(UPDATE) NBI: Failon's wife committed suicide

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2009 11:55 AM | Updated as of May 22 2009 05:29 AM

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Thursday declared that Trinidad Arteche-Etong, wife of ABS-CBN news anchor Ted Failon, committed suicide.

"After perusal of testimonial evidence and conscientious evaluation of the results, recommendations and conclusions of the criminologists, working as a team, as regards to their investigative, technical, scientific, medical, and psychiatric analysis, [the NBI] thereby concludes that Trinidad Arteche-Etong indeed committed suicide," NBI Director Nelson Mantaring said in a press conference at the bureau's headquarters in Manila.

Mantaring said that based on all the evidence collected by police, "no other person was present or was with Trina inside the bathroom the moment the trigger was pulled."

He added that based on psychiatric evidence, Etong had the "capability, motive and means" to commit suicide.

The NBI came out with its final findings a month after Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno asked the bureau to take over the Etong case investigation from the Quezon City police.

Puno's order came after the suspension of several policemen, led by Senior Superintendent Franklin Mabanag, for excessive use of force during the arrest of Etong's siblings and household members.

At the press conference, Mantaring also declared that one of the evidences that boosted the suicide angle was the handwritten "sorry" letter of Etong to Failon.

Etong was found dead inside the news anchor's home in Tierra Pura Subdivision, Quezon City last April 15. She died minutes after the police arrested her siblings at the New Era General Hospital last April 16.

The arrests were made after the police filed complaints of obstruction of justice against Failon, his in-laws and household helpers. Failon's camp have been cleared of the charge.

Experts’ findings

A forensic pathologist who earlier conducted an autopsy on Trinidad Etong, wife of ABS-CBN broadcaster Ted Failon, had concluded that she committed suicide.

Weeks before the NBI came out with the findings, forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun announced in a press conference that Etong most likely committed suicide.

Fortun said Etong was shot at very close range, judging by the soot deposits found in the head wound. She explained that smudging occurs if the gun’s muzzle is very close to the skin.

“Upon careful examination of the entrance wound, there were abundant soot deposits or carbon deposits. This is what's commonly known as smudging. This occurs if the muzzle is very close right or next to the skin. Soot deposits were found way inside the depth of wound. We would classify this as close range of fire,” Fortun said.

“If you have close range fire, this is very much consistent with a suicide and therefore, self inflicted and intentional injury,” she added.

She said Etong died of perforating gunshot wound to the head. She said the bullet's entry point was on the right temple and the exit is on the left frontal bone.

“Based on available information known to me so far, everything would be consistent with suicide. So, as far as manner of death is concerned that is how we would classify it. We would call it a suicide,” Fortun said.

Fortun's assessment backed the opinion of Erwin Erfe, a professor of forensic medicine from the Ateneo de Manila University, who conducted the autopsy with Dr. Jake Ortiz of the police's Crime Laboratory.

Erfe said the autopsy revealed two gunshot wounds on Etong, which are the entry wound on the right temple and the exit wound on her left.

He said further examination of Etong's skull showed the contusion collar on the entry wound is uniformly level. The contusion collar is the wound caused by the bullet trajectory to the human body.

"The contusion collar is very significant because it is the bruise made by the entry of the bullet. This is very significant because her contusion collar was very uniform. What this means is that the gun used was directly perpendicular [to Etong's head.] Pantay na pantay. This shows that it is most likely a suicide," he said in a radio dzMM.

"In my professional opinion, this is most likely a suicide rather than a homicide," he added.