Remains to be autopsied

Sources say DPS tracking dog played significant role in finding Taitano’s body

An autopsy will be done on the remains of both Joan L. Taitano and stabbing victim Josephina Pineda, Saipan Tribune learned yesterday.

Sources disclosed that Guam chief medical examiner Dr. Aurelio Espinola will conduct the autopsy on Taitano and Pineda at the Commonwealth Health Center’s morgue this Saturday to establish the causes of their deaths.

Taitano, 37, was found dead by search teams at the bottom of a 200-foot cliff near the radar building in Marpi on Tuesday morning. She had been missing since last Thursday, and her car was found locked by the radar building on Monday.

Pineda, 53, was allegedly fatally stabbed by Alfonso Sebastian Parongan with a kitchen knife outside Parongan’s home along Texas Road, Chalan Kanoa, on Sunday night.

Pineda’s husband, Antonio Barrit, 62, sustained several injuries after Parongan allegedly chased him and stabbed him. Parongan was arrested that same night.

In Taitano’s case, sources said that Department of Public Safety investigators want to know what killed her as the injuries on her body were consistent with theories that she jumped, was pushed, or fell from the cliff.

Taitano’s body had to be hoisted up by the rescuers, as there was no other way to walk up to where her body was found at the bottom of the Marpi cliffline, sources said.

Sources said the DPS K-9 dog played a “very significant role” in finding Taitano as it led the rescuers to the most likely point where search teams could do their search. Although primarily trained to sniff drugs and explosives, the dog is also reportedly trained as a tracker.

Acting DPS spokesman Lt. Jason Tarkong said on Tuesday that after Taitano’s car was found, rescuers brought in the K-9 dog to the radar building area. From the car, the dog “lost” her scent at the top of the cliff, Tarkong said.

A relative reported to police on Sunday that Taitano was last seen Thursday night at her house in Dandan.

Taitano chaired the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Program advisory council and was vice chair of the State Behavioral Health Council. She also served as a board member of the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems Inc. She worked briefly as a reporter for the Saipan Tribune.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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