US Army veteran gets life for contract killing of Filipina real estate broker

Filipina real estate broker
Joseph Hunter, a former US Army sniper, being arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2013. Picture via YouTube

A US Army veteran nicknamed ‘Rambo’ has been sentenced to life for his role in the contract killing of a Filipina real estate broker.

Joseph Manuel Hunter, aged 53, paid two men $35,000 each to kill Catherine Lee, whose body was then tossed onto a pile of trash, in 2012.


Hunter, a former Army sergeant from Kentucky was sentenced by US District Judge Ronnie Abrams in Manhattan yesterday (Thursday, March 9).

The judge said she had never before seen such a “total and complete lack of respect for human life”.

She also said Hunter had “planned and committed truly horrific crimes” and then spoke of kidnapping, torture and assassination as if “it was a business, plain and simple”.


As we previously reported, prosecutors said Hunter was working as a security chief for weapons and drug trafficker Paul Le Roux when he recruited US veterans Adam Samia, 44, and Carl David Stillwell, 51, to travel to the Philippines for what was called “ninja work”.

The Filipina real estate broker had been accused of cheating the international crime boss in a land deal. 

Samia and Stillwell pretended to be potential clients. While returning from a trip to the countryside outside Manila, Samia pulled out a gun and shot her twice in the face.

The body of the Filipina real estate broker was later discovered dumped on a pile of garbage by the side of the road. 

The pair, both from North Carolina, have already been handed life sentences for their part in the callous assassination.

Hunter, who served in the US Army from 1983 to 2004, declined to speak before the sentence was announced. In the Army, he led air-assault and airborne infantry squads, served as a sniper instructor and trained soldiers in marksmanship.

Prosecutors said that after leaving the military, he tortured, kidnapped and killed numerous victims as a “soldier of fortune”.

But it was the killing of Ms Lee that resulted in his conviction and yesterday’s sentencing.

In a press release, US Attorney Geoffrey S Berman said: “With zero regard for human life, Joseph Hunter callously helped to arrange the murder of a Filipino woman in exchange for money. He and his co-defendants have now been sentenced to life behind bars for their heartless crimes.”

The investigation into the three men was an international effort, bringing together US law enforcement agencies with the Royal Thai Police and the Philippines National Police. 

Hunter was arrested in Thailand in 2013. Then, in 2015, he was sentenced to life for a plan to kill a US Drug Enforcement Administration agent, as well as an informant.

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