Who exactly killed call center agent and freelance model Aireen Adolfo?
Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7) on Monday arrested a motorcycle-for-hire driver who was pointed to by a witness as the same person who was with Adolfo about two hours before the latter was killed.
Francisco Capalaran, 47, and a resident of Sitio Dita, Barangay Pulangbato in Cebu City, is now facing complaints about robbery with homicide and possession of illegal drugs and paraphernalia at the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office that were filed on Monday afternoon.
During his arrest, the NBI recovered from his possession two packs of shabu, rolls of tin foil, and a blue jacket with suspected blood stains that would be subjected to forensic examinations.
The arrest and the filing of the complaints against Capalaran came four days after the police declared Sherwin Velasquez as the primary suspect in the killing of Adolfo.
The police found the victim’s handbag in the riverbank located near the house of Velazquez.
Velasquez and another motorcycle-for-hire driver Ramontito Tribunalo had been invited for questioning a day after the body of Adolfo was found on a grassy area in the mountain village of Pulangbato, Cebu City, last July 10.
While two law enforcement agencies presented two different suspects, the family of Adolfo leaned toward the investigation of the NBI whose help they had earlier sought.
Adolfo’s mother Leah said she was happy with the arrest made by the NBI-7.
“Naluagluag akong pamati. (I felt relieved),” Leah said.
Adolfo, 24, went out of their house in Barangay Pulangbato to buy food for dinner around 6 p.m. on July 9.
She was last seen on board a motorcycle-for-hire and had reportedly brought with her a bag containing money, a cellular phone, and an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card.
A day after her body was found, the police invited Velasquez and Tribunalo for questioning since they worked as motorcycle-for-hire drivers in the area.
On July 13, Senior Supt. Joel Doria, director of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), announced that Velazquez was considered as the primary suspect although no complaint was filed.
Unhappy with the police investigation, Leah sought the help of the NBI, which conducted a parallel investigation.
Arnel Pura, NBI lead investigator of the case, said the breakthrough came when lawyer Jovy Ardiente-Peralta coordinated with their office to take into custody a witness who had a vital information which may help shed light on the case.
The witness, who requested anonymity for security purposes, identified Capalaran as the person who drove the motorcycle that ferried Adolfo from Barangay Pit-os to Barangay Pulangbato around 8 p.m. on July 9.
The witness said Capalaran was wearing a blue-colored jacket with white stripes across it.
Even though she did not see the passenger’s face clearly, the witness said she remembered the denim shorts worn by the victim.
She added that she decided to testify against Capalaran for her own safety.
“I and Capalaran knew each other very well because I had been paying him for a ride anywhere in the mountain barangays of Pulangbato and Talamban. Every time our paths crossed, we either exchanged greetings or a nod. But a day after the news on Aireen’s death broke out, his behavior changed. And he stopped greeting me which he usually did,” she said in Cebuano.
The witness said Capalaran would often give her “deadly, cold stares” after Adolfo’s death.
“I have a strong feeling that his stare was a message. He wanted me silenced for good, probably kill me because I saw him with Aireen on his passenger seat. Maybe he is afraid of me speaking up to authorities. This is why I wanted to testify, not because I just wanted to merely participate but because I feared my own safety,” she said.
Pura said that when they located Capalaran, he was alone in his house.
They recovered the jacket described by the witness as the same piece of clothing worn by the suspect on the night he was seen with the victim.
Although it was washed, Pura said there were still bloodstains on it. The bloodstains would later be subjected to forensic examination to determine if these belonged to the victim.
“We also found several wounds and injuries on his body so we brought him in, along with the clothes, to a medico legal officer,” added Pura.
Dr. Rene Cam, medico legal officer of the NBI-7, said laboratory tests done on Capalaran’s wounds showed that these were “defensive wounds consistent with the days or period when the victim was assaulted.”
Capalaran denied the accusations hurled against him.
While he admitted of using illegal drugs, Capalaran said he did not kill Adolfo.
“Kaila ko niya kay silingan ra man mi pero sukad-sukad wala nako siya nahimong pasahero. (I know her because we were neighbors but I never had her as a passenger),” Capalaran said in an interview.
“Nakadungog naman ko ug tabi-tabi sa amoang dapit nga ako daw suspect sa pagpatay sa biktima. Pero inosente jud ko. (I heard rumors in our neighborhood that I was considered as the suspect. But I am innocent),” he added.
Supt. Ryan Devaras, chief of the CCPO’s Investigation, Detection and Management Branch (IMDB), said that while they might have different suspects, they would continue with their own investigation.
“Okay raman siya. In fact, giwelcome nato ang ilang (NBI) investigation and kung naka-file sila og kaso ana, mas maayo (It’s okay. In fact, we welcome their investigation and if they already filed a case against the suspect, the better),” Devaras said.
He stressed they were still considering Velasquez as a suspect in the killing of Adolfo.
“Tan-awon gihapon siya (Velasquez) as person of interest. But we believe nga naa ni siyay kauban sa paghimo sa krimen (We see Velasquez as a person of interest. But we believe that he has an accomplice to orchestrate the crime,” Devaras added.
Devaras believed that the crime was made by “more than one person.”
He did not elaborate.
But Pura believed they had enough evidence to prove the guilt of Capalaran.
“We have testimonies and circumstantial evidences which will point out to Capalaran as the suspect. With the evidences, all of these, we are confident these will stand in court,” Pura stated.
He also expressed optimism that eventually, the investigations both from the NBI and the CCPO will come to a common ground, and will render consistent conclusions.