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Victim’s brother: Villalpando was ‘the most hardworking girl’

Abigail Villalpando

Abigail Villalpando

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Updated: March 6, 2013 6:25AM

Before her horrific death this weekend, hardworking 18-year-old Aby Villalpando was set on spreading her wings.

Along with older brother Ricardo Villalpando, Aby had moved out of the family’s home to live on the West Side of Aurora so she could finish high school. Her dream was to be a police officer, Ricardo said.

“We wanted to be on our own so we decided to move out,” 21-year-old Ricardo said. “She was the most hardworking girl I’ve ever met in my life.”

The pair were much more than brother and sister, Ricardo said. They were best friends.

“That was my baby,” he said. “She was always happy and smiling. She was as pure as water.”

Toward the end of Aby’s time at East Aurora High School, she was weighing options — should she finish high school or start to work toward a GED?

“Aby was very bubbly, very enthusiastic,” said East Aurora counselor Karen Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer advised Aby for four years. “She would just drop in and always had something to say. She was very talkative.”

Close friend April Vega, an East Aurora graduate, said Aby dropped out of high school at East Aurora during her senior year. Aby then transferred to West Aurora hoping to finish school.

A transplant from Davenport, Iowa, 18-year-old Vega said Aby welcomed her with open arms.

“She’s the sweetest person,” Vega said. “Aby wanted to do something with her life. She wanted to go to college and everything. She wanted so much to do good.”

Pfeiffer said Aby was a “teeny, adorable little girl” who at times worked two jobs to support herself. Aby was short and thin, and had a Hello Kitty tattoo on her wrist.

She didn’t have any conflicts with people, Pfeiffer said.

Villalpando’s disappearance was first noticed when she didn’t show up for her shift at Denny’s, where she had worked as a server for more than two years. General Manager Ben Richter said Aby was well-liked by co-workers and customers.

“She had several regular customers,” Richter said. “They liked her because she had that bubbly kind of personality when she worked.”

Customers left bouquets of flowers in the restaurant’s large planters Monday in honor of Villalpando.

‘Aby trusted them’

As soon as she heard Aby was missing, Vega knew something was drastically wrong.

“When I was told she no-called, no-showed at her job, right away we knew something bad happened. That’s just not like her,” Vega said.

Vega said she hung out with Juan Garnica and Enrique Prado a few times. When she heard they were the last two people to be seen with Aby, Vega said a few thoughts crossed her mind.

“It came to my mind — ‘what if they hurt her?’ But then I thought, ‘They were friends.’ Those two were her buddies she would always hang out with,” Vega said. “Aby trusted them. I thought, ‘They wouldn’t do that.’”

Ricardo said Aby had known Garnica and Prado since they were students at an East Aurora middle school.

“I thought they might be a bad influence but I never dreamed they would harm my sister,” Ricardo said.

Garnica, 18, has been charged with two counts of first degree murder and one count of arson in the death of Abigail Villalpando. Prado, 19, has been charged with arson and concealment of a homicide and Jose Becerra, 20, has been charged with one count of concealment of a homicide.

In addition to older brother Ricardo, Aby is survived by two younger siblings, ages 7 and 11. Ricardo said he’s hanging on to “every little bit” of the memories he shared with his sister.

“Everything will be imprinted in my heart and my soul,” he said. “I just want the people who did this to her to pay.”

Students plan to gather by a cross near the location where Aby’s body was found at Fifth Street and Waubansia Avenue in Montgomery on Thursday. Funeral services are pending.

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