NIDA BLANCA MURDER: IT'S STILL STRUNK, MEDEL AFTER ALL
Manila, July 18, 2002 (STAR) By Cecille Suerte Felipe and Delon Porcalla - It was Rod Strunk and Philip Medel Jr. after all.
And, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), it was a story of greed and betrayal — a whodunit that seemed straight out of the big screen.
The NBI yesterday filed parricide charges against Strunk, the husband of multi-awarded actress Nida Blanca, and murder charges against Medel, the confessed assassin, and three John or Jane Does.
Authorities are still looking for one Mike Martinez, who allegedly contacted Medel to do a "project." Martinez’s brother Bobby said his brother has been missing since the murder and "could be dead."
Blanca’s brutal murder on Nov. 6 last year sparked national outrage.
The charges, NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco said, were anchored mainly on Medel’s confession that Strunk, an American, hired him to kill Blanca – Dorothy Jones in real life because the actress threatened to end their stormy 10-year-old marriage.
Struck with guilt, Medel confessed to the killing after he was arrested weeks into the investigation.
But later, in an emotional outburst in front of news television cameras, he recanted his confession, claiming he was tortured into owning up to the crime.
Despite the setback, investigators used his confession. "In the first place, Medel’s retraction was done publicly and not under oath. So his testimony can still be used as a basis for the charges," Wycoco explained.
Authorities also said that Medel had to be involved because he wouldn’t have sent surrender feelers if he were not.
Boosting further their chances of a conviction, Wycoco said, are the testimonies of 25 witnesses who could pinpoint where the killers were at the time of the murder.
But what may prove the killers’ guilt beyond reasonable doubt, Wycoco said, are two key pieces of evidence – a Swiss army knife which was allegedly used as the murder weapon, and an umbrella that could place Strunk at the scene of the crime.
"We’re able to establish strong evidence against Strunk, including the receipt for the Swiss knife and umbrella used in killing the actress," Wycoco said.
Investigators said Strunk bought the knife at Robinsons Galleria mall in Mandaluyong City, two days before Blanca’s body was found in her car parked at the sixth floor parking garage of the office of the government censors board in nearby Greenhills, San Juan.
As for the umbrella which witnesses said Strunk always kept in his Nissan Vanette it was found in Blanca’s Nissan Sentra sedan.
Strunk admitted to NBI investigators that he was at the scene of the crime on the morning of the murder, saying he merely "took a look, but never opened" Blanca’s car.
A witness who knew Blanca, Leticia San Jose, said the umbrella was not in the car when Blanca came to visit her two nights before the murder.
And aside from a killer’s confession, witnesses and the two key pieces of evidence, Wycoco said they also have a motive — money.
"In all of Nida’s life, Strunk has never bothered to look for, or even asked anybody, about Nida. Never at all," the NBI documents stated.
Wycoco said, "Their marriage was no longer working then and that the actress had informed her husband that he would be disinherited."
Investigators found that Blanca had up to P85 million in properties, including a Greenhills, San Juan, condominium worth P10 million and a house in California worth $300,000.
Blanca had prepared a last will and testament bequeathing all her properties to her daughter, Katherine Torres, Wycoco said. If Blanca had annulled her marriage, Strunk would get nothing.
But if Blanca died before she was able to terminate her marriage, under the law, Strunk being the legal spouse would be entitled to a portion of his estranged wife’s inheritance even though Blanca’s will stated that all her properties would go to her daughter.
Finally, on Nov. 6, 2001, Strunk picked up Medel from an undisclosed place and had dinner at a Kamayan restaurant Mandaluyong on EDSA.
They proceeded to the office of the Movie Television Review and Classification Board on the 33rd floor of the Atlanta Center building in Greenhills, where Blanca’s car was parked.
Using a duplicate key, Strunk left Medel inside the car and left. He came back several hours later with his wife and another woman. He then had an argument with Blanca over the will, after which he, the other woman and Medel ganged up on Blanca.
Based on forensic evidence, Blanca was punched and kicked repeatedly and was stabbed 13 times. Her body was found in the back seat of her car.
Blanca’s daughter reportedly expressed relief over the filing of the charges. "According to Justice Harriet Demetriou (Torres’ lawyer), Kay was very happy with the development," Wycoco said.
Torres was supposed to leave for abroad but decided to postpone her trip and wait for the announcement of the filing of the charges. Living abroad for several years, she returned home after the killing to follow the investigation.
Even before the charges were filed, Torres said she believed her stepfather who lived on Blanca’s fortune had something to do with the death of her mother.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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