Husband of murdered Filipina movie star says he lost everything

The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The husband of a slain Filipina movie star said that he lost all his possessions because of her death, rendering senseless the theory of prosecutors in the island nation that he killed his wife in a dispute over money.

In both a news conference and a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Roger Lawrence Strunk talked about the case for the first time since a federal magistrate here stunned the Philippine government Wednesday by rejecting its request that he be extradited to stand trial.

"I'm very, very glad and I'm relieved to be out of jail, but to be rejoicing? No. My wife's murder is still a mystery and I don't know what happened," Strunk said Saturday during the phone interview.

Attorneys have described the case as the Filipino equivalent of the 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial, saying Strunk's case has enthralled the nation of 80 million people.

Strunk's wife, Nida Blanca, appeared in 163 movies and was one of the nation's most revered cultural figures. She was stabbed to death in a Manila suburb in November 2001 at the age of 65.

Strunk, 63, later returned to the United States to visit his dying mother in California, and moved to Tracy, 60 miles east of San Francisco. Federal marshals arrested Strunk there last May at the request of the Philippines Justice Department.

Filipino prosecutors alleged that Strunk, another man and two unidentified women murdered Blanca in her car after a confrontation that stemmed from a dispute over money.

The accusation makes no sense, Strunk said, because the pair's American marriage was never deemed legal in the Philippines, so he couldn't inherit her wealth.

"I had nothing to gain and everything to lose," he said.

Though Strunk had initially promised to return to the Philippines voluntarily, he said he followed the advice of his attorneys "not to go back because of all the animosity that's been created" by what he described as "stupid attacks and distorted truths and fabrications" by prosecutors there.

On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Gregory Hollows ruled the Philippines government didn't provide even the minimal amount of evidence required to justify Strunk's extradition, and said what was provided was conflicting and suspicious.

Hollows said prosecutors can try again to extradite Strunk if they can prove he was involved, but Strunk said he's not worried.

"There's no evidence," he said. "If there were, it would have been presented."


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