By Clifford Ward
Special to the Tribune
10:09 AM AKST, February 14, 2013
As family members of Abigail Villalpando looked on Thursday, the man accused of her murder had his first court hearing since he was ordered held in lieu of $5 million bail.
Juan Garnica, 18, told Kane County Judge James Hallock that his family is trying to hire a private attorney to defend him on charges that he killed Villalpando, 18, and then burned her body in a barrel in Aurora late last month.
The judge appointed a public defender to represent Garnica in the meantime, and then admonished him that he could face a 20- to 60-year prison sentence if convicted of murder.
Villalpando’s parents and grandmother were in the courtroom for the brief hearing. Afterward, they met privately with First Assistant State’s Attorney Jody Gleason. Following the meeting, the family members declined to speak with reporters.
The hearing did not provide any additional information about the death of Villalpando, a West Aurora High School senior who worked as a server at a Denny’s restaurant.
Authorities say Garnica attacked Villalpando on Jan. 31 with a hammer at the Aurora home of a mutual friend, and, after storing her body overnight in the garage, Garnica attempted to destroy her corpse by incinerating it an a barrel.
He also is alleged to have abandoned Villalpando’s car beneath a bridge in Aurora before setting it ablaze. Authorities found the girl’s remains in a wooded area in nearby Montgomery.
Two men face lesser charges in connection with Villalpando’s death. Both are due to make court appearances over the next week.