Kay Torres: Fight for justice goes on for Nida Blanca

The daughter of slain Filipina actress Nida Blanca said the search for justice for her mother’s murder should continue despite the reported suicide of her American stepfather Roger “Rod” Strunk, one of the main suspects in the case.

After nearly a week of silence, Blanca’s daughter Kay Torres finally sent her official statement to the press. She said that Strunk’s death caught her by surprise.

She expressed condolences to Strunk’s kin, his sister Sharry and two children, Christine and Derek, adding that despite her belief that Strunk was involved in her mother’s murder, she never wished for his death.

“The reported death of Rod Strunk has taken me by surprise. It’s very tragic that Rod’s life had to end this way. After all, life is not ours nor anyone’s to take. Whatever his faults and shortcomings may have been, I have never wished this kind of misfortune or tragedy on him.

“With Rod’s reported passing, people ask me if I feel that justice has been served. No, I cannot say this, because the alleged death of Rod Strunk, if true, does not relieve his conspirators from criminal liability. Since it is an established fact that other people were involved in my mother’s murder, these people should be made to answer for the crime they have committed,” she said in her statement.

“Higher court”

Pointing out that her mother’s murder is considered a heinous crime, Torres said that the Philippine government is obliged to pursue the case.

She conceded that Strunk’s death makes it more difficult to gather facts about the case, which has remained unsolved for six years. However, she also said that in the interest of justice, other suspects must be caught and made to account for their actions.

“The authorities should continue the pursuit, investigation, and ultimate arrest of those suspects still at large; and until these people are apprehended and convicted, my mother’s murder continues to cry for justice.”

Now that the truth about Strunk’s alleged involvement in Blanca’s murder may never be known, and he has now gone beyond the reach of earthly authorities, Torres is leaving the matter to God.

“I feel that the case should not end with the death of Rod Strunk; especially since his innocence or guilt has never been proven. Rod may have avoided extradition here, but now he will have to face a much higher court.”

Suicide

A woman found Strunk’s body on July 11 at the parking lot of the Tracy Inn around noontime. She alerted police and told them that Strunk was already bleeding from his head and nose. She also said that he was no longer breathing and had no pulse.

The official coroner’s report concluded that Strunk died from injuries he received after falling head first from the balcony of his room at the second floor of the Tracy Inn.

Investigators from the Tracy Police Department believe that Strunk killed himself by leaping off the balcony. They said that while Strunk left no suicide note, there were also no signs of foul play in his room.

Police also noted that Strunk had lodged a chair by the door of his room, apparently to make sure that no one could come in. They also found Strunk’s shoe prints on the chair.

Reports say Strunk had recently remarried in Redding, Oregon but that the marriage failed after a few months and he returned to Tracy, his hometown and place of residence for the past three years.

Showbiz career

Blanca, born Dorothy Jones, married Strunk in 1979 in Las Vegas. They moved to Manila and lived together for 23 years.

Strunk had a brief singing career in the late 1950s and early 1960s, taking on the screen name “Rod Lauren.” He grew up in Fresno, but later moved to Tracy in 1943 with his parents, Larry and Helen Strunk.

Strunk attended schools in Tracy and was even a newspaper boy for the Tracy Press. He graduated from Tracy High School in 1957. While a student there, he appeared in school plays and played trombone in the school band.

Strunk began singing in Fresno’s local clubs 1959. It was during one of those gigs that he was asked to audition by a recording executive. Strunk was later signed up by RCA records.

Reports also said that Strunk was writing a book about his experiences in the Philippines before he died.

Failed extradition, false testimony?

Strunk was charged in the Philippines with parricide along with four principal suspects in the killing of Blanca, who was found stabbed to death inside her car on Nov. 7, 2001. The actress had 13 stab wounds to the head and chest.

Strunk left for the United States after his wife’s burial. Philippine authorities had granted Strunk’s request to visit his mother in Tracy, who was dying at the time.
Strunk was no longer in the Philippines when charges were filed against him. After his mother’s death, Strunk remained in Tracy, leaving the Philippines for good.

After Philippine authorities filed an extradition request to the US government against Strunk, he was arrested at his home and detained at the Sacramento County Jail.

Later however, a US federal court threw out the extradition request because Philippine authorities failed to provide additional evidence of Strunk’s guilt. This after one of the alleged hired killers, Philip Medel, recanted his earlier testimony identifying Strunk as the mastermind.

To this day, Medel maintains that he only linked Strunk to Blanca’s murder because he was tortured into doing so. Medel, who remains a suspect and still in prison, insists that he does not know Strunk and had no dealings with him. With a report from Maricar Bautista


TIMELINE

The Nida Blanca murder

Nov. 7, 2001—The body of actress Nida Blanca, wife of American Rod Strunk, is found at around 8 a.m. in the back seat of her green Nissan Sentra sedan at the Atlanta Center in Greenhills. She has 13 stab wounds, including a fatal wound in the neck.

Nov. 8, 2001—The PNP forms “Task Force Marsha” to widen its probe of the killing. It’s named after her long-running TV sitcom with Dolphy, “John en Marsha.”

Nov. 9, 2001—NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco says the PNP will lead the investigation of Blanca’s killing. The NBI will only be a supporting unit and that all the evidence and witnesses will be turned over to the police. Chief Supt. Nestorio Gualberto, director of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, is named head of Task Force Marsha.

Nov. 14, 2001—Nida Blanca is buried at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City.

Nov. 18, 2001—Pedro Philip Lucero Medel Jr., supposedly one of the two “hired killers” suspected by the PNP and the NBI, turns himself in, claiming he was “bothered by his conscience.” Medel says that Strunk through a certain Mike Martinez contracted him to torture Nida into producing a document related to her Will.

Nov. 19, 2001—Then Justice Secretary Hernando Perez says that Strunk is now considered a suspect in Nida’s murder.

Nov. 23, 2001—Medel breaks down and claims he was tortured by the PNP-CIDG to admit to the crime and to name Rod Strunk as the alleged mastermind.

Dec. 13, 2001—Strunk is questioned at the NBI for around 13 hours. He submits his 12-page sworn statement.

Jan. 21, 2002—Strunk leaves for the United States to attend to his ailing mother. Strunk was on the Bureau of Immigration watchlist prior to his departure. After signifying he wanted to leave the country to attend to his mother in the United States, he was allowed to leave since no court order was issued against his departure.

July 17, 2002—Wycoco charges three as principals and three as accessories in the murder of Blanca. DOJ charges Strunk with parricide while Medel is charged with murder, together with a Jane Doe, a John Doe and other Does. Charged with obstruction of justice are guards Ricky Alvarez, Roberto Cañete and Diolito Molines, the guards on duty at the Atlanta Center Building at the time of the murder.

Aug. 12, 2002—The NBI asks the DOJ to amend the criminal charge lodged against Strunk from parricide to murder.

Nov. 5, 2002—DOJ terminates its preliminary investigation of Blanca’s murder.

Feb. 14, 2003—DOJ indicts Strunk as the brains behind the murder of Blanca on the strength of the handwritten confession of Medel. The preliminary investigation of a two-man panel of the DOJ established that Strunk indeed ordered Medel to kill Blanca. Strunk and Medel, along with a Jane Doe, were charged with murder at the Pasig City RTC.

All other respondents, including the three security guards at the Atlanta building, are exonerated for lack of evidence.

Feb. 21, 2003—Pasig RTC Branch 156 Judge Alex Quiroz issues a warrant of arrest against Strunk.

Feb. 24, 2003—Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño orders a justice department panel to start proceedings for the extradition of Strunk.

May 13, 2003—Strunk is arrested by US marshals in the eastern district of California.

May 30, 2003—US Federal Magistrate Gregory Hollows rules that Strunk will remain in the Sacramento county jail while awaiting a July 28 extradition hearing saying that Strunk was a “flight risk” and that his actions suggested he “will do what he must do to avoid appearing in the Philippines.”

June 29, 2003—DOJ looks into reports that the NBI lost a vital document in the case against Strunk.

July 3, 2003—DOJ turns over to the DFA a formal request to the United States to extradite Strunk. The request contained all the “material evidence” needed for his extradition, except for a missing document in which Strunk made a promise to return to the country, Justice Undersecretary Merceditas Gutierrez said.

July 8, 2003—Blanca trial begins.

Oct. 18, 2003—Lawyers of Strunk begin the courtroom battle to block their client’s extradition to the Philippines.

Nov. 12, 2003—Judge Hollows denies the DOJ request for Strunk to be extradited as Medel, the person who fingered him, had recanted his confession. The decision not to extradite Strunk cannot be appealed, according to Alma Mallonga, Strunk’s lawyer. He’s released from jail.

Nov. 15, 2003—In an interview with The Associated Press, Strunk denies killing Blanca and says he lost all his possession because of her death and calls allegations of a dispute over money absurd.

Sept. 28, 2004—Strunk asks the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision denying his petition to quash the murder case against him for the killing of his wife.

Feb. 18, 2005—The Court of Appeals affirms its previous decision upholding the filing of murder charges against Strunk for the killing of his wife.

March 2005—Strunk, through lawyers from the Siguion Reyna Law Office, files a petition asking the Supreme Court to stop the serving of his arrest warrant. He also asks the high court to throw out the case against him.

April 12, 2005—Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez admits the original copy of the extradition petition against Strunk has been lost to termites.

Nov. 7, 2006—Secretary Gonzalez vows to speed up Blanca’s case and says that there are plans to make another bid for Strunk’s extradition.

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Comments

  1. willy arca says:

    sana matapos na yang pag dadalamhati ng kaibigan ko medyo matagal tagal na ata yan ah hoy gising mga kapatid

  2. willy arca says:

    sana matapos na yan aba masyadong matagal na yan kawawa naman yang kaibigan ko sa totoo lang.

  3. gilbert says:

    I know who is the mastermind but its hard to show up coz the person behind that killing is a high ranking official i know the details in why and how they murdered nida blanca im always there in casino filipino in paranaque since 2001 and i know the real story all i can say is mr. rod strunk did not killed nida blanca medel is just a fall guy

  4. […] Kay Torres: Fight for justice goes on for Nida Blanca […]

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