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American Businessman Found Guilty of Murdering Filipino Lover

January 31, 1996 GMT

PASIG CITY, Philippines (AP) _ An American businessman was sentenced to life imprisonment today for murdering his Filipino girlfriend and mutilating her body in one of the most gruesome murders in the Philippines in years.

Stephen Mark Whisenhunt, 42, of San Francisco, sat silently in the packed courtroom as the clerk announced the verdict.

Judge Ricardo Molina, in a 35-page decision, said he found Whisenhunt guilty of killing Elsa Castillo, his personal manager and lover, on Sept. 25, 1993.

The case became a media sensation and was made into two separate movies, one of them starring Kris Aquino, the daughter of former President Corazon Aquino.

Molina agreed with prosecutors that Whisenhunt, former general manager of Apex Motor Corp., killed Castillo because she had decided to reconcile with her estranged husband.

Molina based his judgment on physical evidence and the testimony of Demetrio Ravelo, Whisenhunt’s driver, who reported the crime to police four days after it occurred.

In his testimony, Ravelo said when he came to pick up his boss on Sept. 25 in suburban San Juan, Whisenhunt told him that Castillo died of ``bangungut,″ a Philippine term for an unexplained phenomenon that kills victims in their sleep.

But Ravelo said he was surprised later when Whisenhunt asked him not to tell anyone and to help dispose of the victim’s chopped body parts and belongings.

Ravelo later reported the crime to the police, who recovered all of Castillo’s belongings and body parts, except for her genitalia.

In addition to the life jail term, Judge Molina also ordered Whisenhunt to pay a total of $163,500 to Castillo’s family.

Whisenhunt did not comment as police took him away to prison. Castillo’s estranged husband, Fred, could barely hide his tears.

``Elsa is probably happy now because it’s her birthday today and the decision was favorable,″ he said, adding that his estranged wife would have turned 36.

Days before the murder, he said, his wife called him to say they should reconcile.