Jul 18, 2007

Kaye: Continue probe despite Strunk death

Kaye Torres, daughter of the late actress Nida Blanca, said the quest for justice in her mother’s brutal killing continues despite the recent death of her stepfather Rod Strunk, who is suspected of masterminding it, QTV’s Baitanghali noon newscast reported Wednesday.
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Torres broke her silence nearly a week after Strunk was reported to have fallen 20 feet to his death from a hotel balcony in Tracy, California last Wednesday (US time).

Police in California suspect suicide but Strunk’s family say it was an accident.

“The reported death of Rod Strunk has taken me by surprise. It’s very tragic that Rod’s life had to end this way…Whatever his faults and shortcomings may have been, I have never wished this kind of misfortune or tragedy on him," Torres said in a statement.

Blanca’s daughter urged authorities to press on with the case.

“The authorities should continue the pursuit, investigation and ultimate arrest of those suspects still at large," she said.

The government has said it will continue to pursue the murder case against the other suspects.

Radio dzBB quoted Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez on Saturday that Strunk's death won't 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.

Torres, in her statement, also lamented that Strunk’s death could make it more difficult to solve the case.

“As my mother’s murder case continues to remain unsolved, one vital case to the solution of the case is gone…Rod’s death only makes it more impossible for those answers to be obtained," she said.

Blanca’s daughter added: “Rod may have avoided extradition but now he will have to face a much higher court."

Torres also extended her sympathies to Strunk’s surviving family.

“I offer my deepest condolences to Rod’s sister, Sharry, and his two kids, Christine and Derke."

Strunk returned to the United States in 2002, shortly after being linked to the murder of wife Nida Blanca. Blanca, Dorothy Jones in real life, was found inside her Nissan Sentra car at the Atlanta Centre on Nov. 7, 2001.

Blanca’s body bore injuries indicating she was brutally stabbed and beaten up.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) charged Strunk as the mastermind for Blanca's murder in July 2002, but Strunk managed to leave for the US as early as five months earlier, saying he wanted to tend to his then ailing mother.

Strunk lived in the Philippines for more than 20 years beginning in 1979, when he married Blanca, one of the best-known movie and television actresses in the Philippines, in 1980.

But the NBI investigation of Blanca's death portrayed Strunk as a freeloader who ordered Blanca killed after she threatened to disinherit him.

Despite the NBI findings and the charges against Strunk, repeated attempts to have Strunk extradited to the Philippines had failed.

The Tracy Press report said that while Strunk lived in the family home on Whittier Avenue, he worked for a time as a sales clerk at the Sears store in West Valley Mall.

In May 2003, federal agents acting on an extradition request from the Philippine government arrested Strunk at his home and placed him in the Sacramento County Jail pending an extradition hearing.

At the hearing, held Oct. 17, 2003, in the federal courthouse in Sacramento, Strunk’s lawyer Jeffrey Kravitz pointed out that the person who fingered Strunk as hiring the killer recanted his testimony a short time later in an open hearing.

When Philippine prosecutors failed to provide additional evidence contradicting the recantation, US Magistrate Gregory Hollows denied extradition in November 2003 and ordered Strunk’s release from jail.

After his release, Strunk returned to Tracy and held a press conference in Good Shepherd Church at Parker and Eaton avenues, where he had become a member.

“The only thing the Philippine government had implicating me was the written confession of this person, Philip Medel, who I had never met," he said, “He recanted it, dramatically, in open court five days later."

Strunk, who continued to live in Tracy since his release, said last year he was writing a book about his experiences in the Philippines.

In December, he told friends he was going to Redding to be married, but they learned later the marriage did not work out.

In his US showbiz stint, Strunk cut several records that had some success, but his recording career never climbed to hoped-for heights. He continued his career by singing in clubs in Southern California and Las Vegas lounges while appearing in several action movies.

In 1964, he went to the Philippines for the filming of a movie, and it was there that he met Blanca, then a rising Philippine film star. He shuttled between the Philippines and Southern California before he and Blanca were married.

He then became a permanent resident of Manila and an often-photographed companion for his wife, who appeared in films and in TV serials and as a talk-show host.

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