TIMELINE: The tragic ending of Reah Mae Tocmo
(UPDATED) CEBU CITY, Philippines – As far as the local police are concerned, the case of the killing of Reah Mae Tocmo, whose brutal death has gripped Cebu for nearly a month, has been solved.
On Thursday, August 10, 2023, Simeon Gabutero Jr., one of the primary suspects the police considered, confessed to the killing.
Gabutero issued an affidavit of confession, the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) said. DNA test results showed that the DNA samples found in Tocmo’s fingernails matched those of Gabutero, police added.
In addition, Gabutero and Tocmo had been a couple since December 2022, leading police to believe it was a ‘crime of passion.’
The suspect was arrested last July 29.
Reah Mae was found dead, her corpse stuffed inside an abandoned box along the street in Sitio Mohon in Brgy. Tisa, Cebu City last July 17.
News of her gruesome killing reached her relatives, who were not only angry towards the perpetrators behind the crime but were shocked to learn that the 19-year-old woman had been in Cebu.
Based on the facts presented by the police, here’s a timeline of Reah Mae’s brief stay in Cebu that led to her tragic ending.
June 14 – Reah Mae arrives in Cebu
Reah Mae had been residing in Davao del Norte for some time before flying to Cebu for a job opportunity her friend, Jewel Smith, offered.
Investigators later learned that shortly before her death, Reah Mae had been working in a bar and restaurant in Mandaue City right after arriving in Cebu.
She spent several days staying in the establishment’s staff house before relocating to a boarding house in Brgy. Looc, also in Mandaue City, with Smith.
Multiple sources, including Smith and a carenderia vendor near her boarding house in Brgy. Looc, Mandaue City, attested that the last time they saw or encountered Reah Mae was on July 16.
A closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, which surfaced weeks after Reah Mae’s death, also showed the victim riding a motorcycle away from her boarding house, with a man in an orange-colored shirt as the driver.
7 a.m.: Several witnesses told investigators they had already noticed a big, discarded box along the road in Sitio Mohon, Brgy. Tisa in Cebu City as early as 7 a.m.
A security guard in a nearby private subdivision also spotted the box but ignored it, thinking it fell off a courier or delivery van.
Several passersby also said they noticed that the box had already emitted a foul smell.
1 p.m.: A street sweeper on duty tried to move the box away from the road but felt that it was too heavy for him to carry. In turn, he sought the help of barangay tanods (village peacekeepers).
A few minutes later, the street sweeper returned with a barangay tanod in tow. The men were about to carry it but were shocked when its flaps opened, and an arm popped out.
They rushed to the barangay hall to report their findings.
Tisa Barangay Captain Ringo Pacaña, in turn, relayed the information to the police at the Labangon Police Station who later confirmed that the box indeed contained a dead body.
2 p.m.: Investigators at the scene described the gruesome manner of Reah Mae’s corpse. Her arms and legs were tied with aluminum cables. Her face had been smashed and burnt off, possibly with chemicals. There were also bruises on different parts of her body.
At this point, the police had still not been able to identify the victim, except that she was a woman.
Police already had the name of the poor woman killed and stuffed inside a box in Brgy. Tisa. She was Reah Mae Tocmo, a 19-year-old female from Panabo City in Davao del Norte.
Reah Mae’s friends and relatives positively identified the corpse as hers, by pointing out her ‘favorite black shorts’ and the necklace she always wears.
They also told the police that her smartphone and wallet had been missing.
It took 10 days before Reah Mae’s missing smartphone surfaced when a man turned it over to the Labangon Police Station. The man bought it from another man near Carbon Public Market.
He said when he brought him the device, he found the photos of Reah Mae, whom he immediately recognized as the victim found inside an abandoned box in Brgy. Tisa.
Fortunately, CCTV footage near Carbon market managed to capture the man who sold the victim’s mobile phone. He was wearing an orange-colored shirt.
He was then tagged as a ‘person of interest’.
An armed person alarm led enforcers of the Guadalupe Police Station to arrest Gabutero in Brgy. Guadalupe, Cebu City.
The police then recognized Gabutero as the person whose picture was released by the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) and tagged as one of the persons of interest in the Tocmo case.
Upon his arrest, Gabutero admitted to being the person who sold the cellphone of Reah Mae, and told the police that he was allegedly following his neighbor’s instructions, Roberto Gabison.
He added that he saw the neighbor allegedly arguing and attempting to strangle the victim.
To confirm Gabutero’s claims, the police tracked down Gabison who was arrested for a different charge: illegal drugs.
When he was brought to questioning, Gabison denied Gabutero’s claims. He insisted that he never knew, met, or encountered Gabutero nor the victim Reah Mae.
Police conducted DNA testing for Gabutero and Gabison, saying that forensics examination would prove the possible connection of the suspects to the pieces of evidence that the police had found at the crime scene.
August 5 – Taxi driver’s claims
While results of the DNA test have yet to be revealed, several individuals, claiming to have information that may shed light on the gruesome killing of Reah Mae, surfaced. As a result, social media went abuzz with speculations.
One of them was a taxi driver who, in an interview with a local radio station, claimed to have encountered passengers carrying a huge, empty box on July 17, the day Reah Mae’s body was found in Brgy. Tisa.
Based on the taxi driver’s statements, one of the passengers was a petite woman with various tattoos, and she had a huge, empty box.
She was accompanied by a foreign-looking man. Both individuals boarded his taxi at B. Rodriguez, and were bound for a condominium in Brgy. Labangon.
The taxi driver’s descriptions indirectly implicated Jewel Smith, one of Reah Mae’s closest friends.
A distressed Jewel Smith went to the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) on Monday, August 7, to clear her name two days after the taxi driver’s statements linked her to the killing of Reah Mae.
Smith denied she had any knowledge of Reah Mae’s death and stood by her previous statements that the last time they met was on July 16.
Since the taxi driver made the interview, Reah Mae’s friend said she and her family had been the subject of hate, prejudice, and ‘baseless accusations’ on social media.
Her photos had been circulating on social media ‘for the wrong reasons’ and without her permission, she added. These developments prompted Smith to consider filing charges against the taxi driver for ‘spreading lies’.
The police, on the other hand, stuck with Gabutero and Gabison as their primary suspects. They ruled out Smith from the picture and stated that she had been cooperative in their investigations.
Nearly a month since Reah Mae’s life ended tragically and brutally, Gabutero finally admitted as the perpetrator.
The family of Reah Mae Tocmo wants a parallel investigation done on her brutal killing.
Grace Alad-ad, Tocmo’s older sister, said their family was dissatisfied with the outcome of the police investigation on her killing.
“Dili kami makadawat sa ilang investigation kay imbis nga tabangan kami sa pagkab-ot sa hustisya, daw sama pa man hinoon og dungagan pa ang among gibating kasubo. The police investigation is adding insult to our injury,” Alad-ad said in a statement that she posted on her Facebook page Thursday night, August 10, on behalf of the Tocmo family.
(We cannot accept their investigation because instead of helping us reach justice, it seems that they added more to our sadness. The police investigation is adding insult to our injury.)
The father and sisters of Reah Mae Tocmo confronted their loved one’s killer, Simeon Gabutero, at the Labangon Police Station here on Tuesday, August 15, 2023.
During the confrontation, Rochie Tocmo Poblacion, one of the sisters of Reah Mae, fainted.
“Wa kay katungod! Dili ka ang Ginoo para mo patay sa among manghud,” said Grace Tocmo Alad-ad, Reah Mae’s other sister, while banging on the bars of the detention cell.
(You don’t have the right! You’re not God to choose to take the life of our younger sister.)
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