The promising life of a young woman ended prematurely, abbreviated by a gruesome rape-slay that caught the nation’s interest. Find out how her blood helped reveal the perpetrators of the crime.
“Very independent iyong pagkatao niya, tapos resourceful siya,” Grace Castro fondly recalls of her daughter, Candice. “May sarili siyang paninindigan,” she added.
It has been years since Mrs. Castro last saw her 23-year old daughter. Now, all she has of her are pictures and memories. Six years ago, Candice was brutally killed inside her very own apartment.
Candice was born and raised in Naga, Bicol. She was beautiful, smart, and as her mother describes her, full of dreams.
It was these dreams that pushed her to go to Manila to study.
“Masipag siyang mag-aral. Marunong din siya makipag-kapwa tao kaya hindi naging problema,” Mrs. Castro tells ABS-CBN’s Scene of the Crime Operatives. Candice pursued her studies and eventually, she landed a job as a bank teller.
Mrs. Castro and her husband assisted her in looking for a place to stay in Manila. After days of apartment-hunting, they finally settled for a unit at the Belaggio Tower just across her office.
“Tingin kasi namin, safe siya doon. May guard tapos tatawid lang siya,” Grace said.
Little did they know that Candice would meet her brutal fate in the building she considered then as her second home.
The dreaded phone call
It was a little past ten on the morning of May 12, 2004 when Mrs. Castro received an unexpected phone call from the building administrator, seeking permission to rush Candice to the hospital.
“Nagulat ako, sabi ko bakit, anong nangyari sa anak ko? Ayaw naman niya sabihin,” Mrs. Castro recalled.
Immediately, she and her husband drove out to Manila. Hours later, they received another phone call. This time, confirming their worst nightmares—Candice was found dead in her apartment.
Scene of the Crime
Back in Manila, the team headed by Police Officer 3 Rommel Del Rosario of the Manila Police District and the MPD-SOCO were already gathering evidence inside Unit 1103 where Candice was found dead—naked and soaking in her own blood.
They initially suspected robbery as the motive behind the killing.
Closer examination of the victim’s body, however, revealed tell tale signs of rape.
“May napansin kami na merong mop sa ilalim niya. Noong pagtaob namin sa kanya, [iyong] mop ay hindi pala (niya) nadaganan kundi nakapasok sa maselang bahagi ng katawan ng babae,” PO3 Del Rosario explained.
Where the evidence points
Further investigation revealed traces of blood and footprints from Candice’s unit on the 11th floor leading down to the 6th floor. This led the MPD to suspect that Candice’s killer was also a tenant in the building.
Meanwhile, another member of the investigating team became suspicious of a man at the lobby of the building.
This prompted Senior Police Officer 4 Alfredo Salazar to question Philippe Marcelo, a tenant staying at Room 603, as to why his face was full of scratches.
Marcelo explained that he just had a fight with his wife. SPO4 Salazar was not convinced. He took Marcelo in.
During the ensuing interrogation, Marcelo confessed.
Marcelo revealed that he was not the sole perpetrator. According to him, he only served as the lookout and the real culprit was a man named Bebs Reyes.
Both Marcelo and Reyes were charged with rape with homicide at the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 52. Only Marcelo remained in custody. The authorities never found Reyes.
Justice for Candice
Last July 15, 2010, six years after the gruesome death of Candice Castro, Marcelo was found guilty of rape with homicide by the Manila RTC and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua or forty years imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay indemnity amounting to P100,000, unearned income of P2,663,25, and actual damages amounting to P3,255,700.
The court said that the blood found on Marcelo’s slippers matched Candice’s DNA. A latent print found on the shower head in the victim’s apartment also matched the fingerprint of Marcelo’s middle finger.
ABS-CBN SOCO tried to interview Marcelo, who is currently detained at the Manila District Jail, but he refused.
Reyes, meanwhile, remains at large.
Mrs. Castro has vowed to never stop until her daughter’s other killer is behind bars as well.
“Nakipag-coordinate kami sa CIDG na tulungan kami sa paghahanap. Naghahabol din talaga ako na maparusahan siya,” she tells us with conviction. She said she will always be haunted by the fateful event that changed their lives forever.