Published January 13, 2015
Philippine police launched a criminal investigation after soldiers found the body of a missing American Peace Corps volunteer in a shallow grave Wednesday in a mountainous northern town where she disappeared while hiking 10 days ago.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres said officials at the site confirmed that the body belonged to Julia Campbell, 40, from Fairfax, Virginia, saying she was wearing the same clothes as when she was last seen and that her glasses were found nearby.
The body of the former journalist was to be airlifted Thursday to Manila, where it was to undergo forensic tests. She had worked for The New York Times and People magazine and recently reported for CNN on a typhoon that hit the area where she was working for the Peace Corps.
The remains were found buried in a dry creek, with a foot sticking out, in the vicinity of Batad village, where she was last seen, regional police commander Chief Superintendent Raul Gonzales said.
"There is a probability that there was foul play," Gonzales told AP, adding police will now treat it as "a crime incident."
U.S. Embassy spokesman Matthew Lussenhop earlier said embassy and Peace Corps officers were helping police recover and identify the remains.
Campbell's aunt, Ann Knight, of Pensacola, Florida, said Peace Corps officials contacted Campbell's mother with news of the discovery.
Peace Corps director Ron Tschetter said Campbell "contributed greatly to the lives of Filipino citizens."
"Julia was a proud member of the Peace Corps family, and she contributed greatly to the lives of Filipino citizens," Tschetter said in a statement.
He had traveled to the Philippines to join the search for Campbell, and he praised the local police effort to find her as "incredible."
"The U.S. Peace Corps is saddened by the loss of such a dedicated and vibrant volunteer, who so loved this country," Tschetter said. "Our hearts go out to her family and friends in the United States."
Tschetter said more than 80 people — including police commandos, soldiers, and volunteers — were involved in the search, backed by four helicopters and four tracking dogs.
Police earlier speculated that Campbell may have fallen off a cliff. She went missing April 8 in the village outside Banaue town in Ifugao province north of Manila, where she had planned to view the famed mountainside rice terraces.
Ifugao provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Pedro Ganir told AP by telephone that a stray dog had dug out one foot when soldiers discovered the body, which was placed in the creek and covered with dirt.
A pair of reading glasses was found near a trail about 165 feet from the body, with one of the lenses laying nearby. Police also recovered a sandal they believed belonged to the woman.
"This is no longer an accident," he said.
On Tuesday, Philippine national police chief Oscar Calderon ruled out the involvement of communist rebels in Campbell's disappearance "because the area has been cleared of insurgents."
Ganir earlier said Campbell, wearing blue denim jeans, black shirt and a shawl, was last seen buying soda from a store in Batad.
She was only wearing sandals and had bought a bus ticket to return to Manila by April 9, indicating she did not plan to extend her stay or make a long hike to a spot to look at the rice terraces, he said.
Campbell was one of 137 Peace Corps volunteers currently in the Philippines.
She lived in New York City, where she worked as a journalist, before joining the Peace Corps two years ago and was only about two weeks away from finishing her term with the organization.
"It's horrible," said Michael Cooper, a New York Times political reporter who had worked with Campbell at the newspaper when they covered New York City police.
"She was a very dogged, very hardworking reporter," Cooper said. "She put in long hours. When doing street reporting, she was always sure to ring the 10th doorbell, not just leave after a few."
Cooper said she left the Times to cover hard news for People magazine. Campbell also worked at FOXNews.com, ABCNews.com, CourtTV.com, and Star magazine.
Campbell had been teaching English at the Divine Word College in Albay province's Legazpi city, southeast of Manila, since October 2006. She previously taught at a public school in Donsol in nearby Sorsogon province, said Nora Gallano, assistant dean of Divine Word's College of Liberal Arts.
"She just felt not fulfilled in New York and shocked us when she said she was joining the Peace Corps," said Knight, her aunt. "She was doing what she wanted to do."
Knight described her niece as "a very adventuresome, very interesting, loving, giving person who loved a good story."
Campbell moved around a lot as a child because her father was in the Marines. She graduated from high school in Fairfax, where her mother still lives.