The suspect in the killing of a Brooklyn journalist who had become a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer surrendered to Philippine authorities Thursday and confessed on television.
“I admit it, yes. I killed her, but I did not do whatever other people are thinking I did,” Juan Duntugan told ABS-CBN television, apparently referring to speculation that Julia Campbell may have been killed during an attempted rape or robbery.
“I did not plan to kill Ms. Campbell, harm her,” Duntugan said, appearing remorseful and shaking his head.
National police chief Oscar Calderon said police were “documenting his statement in the presence of a lawyer.”
Senior Superintendent Pedro Ganir, police chief of northern Ifugao province, where Campbell’s body was found April 18 in a shallow grave, told The Associated Press that Duntugan was brought to the police station in the provincial capital of Lagawe by his uncle after he was convinced by his mother to turn himself in.
“We provided him security so that he will not be harmed,” Ganir said.
He gave no other details.
Campbell, 40, of Fairfax, Virginia, went missing April 8 during a hike to Ifugao province’s famed mountainside rice terraces.
Duntungan’s wife sold Campbell a soft drink before her solo hike, and a boy has told police that he saw him near the grave that day. Duntugan, a local woodcarver, went into hiding the next day.
A police autopsy showed that Campbell, who had worked as a freelance journalist for The New York Times and other media organizations, was killed by multiple blows to the head, and that her arms were injured, indicating she tried to defend herself.
“The case is in the hands of the Philippine National Police,” U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Stacy MacTaggert said. “We are pleased with any progress in the case. However, I think it would be premature to comment further until the Philippine authorities have completed their work.
“The U.S. Embassy and the Peace Corps are working closely with our colleagues in Washington to make sure the family is apprised of all updates in the case. Obviously they are grieving and upset and we have to remember to respect them.”
Friends and sympathizers of Campbell plan a big memorial service next Thursday in Bicol, where she last worked as an English teacher.
The Bicol region, southeast of Manila, includes Albay’s provincial capital Legazpi and Donsol township in nearby Sorsogon province, which is famous for whale sharks and is where Campbell helped launch an ecology awareness campaign.
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 in Bicol region.”
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.”
He said the award will be presented in June to a representative of Campbell’s family and the U.S. Peace Corps through its director, Ronald Tschetter, in Washington.
Campbell “touched thousands of Filipino lives during her posting in Luzon as a high-school teacher of English and Western literature,” de Venecia said.
The citation honors Campbell for bringing “light and joy into the lives” of many Filipinos. “She epitomized the ideals of the Peace Corps and of the American people,” the citation says.