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The Castillo Case


Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 09:32:00 11/09/2008

Filed Under: Crime

MANILA, Philippines - Of such plots are movies made. In the Elsa ?Elsie? Santos Castillo 1993 murder, in fact, two movies were spun, one of which made Kris Aquino a box-office queen.

Known in pop culture as the ?chop-chop lady,? Castillo was murdered and mutilated, with parts of her body found scattered along a deserted road. Her former lover, Stephen Mark Whisenhunt, was convicted for the murder on the basis of the testimony of Demetrio Ravelo, Whisenhunt?s driver.

Ravelo recounted that on September 23, 1993, he fetched Castillo and brought her to Whisenhunt?s condominium. Ravelo was supposed to wait and drive Castillo home after 10 p.m., but when it seemed he was no longer needed, he left for home. The two, both married but estranged from their spouses, were lovers. And though Castillo had resigned from the Apex Motor Corporation, where they had both worked, the affair had continued.

Two days later, Ravelo drove Whisenhunt to his home in Bagac, Bataan. While there, he said that Whisenhunt had confided to him that Castillo was dead. Ravelo recalled asking, ?Bakit mo siya pinatay (Why did you kill her?),? but his employer answered that Castillo had died in her sleep, a victim of ?bangungot.?

When the driver suggested an autopsy, Whisenhunt reportedly said he had already decapitated the body. Ravelo then testified that Whisenhunt asked him to help wrap the body. When he entered the bathroon, however, he found dismembered body parts of a woman and the severed head of Castillo. They wrapped the body parts in three separate garbage bags, loaded them in the trunk of Whisenhunt?s car, and drove towards Sta. Rosa, Laguna. On a deserted path off the main highway, they dumped the bags by the roadside and proceeded to Bataan. Ravelo recalled that Whisenhunt further scattered other items belonging to Castillo along the road on the way to Bagac.

When they returned to Manila the next day, Ravelo told his family what had happened. His wife advised him to report the incident to the police, and on September 27, 1993, Ravelo brought his story to the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation. Atty. Artemio Sacaquing, head of the Anti-Organized Crime Division, dispatched an NBI team, led by Marianito Panganiban, to verify Ravelo?s report.

In Brgy. Polong, Sta. Cruz, Sta. Rosa, Laguna, there was already a crowd of people gathered around the grisly discovery of some tricycle drivers. On the 28th, five days after Ravelo brought Castillo to Whisenhunt?s condo, Whisenhunt was arrested by NBI operatives. His car, which was impounded, carried a horrible stench and bore blood stains in the trunk. A search of his condominium the next day yielded hair strands and more bloodstains on the bedspread and covers.

Caroline Y. Custodio, then Supervising Forensic Biologist of the NBI, found that the hair samples from Whisenhunt?s bathroom and hair samples from the body of Castillo matched. Dr. Ronaldo B. Mendez, the Medico-Legal Officer who conducted the autopsy, concluded that stab wounds, and not ?bangungot,? caused Castillo?s death.

On November 19, 1993, Stephen Mark Whisenhunt was formally charged with the murder of Castillo before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City Branch 152. Arraigned on January 6, 1994, he entered a plea of not guilty.

On January 31, 1996, the court found Whisenhunt guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder and imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua plus damages.

The verdict coincided with Castillo?s 36th birth anniversary. ?It was Elsa?s best birthday gift,?? said Fred Castillo, the victim?s estranged husband.

Whisenhunt appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court, but on November 14, 2001, the High Tribunal affirmed the RTC decision but increased the damages. Schatzi Quodala, Inquirer Research



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