POSTED: 01:49 p.m. HST, May 09, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 03:53 p.m. HST, May 09, 2013
ALBANY, N.Y. » More than 20 months after the bodies of a retired Northern Ireland police officer and his girlfriend were found in a Philippines bedroom littered with bullet casings, authorities seeking the extradition of a former U.S. Marine say they have linked him to guns used in the killings and recovered blood-splattered jeans he tried to have burned.
Timothy Kaufman, 35, was arrested last month near his grandfather's upstate New York home. He faces extradition proceedings in a federal court in Albany to answer to murder charges in the Philippines. A date for the extradition proceedings has not yet been set.
Philippine authorities seeking his return allege a premeditated killing in an area known for its sometimes-seamy club scene — a picture at odds with the dedicated former military intelligence specialist described by his grandfather.
"He's a very fine person. He's a former United States Marine. He fought for his country," said his grandfather, Sidney Kaufman.
David Balmer, 54, and 26-year-old Elma de Guia were found dead on Sept. 2, 2011, in a bedroom in the Angeles City home of Richard Agnew, a club owner and friend of Balmer's dating to when they joined Northern Ireland's Royal Ulster Constabulary in the late 1970s. Eighteen spent 9 mm shells were recovered from the scene.
"David was a retired police officer and a very quiet man, not the sort of person to have a problem with anyone," Agnew said in an email to The Associated Press.
Within three months of the killing, Kaufman and two other men were charged with two counts of murder.
Kaufman was identified by watchmen and by surveillance footage as one of three men in a vehicle that entered the residential subdivision the night of the killings. Also charged are Joseph Tramontano, an American, and Jesus Santos Jr., a Filipino, who police say was the driver.
Santos was arrested in March. Tramontano, a former professional wrestler who managed a bar operated by Agnew, is believed to be at large in Asia, said Nolly Bautista, an agent with the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation.
Court papers filed in Kaufman's extradition case allege that after the killings, he asked his maid to burn the contents of a garbage bag that contained shoes and clothes worn by Kaufman and Tramontano. In a separate incident, Kaufman asked the maid, "Can you bury something for me?" and handed her two guns wrapped in a bath towel, the papers say.
The maid turned the guns over to the police, who determined they were used in the killings. Bautista said the recovered jeans had tiny blood splatters.
Police were investigating a motive, though Bautista said recently they were "looking at the drug angle." He said the two American suspects had been using cocaine and crystal methamphetamine.
According to statements Santos made to police, Kaufman told him before the killings that the house belonged to someone who owed money to two of his friends, one of them named Joe. Santos also recounted how Tramontano described how Balmer begged for his life and he responded, "No, this is for my money, and this is for my girl.'"
Agnew told investigators that when he returned home from his bar, he found the door to his house had been forced open. Agnew did not think much of it because it had happened before when Balmer lost his keys. He said when he woke up the next day, he noticed that Balmer and his girlfriend were still in their bedroom. He knocked, opened the door and saw the two lying in bed. When he came closer, he saw they had been shot.
The agent said the two may have been awake when they were shot because Balmer had a bullet wound on one of his hands, indicating he tried to shield himself. He said the killers then arranged the bodies and the bed sheets to make them look like the victims had been asleep.
"I was devastated, as was David's family in Ireland," Agnew told the AP. "Perhaps now with these arrests, there shall be a justice for what happened."
Kaufman left the Philippines a month after the killings, according to authorities. He was arrested in April at a Saratoga Springs-area business, nearby where he had been staying with his grandfather.
Sidney Kaufman said his grandson was being framed.
"I can tell you this, he's not guilty," he said.
Federal prosecutors had intended to argue in court today for Kaufman's continued detention as the extradition process plays out, but Kaufman's lawyer waived the scheduled hearing. Attorney Mark Sacco told the court in a letter that he could request a detention hearing later, if need be, as his investigation continues.
Kaufman, who grew up in Tennessee, worked security and intelligence for contractors as a civilian in Iraq after he left the military, according to his grandfather. A bulletin posted on the Web by Philippine authorities included an ID card that indicated that in 2011 Kaufman worked as an inventory controller at a manufacturer for mobile phone cases in the Philippines.
Associated Press writer Oliver Teves in Manila contributed to this report.