Richelle Talastas was only 17 when she entered a serious relationship with her boyfriend, Alvin Padilla. Despite her parents' objections, Richelle moved in with Alvin.
In order to keep an eye on them, Alvin's father, Victor, decided to build them a hut just a few feet away from his home. For one year, the two lived together harmoniously.
Little did they know that their relationship would soon lead to a bloody end.
On the night of May 1, 2010, Richelle and Alvin got into a fight.
"Ayon kay Alvin, pinagbabawalan niyang manigarilyo itong si Richelle," said SPO4 Jun Adalem, investigator-on-case of the Nueva Ecija PNP. "Doon sila nagsimulang mag-away."
The argument escalated and Alvin decided to leave the house to cool off. After a couple of hours, he came back only to find out that Richelle was not home. Alvin searched for Richelle at her parents' house but she was not there.
Richelle's family began to worry. They looked everywhere but never found her. The next day, Alvin decided to file a report at the police station.
Where is Richelle? 17-year-old Richelle Talastas went missing after she had a fight with her live-in partner, Alvin Padilla.
On the fourth day, one of the neighbors, Gerry Geronimo, decided to help out with the search. He took his dogs out into the fields and a few minutes later, he noticed them digging up a pile of dirt.
He approached them, and was shocked by what he saw. His dogs had found a decaying body.
"Nakalitaw na na po 'yung paa. Nakita ko nangingitim 'yung paa,” Geronimo recalled.
He immediately informed the Talastas family. When they saw the body, Richelle's mother, Zenaida, broke down.
"Bulok na ang anak ko," Zenaida tearfully recalled. "Inuuod na nung makita ko nung panahon na 'yun kaya iyak na lang kami nang iyak."
The crime scene. 17-year-old Richelle Talastas' body was found buried and decaying.
The Nueva Ecija Police and a group from the Scene of Crime Operation arrived and began their inspection of the body.
There were telltale signs that the victim was raped, SPO4 Adalem said.
The authorities also recovered a cell phone and a set of dentures on the crime scene which the family confirmed as Richelle's.
After inspecting the crime scene, Richelle's body was brought to the morgue. Based on post-mortem examination, the victim died due to lack of oxygen, and was strangled by hand.
The autopsy also confirmed that she was raped.
The search for Richelle's killer
In order to find the the killer, the authorities conducted a thorough interview with the victim’s live-in partner, Alvin. Alvin narrated the events that took place that day starting from their fight up to the point where he arrived to an empty home.
During his interview, Alvin revealed that his father had tried to kill himself.
According to him, after searching for Richelle the night that she went missing, he went back home and found his father, Victor, hanging by the neck. He brought his father down and took him to his uncle Nicasio's house.
While his father was talking to his uncle, Alvin heard him confess that he was that one who killed Richelle.
Because of this, 47-year-old Victor became the primary suspect for the murder of the 17-year-old.
Everybody was shocked by this revelation.
"Maganda naman po samahan nila sa bahay eh," the suspect's brother, Nicasio said. "Nagtaka nga kami kung bakit niya nagawa 'yun. Kung mangaral ho iyon eh daig pa pari."
Victor was charged with rape with homicide. Unfortunately, even before Richelle’s body was found, the suspect had already gone into hiding.
On July 7, 2010, a warrant of arrest was issued against Victor. A couple of days later, the authorities received information that he was hiding in Sampaloc, Manila.
A task force was formed and the elder Padilla was immediately arrested and brought back to Nueva Ecija.
ABS-CBN SOCO was able to interview Padilla. But instead of admitting to his crimes, he denied it all. According to him, Richelle was murdered by several men who broke into their home that night of May 1, 2010. The men allegedly tied him up and killed Richelle as she ran into the field.
Despite his denial, the suspect is currently detained at the Cabanatuan Provincial Jail while he awaits his trial.
The Talastas family, meanwhile, continues to pray for justice for their daughter.
"Hanggang ako ay nabubuhay, ipakikipaglaban ko ang anak ko," Richelle’s mother, Zenaida, said. "Gusto ko sana hanggang ako ay nabubuhay, mabigyan na ng katarungan ang aking anak."