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Search continues for two in killing, burning of Highlands man

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 05:30 PM

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SEBRING -

Authorities are still looking for two Sebring men facing murder charges in the death of 20-year-old Aaron Doty, whose burned body was found in the woods of Sun 'n Lake Monday afternoon.

Authorities have not yet apprehended Jonathan Ray Rodriguez, 22, and Kenneth Felipe, 19, both of 5504 Granada Blvd., Sebring.

Doty was last seen at 4:30 a.m. Sunday at a party at the Granada Boulevard duplex, where authorities say he got into an alleged physical altercation and then went missing until friends assisting Highlands County Sheriff's Office deputies found his body more than 30 hours later.

Along with second-degree murder, the two are facing charges of abuse of a dead human body and tampering with physical evidence, according to the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.

No other warrants are out at this time, authorities said, and more suspects may be charged as the investigation continues.

Investigators are still probing the sequence of events from the alleged fight to when Doty's body ended up in the woods, said sheriff's office spokeswoman Nell Hays.

"Everything after that (physical altercation) gets muddy," she said. "It's still under investigation."

Hays said she couldn't say if Rodriguez or Felipe were involved in the alleged fight but pointed out the two are not facing battery charges, which might change as the investigation proceeds.

Doty's dad had received a text message from his son's phone telling him that "Aaron had been involved in a fight," Hays said. Authorities are still investigating who else could have been involved in the reported brawl, Hays said.

Sheriff's deputies are interviewing everyone who was at the party and anyone who may have any information. Hays strongly advised anyone with any information to call the sheriff's office or Heartland Crime Stoppers, where tipsters are guaranteed anonymity.

When Doty's dad did not hear from him by noon Sunday, the family tried looking for him on their own, Hays said, and then alerted authorities a couple of hours later.

The sheriff's office did aerial surveillance of the Sun 'n Lake neighborhood Monday morning and then set up a command post.

According to Highlands County Jail records both Rodriguez and Felipe have been charged with felonies before.

Felipe, who was released from jail in April, had been charged with battery causing bodily harm in February, along with charges ranging from possession and use of drug equipment, disorderly conduct in a public place, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, burglary with assault or battery and possession of marijuana the same month.

Earlier in the year, he faced charges of disorderly conduct and resisting an officer, jail records show.

Rodriguez had been charged with probation violation in 2011, grand theft and burglary of an unoccupied dwelling in 2010, along with burglary of a conveyance, larceny and trespassing in 2009, records show.

Hays said authorities are following leads on their whereabouts. Sheriff's deputies have had no contact with the two since the search and investigation began.

Anyone with information is requested to call the Highlands County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Unit at (863) 402-7250.

Anyone who wants to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Heartland Crime Stoppers at (800) 226-TIPS (8477), or to go to www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com

Meanwhile, a friend of Doty and four other friends have organized a candle light vigil for him at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Firemans Field.

Danielle Heath, who grew up with Doty, said the public is invited.

"He was a very fun-loving, kind-hearted person," she said. "An all-round good person…I'm still in shock."

Heath and four other friends decided to organize the candlelight vigil an hour after his body was found.

"This vigil is from his friends to his family," she said. She wants his family to know that the community is behind them and is willing to help them in any way.

Doty's funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Grace Bible Church on Thunderbird Road.

The family will receive friends beginning at 1 p.m. Burial will follow the funeral at the Bougainvillea Cemetery in Avon Park. Those who wish will be able to sign Doty's casket and say farewell. Stephenson-Nelson Funeral Home is handling the funeral arrangements.

What: Candlelight vigil for Aaron Doty

When: At 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Firemans Field.

The public is invited.

What: Funeral services for Aaron Doty

When: At 2 p.m. Saturday at Grace Bible Church on Thunderbird Road.

The family will receive friends beginning at 1 p.m. Burial will follow the funeral at the Bougainvillea Cemetery in Avon Park. Those who wish will be able to sign Doty's casket and say farewell.

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