A Philippine woodcarver faces possible homicide charges after he admitted beating to death a former Brooklyn journalist who had become a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, officials said Saturday.
Officers were set to take Juan Duntugan later Saturday back to the village of Batad, where he admitted killing Julia Campbell while she was on a hike to see the famed mountainside rice terraces of northern Ifugao province, said provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Pedro Ganir.
Duntugan would be made to re-enact his assault on Campbell at the scene — part of the “operational procedure” in police investigations, Ganir said.
He will also be asked to show investigators where he threw the rock he claimed he used in beating Campbell in Batad, where her body was found on April 18 in a shallow grave, Ganir said.
Appearing remorseful, Duntugan told ABS-CBN television hours before surrendering to the police Friday that he had not planned to kill Campbell. He also dismissed speculation that he killed her during an attempted rape or robbery.
He claimed he had dropped a bundle of clothes when Campbell, who had been making the hike alone on April 8, bumped him from behind.
“My mind went blank,” Duntugan said. “I did not know who she was or what she was. I got a rock and I hit her on the head. If I can change my body for hers, I will do it. But that’s not possible. Whatever punishment you will impose on me, I will accept it.”
Duntugan’s television confession was the same as his statement to investigators, Ganir told The Associated Press.
Ganir said the criminal charges “will of course be based on our findings _ possibly murder or homicide.”
Regional police chief Raul Gonzales said it appeared that the killing “was not premeditated” — a key element in a murder charge.
Duntugan said that he had thought it was a neighborhood bully, with whom he has a feud, that bumped into him, and that he had erupted in a rage.
“He confessed because be was haunted by his conscience,” Gonzales said.
Duntugan was persuaded by his mother to turn himself in. He was accompanied Friday by an uncle, who is also a police officer, to the police headquarters in the provincial capital, Lagawe.
Duntugan’s wife had sold Campbell a soft drink before her hike, and a boy has told police that he saw him near the grave that day. Duntugan went into hiding the next day.
A police autopsy showed that Campbell was killed by multiple blows to the head, and that her arms were injured, indicating she had tried to defend herself.
Campbell, 40, of Fairfax, Va., had worked as a freelance journalist for The New York Times and other media organizations.
Friends plan a memorial service next Thursday in Legazpi city in the Bicol region, where she last worked as an English teacher.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said Thursday that Campbell “has become a beloved personality here in the Philippines because of the work that she has done.”
Jose de Venecia, speaker of the House of Representatives, said Campbell will be awarded the Philippine Congressional Medal of Achievement, the highest decoration by the legislature. He described her as a “martyred volunteer.”