Baguio City is known for being the summer capital of the Philippines when thousands of visitors from the lowlands and Manila take their annual journey to the city to cool off.
However, little did we know that one of the most gruesome crimes that happened in the country's special summer getaway would happen on August 15, 2018.
The body of 22-year-old Lindsay Valdez, a pawnshop cashier at 202 Cellfone Pawnshop, was found dead inside a vault room covered with her blood. Authorities also discovered that the victim's neck was slashed, her face, arms, and legs were bound with packaging tape.
The victim was a good and hardworking woman that wanted to help her family in any way she could, as stated by her father in an interview with the ABS-CBN crime show, Scenes of the Crime Operatives (SOCO).
At around 1:45 pm on August 15, 2018, the Baguio City police received a report that a pawnshop was burglarized, as stated by the people who noticed that the view of the inside of the pawnshop from outside was ransacked, signifying that a robbery must have taken place.
The authorities quickly went inside and discovered Lindsay's lifeless body inside a vault. They also concluded that robbery was indeed the motive of the killing as a significant amount of valuables was reported stolen at the crime scene.
As reviewed by the investigators from the CCTV footage they obtained at the premises outside the crime scene, a man was seen awkwardly walking outside the pawnshop where Lindsay was working at 8:50 am.
When the suspect realized that the coast was clear, he quickly went inside the pawnshop and seemingly caught the victim off guard.
Initially, the authorities intended to review the available footage, particularly the suspect's movements, when he got inside the pawnshop and went out of the crime scene.
While the police officers were analyzing the footages, they came across another man knocking at the pawnshop's glass window, but a few minutes later, he left the premises. This man would eventually be the key witness to Lindsay Valdez's case.
Three minutes later, the suspect was seen quickly leaving the premises.
In a written affidavit provided by the witness, he stated that he was knocking on the pawnshop's glass window using a coin, hoping for the cashier to come out because the witness was planning to retrieve the MacBook Pro that he pawned a few days ago.
However, he did not see the cashier. Instead, he saw a man that possibly has a height of 5'6, a medium build, and was wearing a white t-shirt and denim jeans, which was the suspect. The peculiar man told the witness to come back an hour later because the cashier was out. Though he also offered the witness to come inside the pawnshop and wait for the cashier to come back.
Fortunately, the witness felt scared and told the suspect that he would just go back later to retrieve his laptop. Who knows what would have happened to him if he went inside the pawnshop?
Moreover, the witness also told the authorities that he went back six times to the pawnshop, and no one was there to receive him. On the other hand, the investigators confirmed that the witness's statement was valid.
The investigators looked from all CCTV footages near the crime scene and saw a much clearer photo of the victim taken from the footages found in a nearby footbridge and was quickly posted to the Baguio City police's Facebook page in hopes that it could obtain information from the netizens regarding the whereabouts of the suspect.
Subsequently, a government official from DSWD - Baguio came forward on the same day of the tragic incident and told the police that there was a man named Rodrigo Arandela with the same clothes and description minus the bonnet and face mask that asked for medical assistance for his live-in partner.
It meant that the police finally caught a break because the suspect left personal details such as his identification details that the authorities could look into to find his whereabouts.
Also, they matched the government official's description of the suspect with the first witness's account, which matched together with the footage of the man seen in the footbridge and six other clear photos of Rodrigo Arandela.
The Baguio City police filed charges of Robbery with Homicide against the suspect and finally caught him on October 16, 2018. Rodrigo Arandela denied that he had something to do with the crimes that took place, but clearly, the CCTV footage and eyewitnesses prove otherwise.
As of now, the suspect is behind bars at the Baguio City Jail, awaiting trial.
"Kung [talagang siya] ‘yung gumawa po, hindi ko mapapatawad po ‘yun. Ayoko. ‘Di po mangyayari ‘yung patawad lang po. Dapat na lang talagang pagdusahan niya talaga kahit do’n na po sa bilangguan po… Hindi na po palalabasin po kung siya po ang gumawa."
Despite the tragic fate that Lindsay suffered under the hands of a heartless criminal, the efforts of the authorities in Baguio City is commendable for promptly resolving Lindsay's case by the book. Let us hope that other police districts in the country could also emulate what the authorities in Lindsay's case have done.
For a more visual understanding of this case, we recommend you to watch SOCO's episode narrating Lindsay Valdez's case from ABS-CBN's YouTube channel.
READ: A young Filipina mother was found dead inside a freezer in Texas, USA article of PH Murder Stories.
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