The ex-girlfriend of Pedro Bravo, the Florida college student who was found guilty last week of killing her new love in the so-called Gainesville Love Triangle trial, said she never thought the smart, charismatic student she once dated was capable of murder.
“He kind of tricked us all, thinking, you know, this guy that’s shy and he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Erika Friman told ABC’s Matt Gutman in an interview for “20/20.” “I don’t think anyone in their right mind would go as far as he has.”
Bravo, 20, was convicted of first-degree murder and six other counts in the death of 18-year-old University of Florida student Christian Aguilar. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors alleged that Bravo was so distraught over finding out his ex-girlfriend, Friman, was dating his friend, Aguilar, that he concocted a plan to kill him so he and Friman could be together again.
“This was a person we knew. This was intentional,” Friman said. “It makes it all so much worse. It’s like the knife just turns in your heart kind of thing.”
It came out during the trial that Bravo kept an incredibly detailed journal, in which he professed his love for Friman over and over again, writing obsessively about winning her back, and then, how he would get away with murdering the friend he had known since middle school -- all of which shocked Friman, who testified against Bravo and read the journal for the first time when she was on the stand.
“It sounds like the mind of a sociopath, or a sick person,” she said. “A lot of it was his obsession for me, and how he wanted me back and how he wanted to be with me.”
Friman said she started dating Bravo when the two were sophomores in high school in Miami. She remembered initially being drawn to him because he made her laugh, but by their senior year, he started to wear on her. She said she told him she wanted to take a break from their relationship, but Bravo wouldn’t accept it and appeared depressed.
“I felt like he almost manipulated me at that point in my life, where he was kind of like, ‘if we do these things, we’ll never be the same,’” she said. “I was really concerned that, I don’t know, something bad would happen if we took a break.”
So Friman kept dating him through summer 2012, until she had to leave for Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. That’s when she said she told Bravo, “I don’t see a future with you, and I don’t want to do long distance, and this doesn't make me happy right now.”
“I tried to be as clear as I could, but I mean, apparently he didn't understand it,” she said.
When they broke up, Friman said Bravo was “very emotional” and cried, but she felt “free,” like a “weight had just been lifted.” After the break-up, she started seeing his friend Christian Aguilar, whom she said made her feel special.
“Christian made me really happy and we had so many things in common,” she said.
But after she arrived at college, Friman said she learned from a friend that Bravo had also enrolled at Santa Fe Community College and was still upset over losing her, even suicidal. Friman said she checked up on him, but kept her relationship with Aguilar a secret.
“I just felt like [Bravo] needed more time before hearing it,” she said. “When I spoke to [Bravo], I mean, I lied to him. I told him, ‘no [Aguilar and I are] not, we’re not dating, we’re just hanging out and I don’t know a lot of people here’... It was because I had already known he was suicidal and I didn’t want to throw him over the edge.”