Where is John Panaligan? Jigar Patel's killer who fled to Mexico had Philippines ties

Discovery’s ‘In Pursuit With John Walsh: Surfside Homicide’ will delve into the murder of attorney Victor Jigar Patel attorney


                            Where is John Panaligan? Jigar Patel's killer who fled to Mexico had Philippines ties
John Panaligan is wanted in the murder of Northbrook attorney Victor Jigar Patel, who was found strangled to death in his law office (US Marshals Service)
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NORTHBROOK, ILLINOIS: True crime fans who have been poring over details of the Gabby Petito disappearance and homicide need not look too far away to look at crimes that follow a similar theme and narrative. Discovery’s ‘In Pursuit With John Walsh: Surfside Homicide’ will delve into the murder of Victor Jigar Patel. John Panaligan allegedly killed Patel in December 2016 and then disappeared, and has since evaded capture. 

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On December 7, 2016, 36-year-old Patel, an attorney, was discovered dead in his office in Northbrook, Illinois. He had been strangled to death. As per a 2017 news report, John G. Panaligan was wanted on a first-degree murder warrant for the killing. Investigators said that the 36-year-old lawyer represented two of Panaligan’s former business partners at Naperville-based Vital Wellness Home Health. 

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They were embroiled in a years-long legal battle when Patel was found dead about 7.30 pm on December 7, 2016, at his office in the 1300 block of Shermer Road. The victim’s widow, Amy Patel, said in 2017 that she believed her husband had damaging information about Panaligan’s business dealings.

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An autopsy found he was strangled and ruled his death a homicide. A month after the slaying, Northbrook police released surveillance images of a person in a trench coat walking with a cane out of the office. Police said it was Panaligan wearing a disguise. He had allegedly lured Patel to his office by scheduling an appointment using an alias, officials said.

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Two days after the murder, Panaligan was detained at the Canadian border for allegedly smuggling a gun into Canada. Authorities found an undeclared .40-caliber handgun in his car as he attempted to cross the border from North Dakota, the Canada Border Services Agency reported at the time. Panaligan was eventually allowed to return to the US where Northbrook police interviewed him in relation to Patel’s death. Authorities also executed multiple search warrants of his belongings and property.

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Northbrook police released photos in 2017 from security videos on Dec. 7, 2016, depicting a "person of interest" in the Jigar K. Patel murder case. John Panaligan was recently named one of the 15 Most Wanted by the U.S. Marshals. (Northbrook Police Department)

 

Evidence collected during that investigation eventually led authorities to believe Panaligan was the prime suspect in the murder, but before he could be arrested, he fled. Authorities said that they believed he left the United States by truck over the Mexican border near El Paso, Texas, in mid-January 2017. Later, evidence surfaced of money transfers to Durango, Mexico, by Panaligan’s associates.

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An arrest warrant for first-degree murder was issued for Panaligan on February 8, 2017. The US Marshals Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force took over the investigation from the Northbrook Police Department at that point.

Panaligan reportedly owns property in the Philippines and has extended family there, including his brother-in-law, Jose Jecerell C Cerrado, who lives in Tuy, Batangas. Police also revealed in 2017 that Panaligan had made multiple money transfers to foreign bank accounts, including in the Philippines, for years. Panaligan also reportedly held dual citizenship in the US and the Republic of the Philippines.

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John G. Panaligan (Northbrook Police Department)

 

Despite all this information, Panaligan was never caught. Even after he was named to the country’s 15 Most Wanted list. Federal officials have even offered a reward of up to $25,000 for information directly leading to his arrest.

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“This senseless crime took the life of a man who was a husband and a father to two small children,” US Marshals Service Director Donald Washington said in December 2020. “The US Marshals and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners will use every available resource to bring John Panaligan to face justice for the heinous allegations involving the murder of Victor Jigar Patel.”

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