Lucila Lalu from the 1960s was the Philippines' first chop-chop lady; she wouldn't be the last. Elsa Castillo, infamously dubbed as the "chop-chop lady”, was killed in the same manner; only this time, the perpetrator was apprehended and imprisoned. Her death was one of the country's most publicized cases that caught the attention of both local and national press.
Elsa Castillo met her boyfriend, American automotive executive Stephen Mark Whisenhunt, when she was working as an assistant personnel manager at Apex Motor Corp. Both of them were married but were estranged from their respective spouses. Castillo would often visit Whisenhunt's condo unit, often commuting to and from the place with the latter's driver.
Castillo was killed and mutilated by her boyfriend, Whisenhunt, in September 1993, inside a condominium in Greenhills, San Juan City. In trying to hide what he had done, Whisenhunt chopped Castillo's body into pieces using a kitchen knife then stashed the body parts in four garbage bags.
When Demetrio Ravelo, Whisenhunt's driver, came to pick up his boss in September 1993, the latter told the former that Castillo died of "bangungot," a Philippine term for the unexplainable phenomenon wherein victims die in their sleep. The autopsy would later show that Castillo died from three stab wounds before her body was chopped up into pieces.
Ravelo was surprised when Whisenhunt told him not to tell anyone and to help in disposing of Castillo's body parts and belongings and dumped them along a road in Bagac, Bataan.
Ravelo reported the crime to the police who were able to recover Castillo's belongings and body parts—except for her genitalia. Ravelo would, later on, testify that Whisenhunt was the culprit in Castillo's gruesome death.
According to Judge Ricardo Molina, Whisenhunt killed Castillo because the latter decided to reconcile with her estranged husband, Fred. He was convicted in November 2001 for the gruesome murder of Castillo in 1993, and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. On top of this, Whisenhunt was also to pay $163,500 to Castillo's family.
After spending more than 19 years in the National Bilipid Prison, Whisenhunt was deported in February 2013, two months following his release in December 2012. According to Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr., "We have placed him on our blacklist so he could no longer return to the Philippines. His involvement in a gruesome crime makes him a very undesirable alien who should not be allowed to re-enter our country."
Whisenhunt was originally sentenced to reclusion perpetua or 40 years in prison, but due to good conduct, his jail term was commuted; thus, his sentence was reduced by six years. In the Philippines, prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment are eligible for commutation of sentence. Their release from detention is calculated using a formula called "good conduct time allowance."
Under Philippine law, foreigners who have been convicted of crimes shall, after service of sentence, be deported to their country of origin and banned from re-entering the Philippines.
Fred, Castillo's estranged husband, could not contain his emotions when the verdict on Whisenhunt was finalized. "Elsa is probably happy now because it's her birthday today and the decision was favorable. She would have turned 36."
Elsa Castillo's life story had been turned into two movies—one was "The Elsa Castillo Story…Ang Katotohanan" starring Kris Aquino; and the other was "Chop-Chop Lady: The Elsa Castillo Story" starring Lorna Tolentino. Kris Aquino's version was able to showcase what was considered then as the most well-known crime of passion. Directed by Laurice Guillen, the actual crime was respectfully depicted and the film's narrative focused more on the actual story.
Other Chop-Chop Cases
Castillo certainly wasn't the last chop-chop lady in the Philippines.
In Angeles, Pampanga, Lindsey Avelino's chopped-up body parts were found stuffed inside a washing machine and a suitcase. She was killed by her live-in partner, Eduardo Pasion, because of jealousy. Pasion had suspected Avelino to be having an affair with another man. Pasion was killed in a shootout when he resisted arrest.
Avelino's torso was found inside the washing machine while her head, legs, and hands were found inside the suitcase in a nearby vacant house. Avelino had earlier filed physical injury charges against Pasion but later on, bailed him out.
In Makati, a Taiwanese doctor, Kuo Yuan-Chang, also known as Tony Kuo, killed his Filipina wife, Rowena Kuo. He suspected her to be having an affair; thus, killing her. After doing so, he chopped her body into pieces. Rowena's head and torso were wrapped in a blanket and hid it in a stockroom on the third floor of their Makati City home. Tony threw Rowena's other chopped-up body parts in the septic tank.
Their daughter discovered the grisly secret of Tony when she found her mother's head and torso in the stockroom. Tony had initially forbidden the kids from entering the stockroom, but his daughter had her doubts.
It was believed Tony had a first wife, but she has not been seen since 1999. Tony has been charged with parricide for the murder of Rowena.
In Quezon City, Hiede Estrera was killed and chopped up into pieces by her own husband, Orlando Estrera. Her body was discovered by children playing next door. Upon checking, the neighbors saw the arms and legs were cut off, her stomach opened, and her intestines removed. One leg was even stuffed in her stomach.
The suspect was arrested, confessed to the crime, and allegedly said, "That's what should be done to wives." According to him, his wife was asking for a massage from him and was lying on her stomach when he stepped on her and cut her body open using a knife to look for her uterus. The reason? He was looking for a fetus. The wife had been diagnosed with myoma. He was angry due to the fact that they couldn't have a child. He saw his wife as a goat and skinned her face to see who was behind "the mask."
He did not regret what he did and said that he feels free. He, too, also faces parricide charges.
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