Friday engulfed in flames.

Police believe Garnica set the car on fire and ran back to Prado's house. He then burned her body in a barrel in the backyard and asked for Becerra's help in dumping it near a wooded area near Fifth Street and Wabansia Avenue near Montgomery, where Kane County Sheriff Deputies and a K-9 unit found it at 9 a.m. Saturday, police said.

By Monday a white cross had been placed near the woods in Villalpando's memory. "Why did they do this to Abigail?" someone wrote on the cross.

Authorities have not specified a motive for the killing. The Kane County Coroner identified her body using dental records and determined the preliminary cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Attempts to reach Villalpando's family Monday were unsuccessful.

Mike Chapin, spokesman for West Aurora District 129, said grief counselors were at school Monday. Villalpando's death was announced followed by a moment of silence.

"We had social workers and psychologists on hand," he said. "They're working with the West Aurora family to assist in any way."

Garnica is next due in court Feb. 14 and faces up to 60 years in prison for murder if convicted. Prosecutors have the option of seeking extended sentencing if they can prove the murder was exceptionally brutal, heinous and indicative of wanton cruelty.

According to court records, Garnica has numerous tickets for driving while his license was suspended.

Prado is due in court Feb. 15 and faces up to seven years in prison on the arson charge.

Concealment of a homicide, the charge that Becerra faces, is a felony that carries a punishment of two to five years in prison if convicted. Becerra was arrested by Aurora police Sept. 13, 2009 and charged with marijuana possession. He entered the county's pretrial diversion program but failed to complete it.

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