Nida slay suspect leaps to death

() - July 15, 2007 - 12:00am

Roger Lawrence “Rod” Strunk, the American husband of the late actress Nida Blanca who is also the main suspect in her gruesome murder in 2001, fell to his death in an apparent suicide from a hotel balcony in Tracy, California on Wednesday.

Local newspaper Tracy Press quoted police reports as saying that Strunk, 68, purportedly committed suicide by jumping from a balcony at the Tracy Inn onto the parking lot pavement 20 feet below.

A local resident reportedly found Strunk at the parking lot already lifeless and bleeding before alerting the police.

The newspaper quoted police Sgt. Steve Beukelman as saying that Strunk apparently committed suicide.

Though no one actually saw Strunk leap to his death from his hotel room, Beukelman said there were indications that Strunk took his own life.

Tracy Police Department Public Information Officer Matt Robinson said the local coroner’s office has established that Strunk died from the impact after hitting the parking lot head first.

The coroner’s report also said Strunk had locked himself in his room and lodged a chair by the door.

Strunk had been living in Tracy since October 2003 after successfully avoiding extradition to the Philippines, where he is charged with masterminding Blanca’s murder.

Strunk was charged in the Philippines with parricide along with four principal suspects in the killing of Blanca, who was found stabbed to death inside her car on Nov. 7, 2001. The actress had 13 stab wounds to the head and chest.

Strunk left for the US after his wife’s burial. Philippine authorities had granted Strunk’s request to visit his dying mother in Tracy.

Philippine authorities filed the murder charges when Strunk was in the US. After his mother’s death, Strunk remained in Tracy, successfully avoiding the extradition efforts against him.

After the Philippine authorities filed an extradition request to the US government, Strunk was briefly arrested and detained at the Sacramento County Jail.

US authorities threw out the extradition request because Philippine authorities failed to provide additional evidence against Strunk after the alleged hired killer, Philip Medel, recanted his testimony identifying the American as the mastermind.

Strunk had been living in Tracy since October 2003 after successfully avoiding extradition.

Strunk had a brief singing career in the late 1950s and early 1960s, taking on the screen name “Rod Lauren.” He grew up in Fresno, but later moved to Tracy in 1943 with his parents, Larry and Helen Strunk.

Strunk attended schools in Tracy and was even a newspaper boy for the Tracy Press. He graduated from Tracy High School in 1957. While a student there, he appeared in school plays and played trombone in the school band.

Strunk began singing in Fresno’s local clubs 1959. It was during one of those gigs that he was asked to audition by a recording executive. Strunk was later signed up by RCA records.

He had some success but his recording career was not that high. He continued singing in clubs in Southern California and Las Vegas lounges while appearing in several action movies.

In 1964, Strunk went to the Philippines for the filming of a movie and there met Blanca, Dorothy Jones in real life.

Strunk shuttled between California and the Philippines until they decided to get married in 1979 and lived together for 23 years.

Strunk then became a permanent resident in Manila and often-photographed companion for his wife.

Philippine police claim money and property could have driven Strunk to order Blanca’s murder, noting that the American had piled up debts and was disinherited by the actress before she was killed.

Reports say Strunk was writing a book about his experiences in the Philippines.

In December, Strunk reportedly told his friends that he was marrying someone in Redding in Oregon. The marriage did not push through and Strunk moved back to Tracy. -With ABS-CBN

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