Authorities in Gainesville found human remains that presumably are those of Latino University of Florida freshman Christian Aguilar, who disappeared in September in North Florida, The Miami Herald reported.
Police were directed to the partially decomposed body of a young man after a pair of hunters came across it while out gathering firewood for the private Gulf Hammock Hunting Club in a remote rural part of Levy County, southwest of Gainesville.
The 18-year-old Aguilar's parents, who are from Cali, Colombia, and whose son was born in Miami, were notified of the find.
Around 2:00 p.m. on Friday, the hunters smelled "something dead" and found a partially buried and decomposing body that was "obviously human," Fred Oliver, a volunteer with the Levy County Sheriff's Office, told the newspaper.
When authorities arrived at the site, they found blue sneakers and dark blue jeans with the body, clothing that matched what Aguilar was wearing on Sept. 20, the day he disappeared.
Although authorities have ordered a forensic examination of the remains, they are "almost certain" they know that it is Aguilar, Oliver said.
Carlos Aguilar, Christian's father, traveled to Levy County from Gainesville and said, "Our prayers have been heard. We as a family, we believe that Christian has been found but we will wait until the authorities confirm it."
The family also posted a communique on their Facebook page, "Find Christian Aguilar" saying that they had been hit hard by the news.
Gainesville police are assisting the Levy County Sheriff's Office in the forensic processing of the body and they said they do not expect an official confirmation until Tuesday.
The disappearance of Aguilar, who was studying biomechanical engineering at the University of Florida, went from being a local story to a national one, attracting the attention of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The FBI also assisted in the search for Aguilar.
Aguilar's high school friend Pedro Bravo, 18, was arrested on Sept. 28 on charges of denying medical treatment to a crime victim after he said that he beat the young man severely and left him lying in a parking lot.
Authorities subsequently found Aguilar's backpack found in the closet of the accused, and blood was also found in his vehicle.
This will be a difficult time for the Aguilar family and for the dozens of people who have organized vigils in his name, Gainesville Police Department spokesman Ben Tobias said.
"While some people still hoped to find Christian alive, the unfortunate reality is going to sink in. I'm glad the family is finally going to get some closure," Tobias said.