MANILA, Philippines – Philippine police have identified a local woodcarver as a suspect in the killing of a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in a northern mountain village, and are following up leads on a possible accomplice, officials said Monday.
Senior Superintendent Pedro Ganir, police chief of Ifugao province, where Julia Campbell's body was found last week in a shallow grave, named the suspect as Juan Dontugan, 25, from the village of Batad in Banaue township.
"We have leads that he was not alone," Ganir told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, but refused to elaborate.
Dontugan has been at large since April 9, a day after Campbell was reported missing during a solo hike to see the area's famed mountainside rice terraces, Ganir said.
He is the husband of the woman who sold Campbell a Coca-Cola before she proceeded with her hike.
A police autopsy showed multiple blows to the head with a blunt instrument killed Campbell. Her arms also were injured, indicating she tried to block the blows, police said.
Ganir said police recovered the suspected weapon used — a bloodstained pole made of hardwood similar to a baseball bat that villagers use to pound rice.
Investigators also found Campbell's camera, umbrella and two pairs of sunglasses along with some coins scattered on the ground about 25 yards from her body, said Chief Superintendent Raul Gonzales, the regional police chief.
He said police have no arrest warrant yet and are waiting for the required autopsy report and death certificate before filing a criminal case.
A councilor in Banaue township, Jun Addug, earlier said a 13-year-old boy saw the suspect going to the dry creek where Campbell's grave was found.
Another official — who refused to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media — cautioned that police have found only "circumstantial evidence" and have no witness who actually saw Campbell's death.
Dontungan's wife told GMA television her husband was not in Batad when Campbell disappeared, but Ganir, the police chief, said Dontungan didn't leave the village until the following day.
Ganir said investigators were looking into "robbery with homicide or rape with homicide."
Stacy MacTaggert, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman, said Campbell's remains would be brought home to her family in Fairfax, Va., as soon as legal requirements, such as a death certificate, are completed.
The death of Campbell — a freelance journalist who had reported for The New York Times and other media organizations — left 136 other Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines. She had been teaching English at the Divine Word College in Albay province's Legazpi city, southeast of Manila, since October 2006.