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Showbiz

Nida Blanca's hubby falls to his death in California


After eluding Philippine authorities for more than five years for the murder of actress Nida Blanca, former singer-actor Roger Lawrence "Rod" Strunk fell 20 feet to his death from a hotel balcony in Tracy, California Wednesday (US time). California newspaper Tracy Press reported that police suspect Strunk, 68, committed suicide when he plunged from a balcony at the Tracy Inn onto the parking lot pavement about 20 feet below. “It appears to be a suicide at this point," said Sgt. Steve Beukelman, who said police did not find anyone who saw him jump but found evidence in his room that indicates Strunk took his own life. Strunk is survived by a sister, Sharolyn Grove, who has lived in LaSelva Beach, Santa Cruz County. Another sister, Tammy Sedillo, died three years ago in Stockton. Police responded to the Tracy Inn, 24 W. 11th St., at 11:36 a.m. Wednesday after a woman reported that she found a man bleeding from the head and nose in the parking lot near the breezeway that leads to Central Avenue. The woman told police he was not breathing and did not have a pulse. Police arrived and called the San Joaquin County Coroner shortly afterward. Strunk had a brief singing career in the late 1950s and early 1960s as Rod Lauren, and was an artist and actor who more recently worked as a camera operator for the city of Tracy’s public-access station, Channel 26. Councilwoman Evelyn Tolbert said the city manager informed her and other council members of Strunk’s death Thursday morning, because he had been a city employee and regularly recorded City Council meetings for Channel 26. “I really liked him. I found him to be a pleasant gentleman," she said. “I was always pleased to see him at council meetings." Strunk returned to the US in 2002, shortly after being linked to the murder of wife Nida Blanca. Blanca, Dorothy Jones in real life, was found inside her Nissan Sentra at the Atlanta Centre on Nov. 7, 2001. Her body bore injuries indicating she was brutally stabbed and beaten up. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) charged Strunk as the mastermind for Blanca's murder in July 2002, but Strunk managed to leave for the US as early as five months earlier, saying he wanted to tend to his then ailing mother. Strunk lived in the Philippines for more than 20 years beginning in 1979, when he married Blanca, one of the best-known movie and television actresses in the Philippines, in 1980. But the NBI investigation of Blanca's death portrayed Strunk as a freeloader who ordered Blanca killed after she threatened to disinherit him. Despite the NBI findings and the charges against Strunk, repeated attempts to have Strunk extradited to the Philippines had failed. The Tracy Press report said that while Strunk lived in the family home on Whittier Avenue, he worked for a time as a sales clerk at the Sears store in West Valley Mall. In May 2003, federal agents acting on an extradition request from the Philippine government arrested Strunk at his home and placed him in the Sacramento County Jail pending an extradition hearing. At the hearing, held Oct. 17, 2003, in the federal courthouse in Sacramento, Strunk’s lawyer Jeffrey Kravitz pointed out that the person who fingered Strunk as hiring the killer recanted his testimony a short time later in an open hearing. When Philippine prosecutors failed to provide additional evidence contradicting the recantation, US Magistrate Gregory Hollows denied extradition in November 2003 and ordered Strunk’s release from jail. After his release, Strunk returned to Tracy and held a press conference in Good Shepherd Church at Parker and Eaton avenues, where he had become a member. “The only thing the Philippine government had implicating me was the written confession of this person, Philip Medel, who I had never met," he said, “He recanted it, dramatically, in open court five days later." Strunk, who continued to live in Tracy since his release, said last year he was writing a book about his experiences in the Philippines. In December, he told friends he was going to Redding to be married, but they learned later the marriage did not work out. In his US showbiz stint, Strunk cut several records that had some success, but his recording career never climbed to hoped-for heights. He continued his career by singing in clubs in Southern California and Las Vegas lounges while appearing in several action movies. In 1964, he went to the Philippines for the filming of a movie, and it was there that he met Blanca, then a rising Philippine film star. He shuttled between the Philippines and Southern California before he and Blanca were married. He then became a permanent resident of Manila and an often-photographed companion for his wife, who appeared in films and in TV serials and as a talk-show host. - GMANews.TV
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