SOCO: Forensics solve murder of UST cum laude

By Korina R. Iledan, Multi-Media Producer, SOCO

Posted at Dec 11 2012 11:57 AM | Updated as of Dec 12 2012 08:54 PM

On October 31, 2012, news about a girl found dead and covered with 49 stab wounds shocked the nation. The victim was identified as Cyrish Magalang, a 20-year-old cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas.

Cyrish was the youngest daughter of Juancho and Milagros Magalang. According to Milagros, Cyrish had a lot of dreams for the future.

"Magtatapos pa lang siya ng high school, sabi niya gusto niyang pumasok sa UST, gusto niya raw kumuha ng tourism, at sasakay raw siya ng eroplano," she fondly recalled. "Iyan ang pangarap niya, maging flight stewardess."

Cyrish devoted her college life to her studies. Years later, her hard work paid off.

"Nung malapit na ang graduation, basta ibinigay niya ang isang papel, inabot niya sa'kin," Milagros said. "Ayoko pa ngang tingnan kasi akala ko bayarin na naman."

But when they unfolded the paper, they discovered that it was an announcement from the school—Cyrish was graduating as the class cum laude.

Model student. 20-year-old Cyrish Magalang graduated class cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas.

After she graduated, it didn't take long before Cyrish landed a job as a Guest Services Assistant at the SMX Convention Center. Her work hours were from 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Her workplace was an easy commute from their house and Milagros felt at ease knowing that her daughter was safe.

But they didn’t know that danger was lurking nearby.

The search for Cyrish

On October 30, 2012, Cyrish was to receive her first paycheck. The young woman was excited and everyone in her family was waiting for her to come home.

"Kasi may pangako siyang magdadala ng donuts, tapos 'yung mga kapatid niya, mga pamangkin niya, nag-aantay dito," Milagros said. "'Yung dalawa nga niyang pamangkin, ayaw mag-toothbrush dahil may dala nga siyang pasalubong."

But hours passed and Cyrish still had not arrived home. Around 9:00 p.m., Milagros began to worry.

"Lagi siyang on time, lagi siyang nagmamadaling umuwi," she said. "'Di siya 'yung sasabihin mong maglilibot-libot pa. Uuwi talaga siya."

Around midnight, Cyrish’s sister decided to go to the SMX Convention Center to look for her. According to the guard's security logbook, Cyrish left the building at exactly 7:23 p.m.

They then looked for her at the jeepney terminals but she was nowhere to be found. They searched the streets until 3:00 a.m., but there was still no sign of Cyrish.

The next day, October 31, 2012, Milagros went back to the SMX Convention Center and coordinated with their management. They helped the Magalang family file a blotter report with the police, and posted photos of Cyrish around the area.

Meanwhile, around 9:00 a.m. of the same day, a crime scene at an abandoned hut in Gawaran Heights, Molino 7, Bacoor, Cavite, was reported to the Cavite PNP.

Upon reaching the site, the authorities found the body of a girl covered with stab wounds. Her face was disfigured.

While processing the crime scene, the authorities found items that could be used as evidence, including the screw driver that was used to stab the victim, the straw rope that was used to tie her hands, and the hollow block used to smash her face. A few feet away, they recovered a plastic bag of puto bumbong, a local Christmas delicacy.

However, the authorities couldn't find anything that would help them identify the victim. They only saw that she was wearing a black skirt and a white polo.

The girl's body was brought to a funeral home.

The Magalangs continued their search for Cyrish until they reached the Pag-Asa, Molino 3, Police Community Precinct. They asked if they had any news on a missing girl. The authorities asked for a picture of Cyrish.

"Sabi sa akin, kailan pa nawawala? Sabi ko, kagabi pa po 'di nauwi. Tapos tinanong ako kung anong kulay ng damit, kung pantalon o palda. Sabi ko palda. Tapos hindi kumibo 'yung pulis. Tapos tinanong kung anong kulay. Itim. Tapos tinanong kung anong kulay ng pang-itaas, puti.”

The authorities then invited them to come with them to the funeral home.

A mother’s nightmare

“Kinabahan na ‘ko. Umiyak na ‘ko,” Milagros says.

When they arrived at the funeral home, the authorities asked the Milagros family if they can identify one of the bodies.

It was confirmed—the body found at the abandoned hut in Gawaran Heights was that of Cyrish.

The crime scene. The Magalang family positively identified the body found at an abandoned hut in Gawaran Heights, Molino 7, Bacoor, Cavite as that of 20-year-old Cyrish Magalang’s.

“Sumigaw ako tapos bigla akong nawalan ng malay kasi siguro sa pagod, gutom,” Milagros said. “Ramdam ko na parang nanigas na lang ako, namanhid ‘yung katawan ko. Hindi ko na siya tiningnan. Sabi ng kapatid ko ‘wag ko na raw tingnan.”

Based on post-mortem examination, Cyrish sustained 49 stab wounds on different parts of her body. It was determined that she died due to loss of blood. There were no signs of rape.

Tracing the killer

Upon identification of the victim, the Bacoor Police began backtracking events and places that Cyrish went to before the murder happened. They went back to the last place Cyrish was seen.

“Tinanong namin sa MOA [personnel] kung anong oras umalis si Cyrish nung araw na ‘yun, umalis siya ng mga 8:00 ng gabi pauwi sa kanila,” P/Supt. Romulo Cardino, Chief-of-Police of the Bacoor, Cavite PNP said. “Inano namin ‘yung oras na ‘yun, siguro mga isang oras, nagtanong-tanong kami kung may nakita silang ganitong babae.”

After asking around, the authorities found that Cyrish was still able to ride a van going to Molino, Cavite. The authorities remembered the plastic of puto bumbong they found at the crime scene. In Molino, they looked for a stall that sold puto bumbong. They found one and, along with it, their first witness.

“Sabi niya, nag-register sa’kin ang mukha ng babaeng ‘yan kasi marami siyang biniling puto bumbong so siya ang natatandaan kong babae na bumaba sa terminal ng tricycle," the witness said.

The authorities looked around the tricycle terminal for someone who might recognize Cyrish. They came across another witness, a tricycle driver whom we shall call “Sonny”.

According to Sonny, Cyrish was about to get on his tricycle when another driver called her and convinced her to take his tricycle instead.

“Parang nagda-dalawang isip pa nga ‘yung biktima kasi may ilaw ang aking tricycle sa loob, samantalang ‘yung unang sinakyan sa akin, wala,” Sonny said.

Aside from Sonny, there was also a married couple who saw Cyrish. According to the couple, they passed by the tricycle that Cyrish took and saw another man hitch a ride behind the driver. It looked as though the tricycle’s plate number had been erased, but the woman remembered its body number which was “015”.

“Nung makuha natin ‘yung body number ng tricycle, na-identify naman natin ang operator nun,” P/Supt. Cardino says. “So kinausap natin ‘yung operator, sinabi niya talaga kung sino ang kanyang driver, at doon niya in-identify ‘yung isang suspek natin na si Roel Gacita.”

They also identified his companion as Rolin Gacita, his brother.

Armed with this information, the Bacoor PNP mounted a joint operation with the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and proceeded to arrest the suspects in their home in Petchayan, Nazareth Compound, Molino Tres.

Confessions of a killer

On November 2, 2012, the authorities apprehended the suspects Roel Gacita Junior, 24 years old, the driver of the tricycle, and his brother Rolin Gacita, 27 years old, the said back-rider on the tricycle. The brother did not resist arrest. And upon arriving at the precinct, the suspects confessed to the murder.

Killers arrested. Suspects Rolin Gacita (left) and Roel Gacita (right) confess to murder of 20-year-old Cyrish Magalang.

“Nawala ako sa sarili ko, naka-take ako ng shabu,” Rolin confessed. “Humihingi po ako ng tawad, wala po ako talaga sa katinuan ko noong mga oras na iyon kaya nagawa ko po ‘yan sa anak ninyo. Patawarin niyo po ako.”

Futhermore, he narrated in detail how he murdered Cyrish.

According to Rolin, after they took Cyrish from the terminal, he got his screwdriver and pointed it at Cyrish.

“Sabi ko, ‘wag siyang maingay,” he recounted. “Nakita ko po ‘yung kubo, pinahinto ko, kinuha ko ‘yung susi, sabay bumaba kami ng tricycle.”

“Nung natalian ko na siya sa kamay, parang natatakot na rin ako, nag-iingay na siya. Natatakot po ako na baka may makakitang iba,” Rolin added. “Nasaksak ko siya ng screwdriver na ipinantutok ko sa kanya. Hindi ko po siya balak gahasain. Nag-iingay na po siya, nasaksak ko siya, hindi ko alam kung saang parte ng katawan at kung ilan.”

The suspect’s apology only fueled Milagros' anger.

“Sa sobrang galit, gusto ko na ring pumatay ng tao sa mga oras na ito lalo na’t nasa harap ko sila ngayon. Walang kabayaran ang ginawa niyo sa anak ko,” she said during her interview with TV Patrol. “Hindi niyo sinasadya?! ‘Wag mong sabihin sa’kin na hindi mo sinasadya! Gusto mo gawin ko ‘yan sa anak mo at sabihin kong ‘di ko sinasadya?”

In light of the evidence gathered and Rolin’s confession, the Gacita brothers were charged with robbery with homicide and attempted rape.

Cyrish Magalang was brought to her final resting place on November 6, 2012. While the suspects are already behind bars, for the Magalang family, it is only the beginning of a long and arduous journey for justice.