SOCO: Ang babae sa maleta
“Mabaho talaga. Noong una akala ko hayop lang.”
September 23, 2010. Police Officer 3 Noli Albis of the Caloocan City police and his team responded to a call about a suspicious suitcase found at the Congress Village in Camarin, Caloocan City.
They opened the suitcase and was shocked by what they saw. Stuffed inside was a body, twisted and decaying. “Noong buksan namin, sumingaw na ‘yong baho” PO3 Albis tells ABS-CBN Scene of the Crime Operatives. “Inuuod na ‘yong katawan. ‘Yong mata niya, ‘yong balat niya, sumasama na sa kamay mo.”
Despite the body’s decomposing state, the authorities were able to conclude that it was a woman because of her body features and underwear. But the more interesting evidence they recovered was a piece of sack found beside the suitcase. Written on it were the words, “Wag tularan manloloko”.
What did the message mean? And who was the woman inside the suitcase?
|The woman in the suitcase. On September 23, 2010, the body of a woman was found stuffed inside a suitcase dumped in Camarin, Caloocan City.|
|Dumped and abandoned. Gus Abelgas at the site where the suitcase containing the body of a woman was found.|
Identifying the body
As the authorities searched for clues, the barangay tanod who was initially at the area turned over a calling card they found near the suitcase. On the calling card was the name Neria Salapang, a sales supervisor at a furniture shop. Together with the calling card was the picture of a young girl.
|First clue. Near the abandoned suitcase, a calling card with the name “Neria Salapang” was found.|
To find out who Neria Salapang was and if she was in any way connected to the body inside the suitcase, the authorities searched the social networking site Facebook. “Nag-match ‘yong pangalan niya doon sa picture na na-rekober namin,” PO3 Albis says. “Lumabas ‘yong mukha niya tapos may hawak kaming picture ng bata nandoon sa Facebook.”
They were also able to trace the furniture shop where Neria worked and were able to get her address in Good Harvest Subdivision, Camarin, Caloocan City. They went to the house where they met Neria’s niece, Ruby Imperial and Neria’s 6-year old daughter.
According to Ruby, her aunt left Wednesday morning for Nueva Ecija. She had with her a suitcase. Ruby also confirmed that the calling card they found was her aunt’s. At that point, the authorities decided to bring her to the funeral home where the body found in the suitcase was. And when Ruby saw the body, she confirmed that it was, indeed, her aunt Neria because of a mole on the victim’s back.
|Victim identified. The body found inside the suitcase was positively identified by a relative as one Neria Salapang.|
The smell of death
Based on autopsy results, Neria died due to traumatic head injuries. Neria’s family was immediately notified. Neria’s brother, Moises Bacante couldn’t believe what happened. “Nanlambot ako,” Moises tells ABS-CBN SOCO. “Hindi ko kayang tanggapin. Hindi ko maintindihan.”
According to Moises, Neria had another house in Bagumbong, Caloocan and the authorities went there to investigate. When they arrived the location, they immediately noticed a familiar stench. “Kung anong amoy ng bangkay sa maleta, ganoon din ang amoy sa may bahay sa Bagumbong,” PO3 Albis says.
They traced the smell and it led them to a pedicab whose wheels were covered in dirt. According to Ruby, aside from her aunt, there was another person who had access to the house keys—the victim’s furniture contractor, “Cely”. Ruby also said that they’ve long been receiving threats from Cely. Upon hearing this, the authorities invited Cely in for questioning.
Cely denied she had anything to do with Neria’s death. And in order to clear her name, she requested that they speak with Ruby face-to-face. And so the authorities, along with Cely, went back to Neria’s house in Good Harvest Subdivision to talk to Ruby.
And that ‘s were the story behind Neria’s death unfolded.
The crime scene
|The crime scene. Inside the victim’s room, a bloodstained bed was discovered by the authorities.|
When the authorities arrived at Neria’s home in Good Harvest subdivision, the same stench welcomed them. They decided to search the house. They started with Neria’s room. “Una kong nakita iyong unan. May blood stain,” PO3 Albis says. “Noong tinanggal ko na ‘yong pinakaibabaw ng kama, doon ko nakita ‘yong dugo. Maraming dugo. Doon namin naisip na doon ‘yong crime scene.”
Aside from blood stains, several receipts were also found inside the victim’s room. Receipts with Ruby’s name on it. They also found a receipt indicating that Ruby had pawned a necklace and a bracelet amounting to P13,000.
At this point, the suspect’s niece became the subject of the investigation.
Two witnesses, whose real identities are being kept for security purposes, also surfaced, pinning down
|The new suspect. With the new pieces of evidence recovered, the victim’s niece became the primary suspect in killing her aunt.|
Ruby to the murder. According “Elmer”, one of the witnesses, there was one time he saw Ruby outside of their house carrying a suitcase. When he asked where she was going, he got a vague answer.
According to the other witness, “Neneng”, a couple of days earlier, Ruby was looking for some muriatic acid.
The authorities then began interrogating Ruby. She denied any allegations connecting her to her aunt’s death. “Hindi na siya umimik,” PO3 Albis says. “Hanggang sa sinabi niyang meron daw dalawang lalaki na pumasok doon, di niya kilala. Malabo ‘yong sinabi niya.”
|In denial. The suspect denying she had anything to do with the victim’s death.|
Despite Ruby’s denials, she remained as the primary suspect. The motive? Robbery. “Ang lumalabas dito, pinagnakawan [si Neria]” PO3 Albis says. “Namatay ‘yong asawa niyang seaman at nagkaroon ng death claims. Meron siyang pera bukod sa trabaho niya.”
And on September 28, Ruby was charged with murder and qualified theft at the Caloocan City Prosecutor’s Office. The suspect is currently detained at the Caloocan City Police headquarters. And as she awaits her trial, the victim’s relatives wait for the day justice will be served.
“Gagawin ko lahat, tututukan ko ‘tong kaso na ‘to hanggang matapos,” Moises says. “Bahala na ang Diyos sa akin. Basta ito naumpisahan ko na, tatapusin ko hanggang mabigyan siya ng katarungan.”
|The motive. The authorities found a receipt indicating that the suspect had pawned several of the victim’s jewelry amounting to P13,000.|