Philippines deems Peace Corps murder a closed case

By Carlos H. Conde
Published: May 1, 2007
International Herald Tribune
The New York Times

MANILA: The Philippine authorities say they consider a case in which a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer was brutally killed to be closed after a suspect confessed to the crime.

Juan Duntugan, a woodcarver, admitted on television and in a written statement to the police that he killed Julia Campbell, 40, from Fairfax, Virginia, in a fit of rage while both were walking a trail in a hinterland village in Ifugao, a province north of Manila, on April 8.

Campbell’s bludgeoned body was found buried in a shallow grave 10 days later, a foot protruding from the ground. Duntugan, 24, who surrendered to the police Friday, was charged with murder Monday.

In an interview with ABS-CBN television Friday, Duntugan said he was upset that day because of a fight with a neighbor who had been bullying him for weeks. Along the trail, he said, Campbell bumped him from behind, scattering on the ground the bundle of clothes he was carrying.

“My mind went blank. I did not know who she was or what she was,” Duntugan said. “I got a rock and I hit her on the head.”

Autopsy reports indicated that Campbell died of multiple injuries to the head and that the bruises on her arms indicated that she had tried to defend herself.

The police earlier said that, based on Duntugan’s confession, it looked as if the killing was not premeditated. But prosecutors filed a murder case against the woodcarver nonetheless because Campbell’s injuries, according to the police, were consistent with an intent to kill.

“If he did not plan to kill her, he should have stopped when she was already wounded and down,” Raul Gonzales, chief of a regional police command with jurisdiction over Ifugao, told The Associated Press. “But no, he hit her repeatedly on the head until she died.”

With Duntugan’s confession, as well as pieces of evidence the police have gathered, the authorities said they had an airtight case against Duntugan. “We consider this case solved,” said Oscar Calderon, the chief of the national police.

During the television interview Friday, a remorseful Duntugan denied speculations that he had robbed or raped Campbell.

“I admit it, yes. I killed her, but I did not do whatever other people are thinking I did,” he said. “If I can only trade my body for hers, I will do it. But that’s not possible.

A former freelance journalist in the United States, Campbell left New York in 2005 and subsequently volunteered for the Peace Corps.

She had been in the Philippines for nearly two years and had plans of returning to the United States for further studies. She lived in remote villages, learning Tagalog, teaching people English and helping in environmental conservation projects.

About Carlos H. Conde

Researcher at Human Rights Watch (@condeHRW @hrw_ph). Former journalist (NYT, IHT, among others).
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