The following correction to this story was posted October 14: An Oct. 14 story should have stated that Ruby Ramores, rather than Philippine police, said police had questioned the mistress of a U.S. sailor in connection with the April shooting death of taxi driver Peter Turiano. Philippine police confirmed only that they were working with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service on the case.
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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — U.S. Navy investigators and Philippines police have reopened a criminal investigation into the murder of a Filipino taxi driver whose death may have been linked to an American sailor’s failed plot to kill his wife and family, authorities confirmed Tuesday.
The new investigation follows revelations about the twisted case of Master Chief Petty Officer John W. Bench published by Stars and Stripes last month in which the newspaper detailed allegations that Bench twice arranged to have his wife killed during visits to the Philippines, with the apparent knowledge and possible assistance of a Filipina mistress.
Bench, 39, who was assigned to the USS Denver, killed his 12-year-old son and assaulted his wife and daughter Aug. 30 at their home on Sasebo Naval Base, Japan. He died a few hours later in a motorcycle crash after fleeing the house.
Ruby Ramores, sister of slain taxi driver Peter Turiano, said Tuesday that Philippines police had questioned Bench’s mistress, Lilibeth Eniceo, in Antipolo City about the killing. Turiano was slain April 6 while driving the Bench family on a tour. An unknown gunman forced his way into the taxi but fled after killing Turiano, authorities said. Eniceo told Stars and Stripes that Bench had hired the hit man to kill his wife during the Easter holiday tour.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrived in Manila last week to work on the case, Ramores said.
Philippines police confirmed the presence of Navy investigators.
“My investigative department is now working hand in hand with NCIS,” said Col. Dioscoro Maata, the city police superintendent.
NCIS officials refused comment about the Bench case on Tuesday. Last week, the commanding officers of the base and the USS Denver also declined comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
Eniceo said Bench discussed his plan to murder his wife during the April tour and he funneled money through her to pay hired killers during a prior murder attempt in February.
Now that Bench is dead, Eniceo appears to be a key link between the sailor and Turiano’s killer.
The case had gone cold since the Easter holiday shooting because the Bench family could not identify the gunman who hijacked the taxi and shot Turiano, the Philippines police told Stripes in an interview in Manila last month.
Eniceo told Stripes she did not know the identity of the killer but said she feared the hit man might try to harm her.
The renewed police work is giving hope to members of Turiano’s family, who have been pressing for a deeper investigation into the case since they became suspicious it was more than just a botched robbery, Ramores said.
At the time of the killing, naval investigators conducted only a cursory review of the alleged robbery and the Bench family flew back to Japan a few days later.
Ramores said she now believes Bench orchestrated the killing.
Since April, she said, she has been doggedly pursuing her own leads in the case and urging investigators forward.
“I told them, ‘Please don’t do this to us again,’ ” said Ramores, who was interviewed by NCIS last week. “You had the mastermind before and you didn’t do anything.”