TRAGEDY IN CARCAR
Bursts of gunfire shattered the silence at a neighborhood in Barangay Valladolid, Carcar City, in southern Cebu early morning yesterday.
Frank Belamide rushed to his grandson’s house to check the noise. What he saw next was terrifying.
Belamide was shocked to see his grandson Joel Lopez bathed in a pool of blood as well as the man’s wife and their two children in what was suspected to be a parricide-suicide case.
“I was shocked with what I saw. I cannot believed what happened,” said the 73-year-old Belamide in Cebuano.
Joel, a former policeman, bore a gunshot wound in the mouth. His wife Jelyn and their children Myir, 8, and Angel, 12, each had gunshot wounds in the head.
Joel and Jelyn were both 36 years old.
Police theorized that Joel shot his wife and their children first before shooting himself using an M16 rifle.
The victims were brought to the Carcar District Hospital where they were declared dead by the attending physician.
Belamide said he and his wife were preparing their breakfast when they heard a series of gunshots shortly before 6 a.m.
He rushed to his grandson’s house, which was just a meter away. He repeatedly knocked on their door, but no one responded.
“I started to worry when no one answered,” said Belamide.
Desperate to know what happened inside, Belamide detached one of the window’s jalousie blades and saw all four members of the family bathed in their own blood.
Belamide forcibly opened the door using a hammer before calling the police.
He found the M16 rifle lying on top of the body of Joel, whose mouth was covered with blood resulting from a gunshot wound.
“It was clear that Joel was the gunman,” said a policeman from the Scene of the Crime Operatives (Soco), who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak about the matter.
A depressed man
Joel was described as a good man, someone who had no vices and did not even smoke. No one also noticed if the couple fought days earlier or even before the attack.
So what drove Joel to kill his family and himself?
“We noticed that he and his wife were going through something. But when we asked if they had a problem, they would tell us nothing,” said Jelyn’s mother Clemen.
Belamide said they suspect that Joel became depressed because of their dire financial situation.
“Maybe he could no longer bear their situation. But he didn’t share anything to us. He and his wife kept things to themselves,” said Belamide.
The family was crammed in a concrete house that was used as a water refilling station, measuring 10 feet by 14 feet.
The house didn’t have a bedroom and a toilet.
“We gave it (house) to them when we decided to close the water station,” Belamide explained.
Joel had also been desperately trying to be reinstated in the police service.
Joel had a rank of Police Officer 2 when he was dismissed in 2013. He joined the police service in 2006 and was assigned in Lapu-Lapu City.
According to Belamide, Joel was dismissed when a person he arrested in an anti-drug operation filed charges against him.
While Joel had been working on his reinstatement, Jelyn was supposed to take the Licensure Examination for Teachers (Let) this month.
According to Belamide, Joel had been wanting to be reinstated.
“He went to Manila to process some papers for his reinstatement, and when he came home, he told us that he needed P30,000,” said Belamide.
After he was dismissed from police service, Joel helped his grandfather in culturing honey bees to earn money.
“He should have not done this just because of financial problems. We are willing to help them especially their children,” said Belamide.
Belamide said his daughter, an aunt of Joel who is a beekeeper in New Zealand, has been sending Joel some financial aid.
Jelyn worked as a vault custodian of Royal Gold Pawnshop in Carcar.
Apart from failing to get a reinstatement, an ongoing company investigation against Jelyn may have compounded the couple’s woes.
According to Divina dela Calzada, an aunt of Joel, the pawnshop was asking Jelyn to explain an unaccounted cash amounting to P30,000.
“First, the amount involved was P20,000 then it grew to P30,000,” said Dela Calzada, who works as a jewelry appraiser in the same pawnshop.
Dela Calzada said that Joel was a quiet man who changed after he was dismissed from the police service in 2013. In fact, Joel disappeared for about a year after his dismissal.
She said no one knew what happened to him during the time that he was gone because he did not want to talk about it.
When he returned sometime in 2014, he stayed home most of the time. He took care of their children while his wife worked.
Joel’s parents, who also live in the same area, both declined to be interviewed.
An investigation will be conducted to determine if the M16 rifle was government issued or personally owned by Joel.
“If it will be found that the firearm is government owned, why was it still with him when he was already dismissed,” said the Soco operative.
A .22 caliber rifle was also found in the house.
A magazine of an M16 rifle can be loaded with 25 bullets.
The M16 rifle found on top of Joel’s body had 19 bullets, while six spent shells were recovered near his house.
“It was possible that one of the children or the wife was shot twice,” said the Soco operative.
Jelyn slept on a wooden sofa. Myir slept on the floor in between Angel May and Joel.
It is possible that Joel shot Jelyn first before Angel May and Myir. Shots were fired at close range, said the Soco operative.
Based on the gunshot wound, Joel put the muzzle of the firearm inside his mouth before pulling the trigger.
Supt. Jose Liddawa, chief of the Carcar City Police Station, said they had requested for a paraffin test to identify if there was a third party involved in the crime.
Liddawa affirmed they were looking into the family’s financial problem as possible cause of crime.
He said they checked with the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office but was informed that the firearms did not come from the LLCPO.
This means, said Liddawa, it is possible that the firearm used in the crime could be personally owned by Lopez.
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