MANILA, Philippines – A woodcarver was convicted Monday of killing a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer who disappeared while hiking in the northern Philippines' mountainside rice terraces.
Juan Duntugan wept after a regional trial court in northern Ifugao province found him guilty of murdering Julia Campbell in April 2007. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison without parole.
Duntugan had confessed to bludgeoning Campbell, 40, with a rock and a stick in a fit of rage when she accidentally bumped into him on a narrow mountain trail. Duntugan said he was upset from a spat with a neighbor.
Judge Ester Piscoso-Flor also ordered Duntugan, 27, to pay Campbell's family about 40 million pesos (US$889,000) in damages, including her funeral expenses. Duntugan, who can appeal, was to be moved to a maximum-security prison complex in Manila, court officials said.
The judge said she could not impose the death penalty because it has been banned in the country.
"This is justice for Julia," prosecutor Reynaldo Agranzamendez told The Associated Press by telephone from Ifugao, about 160 miles north of Manila.
"But justice can only compensate, it cannot bring her back to life," he said.
U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney thanked all those who worked to solve Campbell's killing and said it was time to move on. The Peace Corps continues the local volunteer work "that meant so much to her," she added.
The U.S. Peace Corps has assigned more than 8,000 volunteers to the Philippines since 1961, Philippine officials say.
Campbell's brutal killing drew public condemnation because of its contrast to her efforts to help provide education to the country's poor and promote environmental protection.
Campbell's sister and friends embraced each other quietly after hearing the ruling. Duntugan, accompanied by his mother, bowed his head and wept, court officials said.
Campbell, a former journalist who worked for the New York Times and other media organizations, came to the Philippines in March 2005.
She helped establish an ecology center that has been named for her in Donsol in Sorsogon province southeast of Manila, famous for whale sharks. She later taught English and literature at the Divine Word College in Legazpi city, the capital of nearby Albay province.
Campbell kept a blog where she chronicled her volunteer work in the Philippines, including the joy she felt in helping the poor and her longing for home as her two-year Peace Corps stint neared end.
"I would be lying if I did not say that every day is a struggle. I miss home and my old life. I miss being there for the things that happen in the lives of people I care about," she said.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo posthumously conferred to Campbell the Order of the Golden Heart, a prestigious award given to government officials and foreign volunteers who have rendered service to poor Filipinos. The House of Representatives called her a "martyred volunteer."