Harper Collins Publishers. 390 pages.
I still remember when my family and I read the papers (back in Manila) about this massacre. I remember my father, staring at Sef Gonzales’ photograph, said, “I have a feeling he killed his family.” As with all murder cases, the surviving family (or closest family/relation) is the immediate suspect.
True enough, three years after the murder, Sef Gonzales was found guilty of killing his father, (Teddy Gonzales), mother (Loiva Gonzales) and (only) sister (Clodine Gonzales). He was sentenced to serve three terms of life imprisonment. (But just a few days ago, I read on the news he was allowed a case appeal.)
It was truly hard to put down this chilling book. When I first saw it in the bookshop, I stood for hours reading the book. I ended up not getting it because i still had a long list of TBRB (to be read books). My husband got me a copy as a gift for our 1st anniversary of getting civily registered. (how romantic)
Anyhow, I took this book with me for an out of town wedding weekend trip, and even then, I was still glued to the book. And it scared me so much that every small Asian guy I see reminded me of Sef–the killer!
Overall, it’s an extremely well researched book. The author has gone on several trips to the Philippines, particulary in Baguio, where the Gonzales family are from–in an attempt to interview the relatives and to try to figure out the kind of family the Gonzaleses are. Very objective, without the unnecessary drama and build up that most ‘true to life case’ books are full of.
The author has followed this case closely that the book contains actual courtroom dialogues (condensed) and police interviews.
Footnotes were entirely excluded but the author explained that she did this for purpose of uninterrupted reading. And I appreciate the consideration because this is truly an engaging read and the last thing you need are little interruptions.
It’s still very chilling to imagine how a son and brother could do such a calculated murder of his family. And the facade he shows. He still holds his claim that he is not guilty of the murders (though ALL physical evidences lead to him and him alone).
A description of how Sef acted on the funeral of his family:
“This was the same young man who was able to stand in front of the coffins of his family, deliver a eulogy for his father and sing, eyes closed, with no accompaniment, the Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men duet One Sweet Day.
Sorry I never told you/All I wanted to say
Now it’s too late to hold you/’cause you’ve flown away, so far away
Never had I imagined living without your smile …
And I know you’re shining down on me from Heaven/like so many friends we’ve lost along the way.
And I know eventually we’ll be together/One Sweet Day.
A feeling of intense strangeness rippled through the church that day; it seemed to confirm what police knew. It jarred in the minds of friends. “He seemed sad, but so calm at the funeral,” said one. “There were the three caskets in front of him holding the mutilated bodies of his family and he started to sing . . . it was really strange.”
ONCE [his parents] were dead, Sef became sole beneficiary of the will and was able to live the life he wanted, free from their control. Within 72 hours of his parents’ murders, Sef met his father’s accountant to find out how much money they had and whether anyone else had tried to get it. He embarked on a long legal battle to use his parents’ $1.5 million estate to fund his legal defence, but was unsuccessful.
In the ensuing months he put deposits on a Porsche and Lexus SC430, quelling the disquiet of the car dealers’ concerns about such a young man asking to test drive their best cars by saying he was expecting an inheritance from overseas. He also tried to pawn his mother’s jewellery; he did sell her watch. And he moved into an 11th-floor apartment in Chatswood, furnishing it with the yellow lounge from his parents’ house while he advertised their cars, selling them without his grandmother’s permission.
In the 11 months between the killings and charges being laid, he was out clubbing. His main concerns were thoughts of an impending singing career, having been a singer in an a cappella band (Definite Vibez), and was free to indulge his vanity, collecting more than 15 bottles of aftershave.”
It’s so scary to imagine how ordinary and normal he seemed. If my father was still alive, I would definitely give this book to him.
I certainly hope this guy’s appeal won’t be granted. Now that I’m in the same country as he is.
Shites, I should stop reading these kinds of books. But I can’t help it. It’s not even fiction indulgence. Nor is it tabloid.
Sef Gonzales, the murderer. *shudder, shudder*
the Gonzales victims Loiva, Clodine and Teddy