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American charged with murdering Thai bar hostess

BANGKOK — An American has been arrested and charged with killing a bar hostess he met on the Thai resort island of Phuket, police said Monday.

Ronald John Fanelli, 37, was taken into custody Sunday on charges of killing 33-year-old Wanpen Satienjai and concealing the crime and cause of murder, police Lt. Col. Wijak Tarom said.

He said Fanelli — who has lived on the southern resort island for three years — confessed to stabbing the woman last month and disposing of her body.

The Phuket Gazette reported on its website that Fanelli served in the U.S. Navy before settling in Thailand about three years ago. It was unclear where in the U.S. he was from and how he made a living.

It quoted Fanelli as saying at a police news conference Monday that he had killed Wanpen, but it was a "terrible accident."


The newspaper cited police Superintendent Wanchai Ekpornpit saying that Fanelli was stressed because his Thai wife had left him and taken away their young child, and that he was drunk when the killing occurred.

Fanelli could face the death penalty if convicted.

Wijak said Fanelli told investigators he took the victim home from a bar on the morning of June 18 and stabbed her to death with a penknife. After that he put her body in a suitcase, and dumped it on the roadside, Wijak said.

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