MANILA (Reuters) - Police in the northern Philippines have filed preliminary murder charges against a woodcarver who confessed to killing a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer after mistaking her for someone else, officials said on Monday.
Pedro Ganir, police chief in Ifugao province, said the complaint had been sent to the prosecutor’s office on Sunday, before the suspect was brought to Manila to undergo further tests and questioning.
The provincial prosecution office has a few days to evaluate the complaint before filing formal charges in local courts.
“We decided to file murder charges because of the presence of the element of intent to kill,” Ganir told reporters, adding that the suspect’s sworn statement admitting the crime was the basis for the complaint.
In his statement, woodcarver Juan Duntugan said he had killed Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell after mistaking her for a neighbor with whom he had a feud.
“We’re not taking his statements hook, line and sinker,” national police chief Oscar Calderon told reporters as police paraded Duntugan, who appeared scared while sobbing before television and still cameras.
Calderon said investigators would “cross-check” Duntugan’s written confession with the evidence they have recovered, including a bloodied piece of firewood, the woodcarver’s shirt and cap and the victim’s notebook and personal belongings.
He said police were confident the evidence would be enough to pin down Duntugan for the death of the 40-year-old volunteer from Fairfax, Virginia, two weeks away from completing a two-year period of work with the Peace Corps in the central Philippines.
“We consider this case solved,” Calderon added.
Duntugan denied robbing or molesting the American woman, a former freelance journalist who went missing on April 8 while trekking on Banaue, a mountain famed for its thousand-old rice terraces, about 160 miles north of Manila.
Soldiers found Campbell’s body 10 days later in a shallow grave near a creek in a village called Battad, where Duntugan worked as a woodcarver.