By Jun Nucum i Contributing Writer

The husband and daughter of a woman killed in Cainta, Rizal in 2003 are thankful that the murder suspect has been finally deported and now in jail after 16 years of seeking justice for their loved one.

Ganthel Vergara, husband of murder victim Rebeny Grageda Vergara, and their daughter Alexandra or Lexy heaved a big sigh of relief that murder suspect Ezra Dave Maling who hid in California was deported on May 15 and is now behind bars in Cainta City where the leather belt strangulation murder of Rebeny was committed.

Then five-year-old Lexy found her mom Rebeny lifeless when she tried to wake her mom in the morning of March 17, 2003.

Lexy had to see a psychiatrist to recover from the trauma and leave for the United States, away from crime scene where she lived.

It took 16 years before father and daughter saw a glimmer of hope that as Maling proved determined to escape from justice.

Now a chef at a Filipino restaurant in Virginia, Ganthel wants Maling pronounced guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment or death if it is restored.

Ganthel continued monitoring Maling’s movement right after Maling was alleged to have stolen money from a local Hayward California church that worked for Maling’s lawful permanent resident (green card) status and disappeared.

The same church was where he worked as musical director after he escaped from the Philippines and hid in the United States.

Maling, who turned out to a have wife and three children in Fremont, was not heard from until he was reportedly arrested by Yuba City California Sheriff operatives on February 7, 2015 for immigration fraud and was also being considered for deportation.

About the same time, Lexy, now a working student based in Washington DC, received private messages and photos on Facebook messenger supposedly from a Philippine policewoman trying to reach her.

But Lexy was frustrated when she did not hear from the policewoman again.

That was until Ganthel himself texted her to say that Maling would finally be deported by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) and turned over to local police at Manila International Airport (MIA).

Lexy was shocked and did not respond to his dad’s text.

It turned out that Ganthel was also contacted by Cavite Intelligence Group policemen also through Facebook messenger to inform him that Maling is facing deportation and would be turned over to them once Maling landed at MIA.

The Cavite Intelligence Group turned Maling over to the Cainta City Police which has jurisdiction on the case.

“As Maling was being turned over to the police officers, he had the temerity to ask for the arrest warrant against him. He then dismissed it as old. Maling never knew he was going to be turned over to police authorities after deportation to face the murder charges he tried to escape from,” Ganthel related.

Lexy admitted that “It was only when I saw the pictures (of him) in custody that it hit me and I just cried.”

“I am mad, frustrated but I definitely felt much better. I feel happy that at least right now my Mom is resting in peace although justice is (still) on the way yet,” sobbed Lexy .

“I feel like I can talk about it more comfortably just because justice (is near) now that he is in custody. He is (locked up) now and can no longer do this (to anybody) else. He is going to pay for his crime now.”

Lexy shared that she initially considered forgiving Maling but everything changed after she learned from her cousins who were there that Maling asked them where Lexy is and then smirked.

“Suddenly, I was very angry. I felt (there) was no remorse in him and my cousins got mad. Now, I no longer think of forgiving him. He deserves whatever happens to him. I no longer feel any sympathy because it has been 16 years and he never thought about regretting his crime. Why would he smirk at us? It is like rubbing salt on the wounds of the past,” Lexy said.

“Maybe one day we can have complete peace,” Lexy murmured. “He took somebody so dear from me and that is not right. I haven’t really celebrated Mother’s day for the last 16 years. Nakakainggit. It makes me feel bad that I could have taken my mom to places. It is just something that I could not take back.”

When asked how challenging it was growing up without a mom, Lexy confessed not feeling comfortable particularly when being asked where her mom is.

“My close friends knew what happened to us but not a lot of people do. My other friends would ask in casual conversations about what my mom is like or what she does. I always say that she got into an accident and is gone. I never talked about it because it would be too much for me to do that,” confided Lexy.

Ganthel is wary that Maling’s lawyer-brother may be able to help him get out on bail and may even get him acquitted. He nevertheless is confident that the case against Maling is strong.

Maling supposedly emailed Rebeny’s twin sister Redeny right after the crime, apologizing for Rebeny’s death.

Ganthel also wants those who hid Maling from authorities to be charged in court for harboring a criminal.

“I hope that (anybody) who loses somebody in their lives gets the justice they deserve and not have to wait for it for 16 years like we (did),” Lexy said.