Grief of a mother

Campbell’s mom recalls her in testimony

LAGAWE, Ifugao–Linda Campbell occasionally smiled, then tried to hold back the tears as she described her daughter Julia and how she had given up a promising career in journalism in the United States to come to the Philippines as a peace corps volunteer.

Campbell of Fairfax, Virginia, was the first witness presented by the prosecution at the start of the trial Tuesday of a young woodcarver accused of bludgeoning her 40-year-old daughter to death on April 8 as she hiked down a ridge to view the famed Banaue rice terraces. Her body was found on April 18 in a shallow hillside grave near Batad.

The suspect, 25-year-old Juan Donald Duntugan, listened intently but showed no emotion.

Julia’s elder sister, Geary Campbell-Morris, 42, took a seat in the front row and sobbed as her mother detailed in her 45-minute testimony how she and her family were devastated by the loss of Julia.

“It was like someone had ripped my heart,” said Linda, describing how she felt the day she got the news.

If not for her death, Linda said Julia would have taken up a scholarship at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.

Aside from her Geary, Linda was accompanied to court by Carl Beck, director of the Peace Corps in the Philippines, and US Embassy officials.

Judge Esther Piscoso-Flor of the regional trial court here earlier heard Duntugan’s plea of “not guilty” to the murder charge after the prosecution declined his offer, presented by defense lawyer Pedro Mayam-o, to plead guilty to the lesser offense of homicide.

Duntugan surrendered 10 days after Julia’s body was found near his upland home and reportedly told police he had killed her in a fit of rage after he thought she was a bully in his village.

Linda said she learned on April 11 that her daughter had been missing since April 8. Then, shortly before midnight on April 18, Geary received a phone call from Jon Sanders of the US Peace Corps in Washington D.C. relaying the news of Julia’s death.

Her husband, William Jr., was stunned, Linda said.

“Then, (the entire family) gathered upstairs. We cried, we hugged and prayed,” she said. “My whole being was affected. I could not sleep, I could not concentrate [on what I was doing].”

Lawyer Reynaldo Agranzamendez, lead counsel for the prosecution, said he called on Linda to testify to show the gravity of the family’s loss and how they suffered as a result of Julia’s death should the court require Duntugan to indemnify them.

Linda said she takes heart in remembering how her daughter was loved by the people she served in Albay. The children called her “Ate Julia” or “Mommy Julia,” she said.

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