By NITZ ARANCON
and JOEY NACALABAN
POLICE are preparing to press formal charges against the man arrested Saturday on suspicion of murdering a gas station worker in Barangay Puntod early last week.
The suspect, 41-year-old Daniel Bagubaldo of Misamis Oriental, has been placed under detention at the Macabalan police precinct following his arrest in connection with the grisly murder of Rachel Manahan, a Jetti gas station cashier who also pumped gas into vehicles.
Manahan’s body, already in a state of decomposition, was found in a septic tank located in a property of the Tamparong family in Puntod at around 7:45 am Saturday.
The 32-year-old victim, a lesbian who lived in Puntod, had no clothes on, making investigators suspect that she had been sexually abused while she was still breathing or even when she was already dead.
Capt. Jack Llanita, Macabalan police chief, said Bagubaldo, who occasionally drove a trisikad and served as one of the caretakers of the property where Manahan was found murdered, was identified through a CCTV recording.
Police said the recording showed how Manahan was attacked at around 11 pm Monday last week — she was riding her bicycle on her way home from work near Agora in Lapasan when a man chased and attacked her on Corrales extension.
Llanita said Manahan, already down on the ground, was then repeatedly struck with what looked like a piece of wood and then he forced her head down the overflowing street gutter. He said it was raining at that time.
He said the CCTV recording showed that the killer then wrapped Manahan’s body with a raincoat or a sack and moved it using her own bicycle.
Llanita said police had been searching for Manahan since Thursday after her family reported that she had gone missing.
“Wala gyud namo makita sukad niadtong Huwebes hangtud nga dunay naka-report sa opisina nga na-ay nanimaho dinhing dapita sa yuta ni Tamparong,” Llanita said.
When the police and Manahan’s relatives checked out the uninhabited and secluded area, they found the victim’s decomposing remains thrown into an unused septic tank.
Manahan was identified by her sister Rosemarie.
Bagubaldo mingled with the crowd of curious onlookers while the police searched the area. An angry mob subsequently ganged up on him as soon as he was identified as a suspect; he tried to escape.
Behind bars, at first, he denied having a hand in the murder of Manahan. When he was told about the body in the septic tank, he responded: “Mao man kaha tong ilang nakita didto, ma-o na tingali to.”
Bagubaldo subsequently confessed to killing Manahan but claimed that he did not plan the murder. Without elaborating, he said he only wanted to get back at her.
Near the septic tank, investigators found the victim’s wristwatch, and a number of shoulder bags and women’s personal belongings that did not belong to Manahan.
Llanita said if there were other victims, then Bagubaldo could be a serial killer and there could be other people who suffered a similar fate.
Police said they were looking into information about an eight-year-old girl who went missing in the area about five years ago.
According to Llanita, Bagubaldo’s elder brother Alito was the first caretaker of the property. “Wala na man gyud magpoyo ang iyang magulang dinhi kay dili man sila magkasinabot, ma-o nang kining suspect ang nagsilbing ‘sub-caretaker’ aning maong yuta,” he said.