[PHOTO - Grade 1 classmates of seven-year old Stephanie Nicole Ella view her remains at the Tala Elemantary School in caloocan City in this December 11 file photo. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/Inquirer]

MANILA, JANUARY 11, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Tetch Torres - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has an eyewitness pointing to a possible suspect in the death of seven-year old Stephanie Nicole Ella on New Year’s Eve.

“Meron kaming witness that pointed to a certain person na possible suspect but that does not mean that since he fired his gun, he’s the one who killed Nicole,” NBI Director Nonatus Rojas said in an interview over Radyo Inquirer 990AM.

He said examinations were being conducted to confirm if the person identified by the witness was the one from whose gun the bullet that Nicole came.

“We still have to find out what type of gun he used and if this will match the slug taken from the victim’s body,” Rojas said.

Nicole sustained a fatal gunshot wound in the head on New Year’s eve. She died a few days later.



[Photo taken Jan. 1, 2013 shows a paramedic carrying seven-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella at the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City after she was hit in the head by a stray bullet. Inset shows Nicole’s schoolmates marching from the Tala Elementary School to her house in Caloocan City yesterday. (AP/ERNIE PEÑAREDONDO)

MANILA, Philippines – Classes in the new year opened yesterday with a seat in Grade One, Section One-Camia at the Tala Elementary School in Caloocan conspicuously empty.

The seat was assigned to seven-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella, who succumbed the other day to injury from a stray bullet that struck her head as she was watching the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Schoolmates mourned Nicole, an outstanding pupil with at least 12 medals from pre-school to first grade, by staging an unprecedented march yesterday from the school to her house in Barangay 185 against the indiscriminate firing of guns during the holiday revelry.

Nicole had wanted to be a teacher, according to her father Aquilino Ella Jr., 30, a computer and cell phone technician.

“That’s why I worked doubly hard to prepare for her future. Now her dreams and mine will no longer be fulfilled,” a tearful Aquilino told The STAR.

[PHOTO FROM MANILA BULLETIN- NICOLE ‘BACK’ IN SCHOOL Some of them could not hide their grief upon seeing Nicole’s casket when it was brought yesterday to her school, the Tala Elementary School in Caloocan City. On Friday, the police said they will file charges against a neighbor of the Ella family identified as George Da after a deformed slug of a .99-mm pistol was allegedly found inside his house during a search conducted on Thursday. (Mark Balmores)]

Nicole was the firstborn of Aquilino and his wife Ellyn Glenn. They have a five-year-old son.

“Nicole was all a parent could ask for of a child. Funny, loving and caring, and she was an exceptional pupil. Now she is gone,” Aquilino lamented.

The girl died with the bullet still in the left side of her face Wednesday afternoon at the East Avenue Medical Center.

Aquilino appealed to the suspect to come out.

“Put yourself on our side. I hope and pray that your conscience would convince you to own up to your crime,” he said.

[PHOTO FROM ABS-CBN-Teachers and students pay their last respects to Stephanie Nicole Ella, whose body was transfered Friday to her school, the Tala Elementary, in Caloocan City. Ella, who was hit and eventually died from a stray bullet on New Year's eve, will be buried on Saturday. Photo by Johnson Manabat, DZMM]


Police forensic experts said the bullet that killed Nicole came from a .45 caliber pistol.

Investigators are now conducting ballistic examination on the slug extracted from the girl’s head to determine if the handgun used is registered and who the registered owner is.

Chief Inspector Joseph Palmero of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory-Medico Legal Division said the bullet hole in Nicole’s skull indicated the trajectory was about 90 degrees.

“Based on the autopsy report, we were able to estimate the angulation (of the bullet). The hole in the skull is round so it means the trajectory was about 90 degrees. We can presume that based on the physical evidence that we gathered, the gunman was very near,” Palmero told a press briefing.

After the initial autopsy, Palmero said investigators would check on the position and direction the victim was facing when she was hit, which would help determine the possible position and location of the shooter.

He added the bullet has been forwarded to the Crime Laboratory-Firearms Division to undergo examination through Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS).

Chief Inspector Arman Guerrero, Crime Laboratory-Firearms Division director, said the bullet would be compared to the IBIS database, which at present contains about 72,000 samples of bullets.

“We hope to get the result soon. IBIS is a big help to the investigation wherein a sample bullet will be matched to the 72,000 samples,” Guerrero explained.

Another important aspect that could help police locate the shooter was the position of Nicole’s body when she was hit and when she fell after being hit, Palmero added.

Police said they have recovered a total of 11 slugs of a .45 caliber near the victim’s house, with initial reports that at least three neighboring houses were also hit by stray bullets.

Chief Inspector Ronald Perilla, Caloocan City police North Extension Office investigation chief, said they have in their possession at least nine slugs, with the two others in the custody of a barangay official in the area.

The Caloocan Police also started a house to house investigation in the effort to identify the shooter.

The police said this was requested by Mayor Enrico Echiverri, who appealed to residents in the area to help police flush out the gun owner.

Looking for the shooter

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II ordered the PNP to immediately locate and charge the shooter.

Roxas personally relayed his order to PNP Director General Alan Purisima to track down the owner of the handgun that killed Nicole.

Purisima, for his part, appealed to the public to help authorities identify the shooter.

Purisima said he would personally supervise the investigation and tasked Northern Police District (NPD) director Chief Superintendent Joel Alvarez to prioritize the case.

Purisima directed all police commanders in the area where victims of stray bullets were recorded to map all firearms holders within a 50- to 100-meter radius, which forensic experts claimed to be the location of the shooter based on the trajectory of stray bullets.

“I assure the family that we will do our best in the investigation and in follow-up operations to ensure justice. I will personally monitor the developments in this case,” he added.

Purisima added there are other concerned officials and friends who expressed willingness to contribute monetary rewards.

“Actually we are in contact with our friends who are willing to shell out some reward money for this case. PNP could only give reward for persons with warrant of arrest. So in this case, rewards could come from community volunteers. We are just consolidating and we will come out soon with a contribution,” he said.

Echiverri offered a reward of P200,000 for the identification and arrest of the shooter.

Echiverri also offered to shoulder the medical bills and the burial expenses of the victim. – Pete Laude, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jerry Botial PHILIPPINE STAR

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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