THE years of agony, despair and hope for justice for the family of Venson Evangelista reached a climax after Branch 215 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court sentenced the members of the so-called ‘Dominguez Carnapping Group’ to ‘reclusion perpetua’ (permanent imprisonment, 40 years) without possibility of parole over his killing more than 12 years ago.
In a decision running 106 pages, Honorable Judge Rafael G. Hipolito last March 3, 2023, found the accused, Roger Santos Dominguez, the gang leader and his confederates, Jayson Nacpil Miranda, and Ronaldo Mendoza Talban, guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” of the special complex crime of carnapping with homicide under the provisions of RA 6539 or the ‘Anti-Carnapping Act.’
They were also ordered to pay Venson’s family a total of P350,000 in damages plus interest commencing from the issuance of the decision.
Dominguez and Miranda are detained at the Camp Bagong Diwa in Lower Bicutan while Talban is already serving time at the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa at the time of the decision.
The case against another of their confederate, Joel Celestino Jacinto, was ordered archived after the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Quezon City failed to provide his death certificate on his reported death while in detention last June 15, 2022.
Raymond Dominguez, the brother of Roger and co-leader of the criminal group, was found dead inside his cell at the NBP on February 20, 2021, after suffering a heart attack, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) reported at the time. He was the first to be arrested, on January 22, 2011, at a condominium in Mandaluyong City over Venson’s killing.
At the time, he also has a pending complaint from the Malolos City Regional Trial Court for a previous carnapping incident where he would be convicted in April 2012 and transferred to the NBP to serve his sentence.
The police also charged Raymond of fencing carnapped vehicles after they recovered 8 stolen vehicles in his possession.
Background of the incident
The story of Venson started on January 13, 2011, when Jacinto and Alfred Mendiola, another gang member, showed up at their house in Cubao, Quezon City, to check on the charcoal gray 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser (NAI-316) that Venson’s father, Arsenio ‘Boy’ Evagelista, put up for sale for P3.4 million and he was instructed by his father to attend to the inquiry.
After being persuaded for a test drive together with the suspects, it would be the last time Venson would be seen alive. His charred body, with a bullet hole in the head, would be recovered near an irrigation canal in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija the next day.
Roger Dominguez and Miranda would be apprehended after committing a traffic violation along Timog Avenue, Quezon City on February 10, 2011, while on board a Mitsubishi Outlander. The police identified them for having pending warrants of arrest from the courts in Angeles City, Pampanga and Malolos City, Bulacan.
Their arrest would lead to the recovery of Evangelista’s Land Cruiser at the parking lot of a shopping mall in Kalentong, Mandaluyong City, its car plate already replaced.
The court records showed that convincing the seller of the vehicle for a “road test” was one of the modus of the group in violently taking the vehicle from their victims.
During that fateful day and unbeknownst to Venson, they were being tailed by other members of the group in another vehicle, a green Mitsubishi Pajero, as soon as they left the house with Talban and Miranda on board.
Just a few meters from their house, Jacinto pulled a gun and poked it on Venson who was forced to stop the vehicle and plead for his life.
Talban subsequently boarded the Land Cruiser and helped in tying up the hands of Venson and covering his face with a packaging tape. They then covered him with a blanket before driving off. Mendiola, on the other hand, immediately texted Roger that they have “already taken” Venson and the vehicle.
Notorious criminal group
The court record disclosed that even prior to their going to the Evangelista residence, a decision was already taken to kill anyone from the house who would accompany them during the road test.
Talban told Raymond the killing is necessary as they have been in the Evangelista residence the day before and they would be immediately recognized.
On their first visit, it was Boy Evangelista who disagreed for a test drive as it was already getting dark.
Venson was prompted to agree to the road test after being chided by Mendiola that they would be paying P3.4 million for the vehicle but could not even have it taken for a test drive.
After neutralizing Venson, the gang then took him on a road trip from Quezon City, Bulacan, Pampanga and finally, Nueva Ecija, where he was subsequently killed.
They then put his body inside two old tires, poured gasoline and set it on fire in an effort to hide the crime and the body of evidence.
In the course of the trial, Mendiola decided to turn state witness and his testimony boosted the prosecution’s claim that the Dominguez Carnapping Group was a notorious criminal group engaged not only in carnapping but also the murder of their victims.
Mendiola would also testify that on the evening of January 13, while having dinner at their ‘safehouse’ in Mabalacat, Pampanga, Miranda called Roger, elder brother to Raymond, to confirm that they have already killed and burned the body of Venson.
Mendiola, however, would be brutally killed along with two of his companions and their bodies would be found dumped in Bgy. Salawag, Dasmariñas, Cavite, on May 6, 2012.
Ryan Dominguez, younger sibling of Raymond and Roger, would be arrested at his hideout in Malolos City on May 8, 2012, by the police for the murders with 3 other accomplices, the police reported at the time.
Talban who shot Venson, would also get a separate verdict of relusion perpetua in 2015 handed by the Quezon City RTC. The case involved another incident of carnapping by the group where he shot dead the car’s owner, Marie Teresita Teaño, an employee of the Land Registration Authority on the night of June 15, 2011, just 5 months after the killing of Venson.
Media reports of the incident narrated that not content with shooting Teaño, Talban, with two companions, also ran over her using the victim’s brand-new Hyundai Accent.
Talban would be arrested on August 30, 2012 in Dasmariñas, Cavite in a foiled hijacking attempt where he shot a truck driver. A witness to the killing of Teaño had also positively identified him from the police’s ‘Rogues Gallery.’
Much earlier, Boy Evangelista, who is now the president of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) noted that at the time of the Teaño verdict, Talban was also the suspected gunman in the killing of Rejoice Rivera, a member of the entertainment group, ‘Baywalk Bodies.’
The body of Rivera, Dianne Marie Santos, in real life, was found dumped near the Tabang Exit of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) in the early morning of January 1, 2011, or some two weeks before the killing of Venson.
Aside from these killings, the Dominguez Carnapping Group was charged for the killing of Emerson Lozano, the son of lawyer Oliver Lozano, and his driver, Ernani Sensil, in yet another brutal carjacking incident on January 12, 2011, just a day before they targeted Venson.
Like Venson, the charred remains of Lozano would be discovered on January 14, 2011, in Pampanga while that of Sensil, similarly burned, would be found in Tarlac the next day, the day they abducted Venson.
Lozano was purportedly to meet a buyer for his Kia Carnival when they disappeared and later on found dead.
On January 26, 2012, four other members of the group would be killed in a “shootout” with the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) then under Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina in Meycauyan, Bulacan. Residents informed the HPG of seeing several men replacing the car plates of a gray Isuzu D-Max along the road.
Espina said the group immediately opened fire with the approach of the HPG that resulted to the shootout.
One of the fatalities, Nestor Samonte, was identified previously by Mendiola in his court testimony as the one who burned the body of Lozano.
In that encounter, Talban managed to escape on board a motorcycle until his arrest in Dasmariñas City, seven months later.
After the promulgation on Venson’s case, an emotional Boy Evangelista blurted: “Venson, you brought me here. My promise to you at that time was we would fight until the end; I was willing to take the bullet just to see you get justice. Son, I love you very much.”
Last March 21, Evangelista organized a simple gathering at the Bonifacio Global City to thank all those who stood by his family in their quest for justice for his murdered son.