Phuket, the 20th of July 2010: Regional police, who had allegedly been under pressure to solve the case from Bangkok and National authorities, arrested the man, now known as Mr. Ronald Fanelli , pending an extensive investigation.
Mr. Fanelli, a former US Navy Lieutenant who served aboard the USS Nevada, was arrested, at a rental house in the Phuket district of Kata, in connection with the brutal stabbing murder of Miss Wanphen Pienjai. Miss Pienjai’s body was found stuffed inside a suitcase in the rural Phuket locality of Wichit on the 24th of June 2010. Reportedly the murder had occurred almost a week prior (18th of June) to the discovery of her body by a local resident.
Concerned co-workers at the “Sweetheart Bar,” where Miss Pienjai worked, had witnessed the discovery of a body on local television and subsequently identified it to be that of their friend Miss Pienjai. Information provided by her colleagues and the bars “mamasan” significantly helped police in their investigations with an anonymous person coming forward with their concerns, leading to the arrest of Mr. Fanelli.
Initially Mr. Fanelli had refuted being involved in the murder, however, presented with overwhelming evidence against him, including CCTV footage, recorded phone conversations and the possibility of several positive identifications, he changed his statement, pleading guilty to the crime of first degree murder. Punishment for such a charge usually carries a term of life imprisonment in Thailand.
Allegedly, on the night of the murder Mr. Fanelli had been intoxicated and depressed over the recent split with his Thai wife, who had taken their young children back to her home province of Maha Sarakham in Thailand’s Northeast. He was also reportedly in a “dire financial situation”. Mr. Fanelli has since told police that he “snapped,” killing Miss Pienjai after she had innocently asked him for sex, further stating that it was all a “terrible accident.”
Investigative officers confiscated the 3-inch lock-knife used as the murder weapon, a pair of camouflage shorts worn at the time of the murder, a small bag belonging to Miss Pienjai, the motorbike used in the transportation of the dead body and the mattress on which the murder occurred. Mr. Fanelli will now remain in police custody awaiting the commencement of further judicial proceedings.