On December 23, 2018, a woman's lifeless body was found wrapped in a black garbage bag and sealed with duct tape inside a brown box. On the other hand, authorities immediately uncovered the two male foreigners that had something to do with the young woman's killing.
The victim's name is Tomi Michelle Masters. She is a 23-year-old girl from Indiana, USA. Earlier, she arrived in the Philippines together with her boyfriend Troy Woody and Mir Islam. Both men are said to be American hackers that have business ventures in the Philippines.
Authorities were alerted when John Kenneth Quimba, a Grab car driver, reported that two foreigners booked a ride from Avida Towers in Mandaluyong City to Robinson's Place Mall in Ermita, Manila.
However, the driver felt something was wrong because his two passengers also loaded a sizable brown box at the trunk of his vehicle and requested the driver take both of them to Baseco Compound. This area is beside the Pasig River and has substantial amounts of crimes that happened.
As they arrived at Baseco, both men unloaded the box from the vehicle and swiftly dumped it on the river. After disposing of the box, the passengers then insisted the driver bring them to their original destination at Robinson's Place Manila, where they both got off.
The driver was utterly suspicious about both men's actions, which led him to quickly report his doubts to the Manila Police Department.
The police went straight to Baseco and found the naked body of Tomi Michelle Masters wrapped in a black garbage bag and sealed with duct tape inside a brown box.
In a follow-up operation, policemen arrested Woody and Islam at a nearby condominium unit in Robinson's Place Manila that belonged to Islam. Before locating their whereabouts, the cops coordinated with barangay officials near the Robinsons mall in Ermita, who showed them footage taken by CCTV cameras that helped them track down the suspects.
According to initial reports, the victim was believed to have been strangled to death inside the condominium unit she shared with her boyfriend at Avida Towers in Mandaluyong City either on Saturday night or early Sunday morning. The condo unit was reserved by both Masters and Woody online before they arrived in the Philippines.
As for the testimonies of both suspects, the lead investigator said, "If you ask the boyfriend, he will point to his friend as the killer. But if you ask the other suspect, he would say it was his friend who killed her."
Authorities also conducted a medical examination on the suspects that uncovered scratch marks all over Woody's body, which means the victim could have probably fought hard to stay alive but was overpowered by the two suspects.
Both suspects were charged with murder and are currently on trial.
Amid the on-going trial, Woody and Islam requested to be moved to a particular detention facility for foreigners accused of violating the Philippines law. Since their arrests, both men, who had visibly lost weight, complained of their cells' conditions. However, the judge assigned to their case did not grant the request.
The men's stories had changed significantly from the days after Tomi Michelle Masters' death when each implicated the other in the killing. In a separate interview with BuzzFeed News, Islam claimed that Masters died from asphyxiating on her own vomit and that throwing her body in the river had been a misguided attempt at a burial.
Islam implied that he and Woody had told false stories when they were initially apprehended because they were hungry. He said, "When we were arrested, we weren't given any food or anything, so we were both very delusional."
He also said that his defense was being hindered by the FBI and claimed its agents had threatened to plant drugs on his Filipina fiancée — whom he said he had proposed to after his arrest — if she took the stand in his defense. According to Islam, the FBI was obsessed with him because of his past hacking offenses, for which he served several years in federal prison.
Meanwhile, Woody, the victim's boyfriend, insists that he was truly innocent and that he truly loved his girlfriend. He also said that they got engaged because they were ready to be married.
The two men claimed that the FBI, working with the US embassy in the Philippines, illegally seized their property without authorization, including laptops that Woody said contained a large amount of bitcoin.
So far, there are no updates in the trial.
Do you want to know what happened with the Filipina who feared for her life at the hands of her abusive husband? Check out The Disappearance of China Rose Sims episode of PH Murder Stories.
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