7 suspects in killing of Fil-Am trader in GenSan nabbed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 15 March) – Police arrested seven persons, including four minors, in connection with the robbery and brutal killing of a Filipino-American businessman in a village here late last month.

The arrest came after authorities recovered the remains of the murdered victim on Wednesday in a shallow grave inside an abandoned residential compound in Barangay Fatima.

Chief Insp. Aldrin Gonzales, public information officer of the Police Regional Office-12, said Thursday the recovered body was confirmed to be of victim Frank Cruz, 73, who was earlier reported missing.

He said Cruz is of Filipino descent but had settled in Guam and holds a United States (US) passport.

Before Cruz went missing, Gonzales said the victim was temporarily residing at the Congson boarding house in Barangay Bula here while working as regional sales coordinator of AFLAC micro-financing company.

The official said the killing was uncovered after one of the suspects identified as Lito Arela Simudong, 45, confessed to the crime on Wednesday morning.

He said Simudong was initially arrested by elements from the Fatima police station on Tuesday afternoon for robbery with intimidation and possession of illegal firearms and illegal drugs.

Gonzales said the confession led to the recovery of the victim’s remains in a lot in Block 5, MC Village in Barangay Fatima owned by Simudong.

“When exhumed, the victim’s body showed signs of torture, with his feet firmly tied-up with nylon rope and his head wrapped with packing tape,” he said.

During interrogation, Gonzales said the suspect admitted abducting and eventually killing Cruz with the help of cohorts Hiwen Buntuyan Borja alias Weweng and Hiwen’s daughter Herliemhe Borja.

The suspects tortured and killed the victim early last Feb. 26 after failing to get the pin number of his automated teller machine (ATM) cards, he said.

In their investigation, Sr. Insp. Fernando Manuel Jr., Fatima police station chief, said they found out that four more minors had direct involvement and participation in the killing.

He said the six other suspects have corroborated Simudong’s testimony and confessed their involvement.

But the involved minors would be turned over to their parents based on a directive from the Department of Social Welfare Development.

“We’re currently preparing the extra-judicial confessions and affidavits of the suspects for the formal filing of charges,” Manuel said.

He said they have coordinated and submitted a report regarding the incident to the Bureau of Immigration.

Manuel said the US Embassy in Manila is reportedly sending a team here to process the remains of the victim. (MindaNews)