Jul 14, 2007

Breaking News: Rod Strunk now dead

American police suspect that the 1960s singer-actor committed suicide when he plunged from a Tracy Inn balcony Wednesday.

The man who died Wednesday morning in a fall from a balcony at the Tracy Inn was identified Thursday, July 11 as Roger L. “Rod” Strunk, a 68-year-old Tracy resident who 3½ years ago avoided extradition to the Philippines on charges he hired someone to kill his movie and television star wife Nida Blanca.
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Reports to the Tracy Police Department indicate he jumped from the inn’s second-floor balcony onto the parking lot pavement about 20 feet below.

“It appears to be a suicide at this point,” said Sgt. Steve Beukelman, who said police didn’t find anyone who saw him jump but found evidence in his room that indicates Strunk took his own life.

Roger Strunk’s sister said Friday, July 12 that she doubts the police theory that her brother committed suicide.

“That wouldn’t have been something that Roger would have done,” said Sharry Grove, Strunk’s sister from Morro Bay. “We really feel like it would have been an accident.”

Tracy police reported that Strunk’s death Wednesday morning appeared to be a suicide. His body was found in the parking lot of the Tracy Inn, next to the breezeway between Central Avenue and the rear parking lot.

Detective Dean Hicks, who investigated Strunk’s death, said a woman reported finding him on the ground, but apparently nobody saw him fall. Strunk was found right below the balcony of the room where he had been staying for the previous three days, and he’d apparently hit his head on the pavement.

Strunk did not leave a note, but investigators said they found a chair against the wall along the exterior edge of the balcony. Hicks said shoe prints on the chair indicate that Strunk was standing on the chair right before he went over the wall.

Grove said that it makes no sense that her brother would try to commit suicide by jumping from a second-story balcony, a drop of about 20 feet.

“I don’t know how they came up with that. That would be very out of character for my brother.”

Strunk had an early career as a successful singer, recording artist and actor. In 1979, he moved to the Philippines where he was married to Nida Blanca, a popular movie actress and television star in that country.

Blanca was murdered in 2001, and the man arrested for the crime said Strunk had hired him to kill her. Strunk returned to the U.S. to take care of his ailing mother, and attempts to have him extradited failed after his accuser recanted his testimony. Philippine authorities had no other evidence to link him to the crime.

Despite the death of Roger Lawrence Strunk, the Philippine government will continue to pursue the murder case against the other suspects in the grisly murder of actress Nida Blanca in 2001.

Radio dzBB quoted Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez on Saturday as saying that Strunk's death will not stop the government from pursuing the case against Blanca's suspected killers. The case is at the sala of Judge Alex Quiros of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court.

In an earlier interview, Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) head Persida Acosta said that while death will extinguish one’s criminal liability, there are other suspects charged in the five-year-old murder case.

“Wala kaming natatanggap na official report, pero kung pag-uusapan ang epekto sa kaso, tuloy ang kaso. May nakakulong na tulad ni Medel, may iba pang at large (We haven’t received an official report on it but as far as the case is concerned, it will go on. There are some suspects who are in custody, there are some who are still at large)," Acosta, who acts as lawyer for Blanca’s long-time aide Elena dela Paz, said in an interview on QTV-11 television Saturday.

On the other hand, Blanca’s daughter Kay Torres declined to comment on the case as she was personally verifying the details of Strunk’s death.

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