Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fil-Am professor stabbed dead in US-Mexico border home

Former students, friends and relatives are mourning the death of Henry Abalayan Acejo, a Filipino-American language professor who was stabbed to death in his apartment in Tijuana, Mexico a week before Christmas. 

Acejo, 45, a United States’ citizen of Filipino descent, was found sprawled dead on December 18 in the dining area of his apartment in Tijuana’s Rio Zone, which he had been renting for over a year, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on December 29. 

Tijuana is a Mexican city near the Mexican-United States border, about 17 miles (27.35 kilometers), or an hour’s drive away from San Diego, California.

According to the report, a watchman had seen Acejo enter his apartment with two other men on the night he was killed.

A little past 9 p.m., a neighbor called the police after hearing Acejo shout and pound on his window. By the time authorities arrived at around 11 p.m., however, the two men were gone and Acejo’s body, bearing numerous stab wounds lay lifeless in the dining area.

Acejo taught Filipino language and English as a second language at Southwestern College and the San Diego State University, and English as a second language at Mid-City Community College, all in California.

A Facebook page set up by his former students also stated that Acejo was an instructor at the University of California-San Diego under its Filipino Heritage Program. 

The Baja California Attorney General’s Office has yet to determine the motive for the crime and has not released the results of the autopsy on Acejo’s body.

In a statement, the US Consulate in Tijuana said it is saddened by Acejo’s death, and that it is assisting the victim’s family.

“The U.S. Department of State is deeply saddened by the death of U.S. citizen Henry Acejo and (we) extend our condolences to his family. We remain in contact with his family and are providing all appropriate consular assistance," the San Diego Union-Tribune quoted the statement as saying in its report.

"Popular" but “too trusting"

Students and colleagues described Acejo as a “popular" and “well-loved" professor.

Ondine Massot, a close friend and fellow Mid-City teacher, was quoted in a separate report as saying that Acejo was planning to return for Christmas to the Philippines, where his 85-year-old mother and other relatives live. 

Massot added Acejo’s sister was also supposed to send him $1,500 for his airfare, which she suspects might have been the motive for the crime.

She added Acejo was “too kind" and “too trusting," and that he had been robbed in his previous apartment also in Tijuana.

“He worked so hard, going from school to school. He had a great sense of humor, a great love of life, and he loved his work and loved people," said Massot.

“He did everything for everybody. He was an angel on Earth," she added.

Massot said Acejo decided to live in Tijuana, where he rented an apartment for $500, which was cheaper than apartments in San Diego, where he worked.

Students and colleagues likewise expressed shock over news of Acejo’s death as they flooded his Facebook fanpage with praises and stories of working and studying with him.

“I knew Prof. Acejo for one year through his classes. He was a good professor and a great man. Truly, he will be missed," said a former student.

“Henry was one of my dearest friends and colleague at Mid-City Center. I'm going to miss him like crazy. He created powerful and beautiful energy there," said another colleague at Mid-City.

“He was a very popular instructor whose creativity, knowledge, hard work and dedication to his students were deeply striking, and whose upbeat personality, ubiquitous smile, sense of humor and care for others as a person were extraordinary," said Dr. Ghada Osman, head of the department of linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern languages at San Diego State University, in a separate article on Los Angeles Times. 

A wake in Acejo’s honor was held on December 28, where mourners sang karaoke in memory of the professor’s hobby.

His remains will be flown to the Philippines for burial.

Acejo’s own Facebook page states he studied at the University of Sto. Tomas, University of the Philippines-Diliman and Alliant International University in San Diego. — DM/KBK, GMANews.TV

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