Strunk: Nothing to come home to in the Philippines

- Mike Frialde () - August 20, 2002 - 12:00am
He professes innocence, but he says he has nothing to return to so he’s not going back to the Philippines.

Rod Strunk, the American citizen wanted for the murder of his wife, actress Nida Blanca, talked in California with ABS-CBN anchor Korina Sanchez. The interview was aired on the news program TV Patrol yesterday.

"I have no home to come back to now. Everything that I have with Nida is gone," the prime suspect in the murder of one of the Philippines’ best loved actresses said.

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Reynaldo Wycoco said yesterday he had expected Strunk’s refusal to return to the Philippines and face the parricide charge filed against him.

Wycoco said the Department of Justice is working on Strunk’s extradition.

In the interview, Strunk again denied accusations that he had hired an assassin, Philip Medel, and that he had masterminded the murder of his wife.

"Who is this Philip Medel? I don’t even know where he came from. I’ve never known him. I was in complete shock, even (to) be accused by, much less by somebody I don’t even know and have never met," Strunk said of Medel, who had owned up to the killing but later retracted his confession.

"I didn’t know what to think at first. Later on, I was trying to make sense of it all. But it seems to be a plot against me. Being a husband, I was a target," he added.

Strunk said the re-opening of the Nida Blanca murder case was "like double jeopardy, practically."

The reinvestigation of the case, he said, is "like going over something again... there’s no new evidence, to this day. I still don’t understand why they keep on coming up with these false accusations, false witnesses, people... I’ve never met."

Asked about how he feels about his stepdaughter, Kay Torres, Strunk replied: "I just pray for her. I prayed for her to be enlightened because I have nothing to do with this. I couldn’t think of such a thing. I’m not clever enough."

Regarding witness testimony by security guards and Medel that Medel met with Strunk at the home of a certain General Kintanar, Strunk’s reaction was vehement: "He’s a liar! That never happened."

When asked if he thought Medel was paid to give false testimony, Strunk said, "I have no idea how it happened. My question is why. Why is he saying such a thing? Why are they continually attacking me? I don’t know these people. Show me evidence of proof; they’re just accusations. It’s just like standing on the street corner and pointing fingers at anybody. But what are they basing it on?"

According to Strunk, "there has never been a plot between Medel and me. Not for anything, whatsoever, much less a murder of my wife. And for what gain? What reason?"

Strunk also said that while he had visited the Atlanta Centre parking lot to check on his wife the night she died, he did not open the actress’ car as he did not find her inside.

"I never opened the car. There was no one in the car, there was no reason to open it. I was satisfied that she (Blanca) did not come back to pick up the car," he said.
Working for Strunk’s extradition
Now that the Philippine government will have to work for his extradition, Strunk said: "Documentation must be presented, and if they don’t have documentation and it’s (the parricide case against Strunk) not gonna be reviewed... there is no such way that an American citizen such as myself is gonna (go) back to a (foreign) country for this matter. But we’ll have some guarantee of a fair trial. Do you think I could have a fair trial with what’s happening there now?"

As far as Strunk is concerned, the Philippines has been his home for 23 years: "I’ve been there for 23 years, even before we got married. I love the Filipino people; I love the Philippines. Many of my friends have retired there... My prayers are with you because it’s a beautiful country. It’s a beautiful culture - people of smiles... I should have worked harder to learn Tagalog, but I do know enough to get myself home.

"First of all, they’re (NBI) looking at (the case) at the wrong place because I’m not the culprit. I wish to God that this would be revealed. Persecuting me... isn’t going to resolve the matter - (it) certainly will not bring justice to Nida."

Strunk also laughed off the NBI’s statement that they have as evidence the umbrella Strunk allegedly poked Blanca’s dead body with: "I almost broke up laughing. Because, when I went there during the eight-thirty morning call, they showed me the umbrella and they asked me if I can identify (it). I didn’t recognize it and the handle was all twisted... I said I’m not sure if it’s ours or not... if it’s (the) one Nida had in her car, because we have several umbrellas."

Strunk also accused the NBI of fabricating evidence: "I said the (umbrella) I used was about this long, red and blue that I used for playing golf. Next thing, they are showing that on TV... as the weapon. It’s like, if I give them something, then they turn around and use it against me."

Prior to that, the NBI also said a small Swiss Army knife owned by Strunk could have been the murder weapon: "During my first interview (with the NBI), if you can call it that... I happened to show my key chain (where) I have this Swiss knife. I told them that I bought it, I even had the receipt. I left (the receipt) behind. And (the NBI) is assuming that this is the killer weapon, my goodness."
Family support
Strunk had gone home because his mother was dying. He never reached her alive to make his final farewell to her: "The last thing that she (his mother) said to me was on the telephone. She said ‘Honey, I want you home.’ Then, she was speaking from my sister’s house in Lasilva Beach, (California) and they were on their way to my sister’s daughter’s house for thanksgiving."

Strunk’s sister, Sherry, a dietitian, also read a statement that was aired on TV Patrol in which she quoted her brother’s statements following Blanca’s death: "Who could do such a thing to my darling wife? Why? Now, I miss her. She was my life, my love, my best friend."

"And (in) the months that followed her death," Sherry said, "Rod’s mind rejected reality. He told himself that any moment now, Nida will walk through that door and say ‘Hi, honey, I’m home.’ Instead he has been bombarded with a flood of people and noise.... While still in shock he underwent intensive interviews and interrogation. Lack of proper sleep and food compromised his health. Rod, shrunken to a deep depression. The night merely lingered on and on and then, in late January of 2002, Rod was told that his mother was dying."

According to Sherry, when Strunk arrived in the United States, "he was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. His gaze was distant. He was unresponsive to social contact. He had lost weight and his diabetes was way out of control. He was very ill. It was months before he began to talk. And, even then, he (could not) believe that Nida was gone... Several more months passed before Rod began to accept the possibility that Nida was now dead."

"Whoever did the horrible act (of murdering Blanca), they committed two murders," Sherry said.

According to her, "it has been the family’s insistence that has prevented Rod from returning to the Philippines. At this time, with medication and support, he begins to recover his health. There’s nothing left for him in the Philippines. With all our heart, we pray that justice will be done for Nida."

"Convicting Rod is not an answer. The family on both sides of the world had separated emotionally and financially and it needs to stop," Sherry added.

According to her, Strunk is a fall guy – an innocent person accused of a crime for lack of a suspect: "Convicting a fall guy is not justice, but an insult to the law. This mockery of an investigation is embarrassing to the entire (Philippine) judicial system. God cannot bless those who bear false witness against his neighbors."

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