NBI 7 faces probe on American detainee’s death

THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 is now under scrutiny after questions surfaced on the alleged suicide of an American photographer inside the agency’s detention cell last Dec. 5.

NBI 7 Director Patricio Bernales Jr., in a text message to SunStar Cebu, declined to elaborate. “Sorry. Can’t comment. We are under probe. Hope you understand,” Bernales said.

A Reuters report quoted Supt. Royina Garma, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection (CIDG) 7, as saying that the national headquarters ordered a probe behind the death of Jesse Golden “Daddy” Phinney, 42.

Phinney, who hailed from Massachusetts, allegedly tied a belt around his neck at 1 a.m. inside the NBI 7 detention cell’s comfort room. There was no foul play in Phinney’s death, Bernales said in an earlier interview.

But in the Reuters report, United States private pathologist Dr. Elizabeth Laposata, whom Phinney’s family had hired, found deep bruises in Phinney’s body, which indicated that the photographer didn’t commit end his own life.

This was contrary to the findings of NBI 7 medico-legal officer, Dr. Rene Cam, who reported Phinney’s cause of death as asphyxia due to hanging.

The NBI caught Phinney when they served an arrest warrant issued by Judge Jacinto Fajardo Jr. of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 66 in Talisay City. The bureau acted on a letter-request from the office of Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, who chairs the Provincial Women’s Commission. The investigation was about the alleged human trafficking activities of the photographer, reportedly involving Filipino children. NBI 7 agents with representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) conducted a rescue operation in Phinney’s house in Lawaan, Talisay City last December.

They seized high-end camera equipment, a laptop, tablets, cellphones, and hard drives. Also found were children’s toys like teddy bears, dolls, dresses, and children’s bikinis. (JOB)
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