Not even the dark shades could hide the tears of Richard Gudelosao.
Gudelosao stood in silence as tears flowed down his face when Judge Generosa Labra of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 23 in Cebu City found him guilty of double murder for the gruesome killing and mutilation of two women in Talisay City in 2008.
Gudelosao, 36, was sentenced to serve two counts of reclusion perpetua, or up to 80 years in prison, and was ordered to pay a total of P200,000 in damages to the families of the victims, nurse Eva Mae Peligro, 24, and her cousin Gwendolyn Balasta, 26.
His girlfriend Jean Antonette Medalle, however, was cleared of the charges for lack of evidence that she conspired with Gudelosao.
Another accused, Jojo Cellar, was convicted by the same court in 2011 after he admitted to killing Peligro and Balasta at their home on a middle-class subdivision in Talisay City on July 24, 2008.
Peligro was the fiancée of Gudelosao’s brother Felix who was in the United States at the time of the killings. Gudelosao and the victims lived in one house when the incident happened.
Envy and family tension were seen as motives for the killings.
The women were strangled to death before their bodies were cut up and stuffed in garbage bags that were dumped in various locations in the cities of Talisay and Naga and the town of Minglanilla, all in southern Cebu.
Each of the victims’ body was chopped into seven pieces. Peligro’s left forearm and left thigh remain missing, while Balasta’s two forearms have not been recovered by the police.
Both Gudelosao and Cellar tested positive for illegal drugs when they were subjected to a drug test after they were arrested.
Gudelosao yesterday insisted he was innocent of the crime and that only Cellar killed the two women.
“Mo-istorya bitaw ko, dili man sila motuo nako. So, no comment na lang ko. (I have told authorities my version of the story but they did not believe me. So, it would be better for me not to comment anymore),” he told Cebu Daily News while he was about to be transported back to the Talisay City Jail.
During the court proceedings, Gudelosao was silent most of the time. He was crying even before the verdict was read in open court.
His lawyer, Salvador Solima, said they would contest the verdict before the Supreme Court (SC).
“We respect the decision of the (lower) court but we will appeal the decision,” he told reporters. As a policy, all convictions involving heinous crimes shall automatically be reviewed by SC.
Solima said the court should have given weight to their defense that Gudelosao was mauled by the police so he would execute an affidavit and admit his participation in the crime. “He (Gudelosao) was just forced to sign the extra-judicial affidavit,” claimed Solima.
Gudelosao will be transferred to the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor)-run Leyte Regional Prison in Abuyog, Southern Leyte while the SC reviews his conviction.
The family of the victims was elated with Gudelosao’s conviction.
“We’re happy that finally justice has been served. We would have wanted the court to also convict Medalle but at least this case will be put to rest,” said Peligro’s younger sister Grace.
Aside from Grace, also present during the promulgation were their parents and uncle.
Their lawyer Julius Caesar Entice said they are satisfied with the outcome of the case even if one of the accused was cleared of the charges.
“We don’t have much evidence against Medalle. But we’re very confident that the main perpetrators in this case are Gudelosao and Cellar,” he said.
Cellar had earlier entered a not guilty plea but later asked to be rearraigned and admitted he killed the two women. But he insisted Gudelosao was asleep when the crime was committed.
Cellar said that hours before the killing, he and Gudelosao were having a drinking session and it was then that the latter told him that he was about to be evicted from the house since his brother Felix, who owned the property, was going to sell it.
Gudelosao, who then earned a living driving a taxicab owned by his brother, was then residing with his live-in girlfriend Medalle and their young daughter in the same house with Peligro and her cousin Balasta.
Cellar said he went to Peligro’s bedroom to talk to her about Gudelosao’s problem. But when he tried to enter the room, Peligro allegedly bit him before she slammed the door shut. Cellar said he then forcibly opened the door and strangled Peligro. Since Balasta kept on shouting inside the room, Cellar said he also strangled her.
Cellar also claimed he was the one who chopped up and threw away the remains of the two women, and Gudelosao did not know anything about it until much later.
But, in her decision, Labra said there was basis to finding Gudelosao guilty of the crime. In fact, she said, Gudelosao admitted in an extra-judicial confession he earlier executed that he killed the two victims.
She said Gudelosao’s claim that he was mauled by the police to force him to sign the confession deserved “scant consideration” because when he executed the affidavit, it was done in the presence of a lawyer to prove he was not forced or intimidated by the police.
“The extrajudicial confession constitutes evidence of high order since it is supported by the strong presumption that no person of normal mind would knowingly confess to being the doer of a crime unless prompted by truth and conscience,” Labra said.
Also, the prosecution showed enough proof that Gudelosao had the motive to kill the victims, said Labra, noting that days prior to the crime, he was informed by
Peligro that he would be evicted from the house because the property was going to be sold by his brother Felix.
Labra said the claim of innocence of the accused was not enough to overturn the evidence presented by the prosecution.
“Denials, which are unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are self-serving. It merits no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary value over the testimony of credible witnesses,” the judge said.
Medalle was cleared because even if a knife was taken from her, the court said the prosecution failed to establish that she was part of the crime. The court also noted that both Gudelosao and Cellar had testified that Medalle was not at the crime scene when the incident happened.
Medalle said she was happy with her acquittal.
“Malipayon kaayo ko. Karon, kinahanglan na ko mangita og trabaho (I’m very happy. Now, I need to look for a job),” said Medalle, whose daughter with Gudelosao is now ten years old.