(ST. CHARLES) Juan Garnica pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges he killed 18-year-old Abigail Villalpando of Aurora and then burned her body in an attempt to conceal her death.
During a brief hearing, Kane County Judge John Barsanti detailed a four-count indictment against 19-year-old Garnica on murder, arson and concealment of a homicide charges. He is accused of beating Villalpando with a hammer-like tool and then setting her body, as well as her car, ablaze. Garnica faces a minimum of 20 years in prison if convicted of murder, and could receive a consecutive sentence for a concealment conviction. He remains in Kane County Jail on $5 million bail with a June 20 court date scheduled.
Two co-defendants — Jose Beccera and Enrique Prado — were also indicted recently in the case. Beccera, charged with concealment of a death and concealment of a homicide, is accused of helping dispose of Villalpando’s body in a field in Montgomery. Prado is charged with arson and concealment of a homicide on allegations he helped in the burning of Villalpando’s body and car. Both men are being held in Kane County Jail with court dates scheduled within the next week.
Villalpando was reported missing on Jan. 31 after she didn’t show up for work at the Denny’s restaurant near Fox Valley mall on the city’s far East Side. She left her apartment dressed for work around 2 p.m. that day, but never arrived for her shift. Family members said it was “out of the ordinary” for her to disappear or not show up at her job, court records state.
According to authorities and court records, Villalpando stopped at a Jefferson Street residence owned by Prado’s girlfriend before her shift to hang out with Garnica and Prado, something she did regularly in her free time.
Prado told investigators that the three smoked marijuana on a couch before Garnica struck Villalpando in the head several times with the tool. Her body was put into a container, and eventually in a stolen metal garbage can where it was burned, police said.
The men then emptied the barrel into a plastic storage container and called Becerra, who had a pick up truck, to transport the container, officials said. The three men then drove to the area of Fifth Street and Waubansia Avenue in Montgomery, where they emptied the container in a field about 200 feet from the intersection.
A police dog later found Villalpando’s burned remains in a marshy area with tall grass close to a frozen pond, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Garnica denied any knowledge or involvement in Villalpando’s disappearance or death during an initial police interview, which ended when he requested an attorney. A judge appointed a public defender for Garnica during one of his initial court appearances.
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