Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, the story of Teresita Basa is certainly an intriguing one. Did Basa come back from the dead and enter another person’s body to reveal who killed her? By all appearances, apparently so!
Basa was born in the Philippines in 1929 and lived a very privileged life; she was the sole child of a very successful lawyer and his wife. After graduating from Assumption College in Manila, Basa came to the United States where she received a master’s degree in music from Indiana University and then went on to study inhalation therapy. Eventually, Basa settled down in Chicago, Illinois, where she became a respiratory therapist at Edgewater Hospital. She was known to be a very reserved and polite woman who was exceptionally dedicated to her job where she took pride in providing the best care for her patients. As well as being hardworking in her career, Basa also attended Loyola University where she was preparing a doctor’s thesis on music. She spent what little free time she gave piano lessons and started writing her very own book. She wasn’t a drinker and led a very routine and quiet life.
At around 7:30PM on the 21st of February, 1977, Ruth Loeb, a friend from the hospital, telephoned Basa. The duo chatted for almost half an hour; Basa mentioned she had a male guest coming over but never identified him. Almost an hour later, two neighbours of Basa smelt smoke. They informed the janitor, who alerted the other residents and then phoned the fire department. On that crisp cold evening in February of 1977, the shrill sound sound of a fire engine could be heard speeding towards the apartment block on N. Pine Grove Avenue. As they extinguished a fire in apartment number 15b they were more than horrified to find a nude body hidden under a smouldering mattress. They were even more aghast to discover that the body had a butcher knife embedded in the middle of the chest. The body was soon identified as Teresita Basa. To all appearances, it was a rape-murder, with Basa’s clothing folded beside her nude body. However, a medical examination determined that Basa had not been raped. The body of Basa was flown back to Negros Island in the Philippines for burial.
Detective Joseph Stachula and his partner, Lee R. Epplen were assigned to the case. Over the forthcoming weeks, they interviewed friends and acquaintances of Basa so they could determine what kind of a person she was. In the burnt apartment, they discovered a mysterious note written by Basa which read: “Get tickets for A.S.” They were unfruitful in uncovering who A.S. could have been and eventually, the case rolled to a standstill. However, in August, police in Evanston contacted Detective Stachula and queried him about an Allan Showery, a technician Edgewater Hospital. Evanston police referred Detective Stachula to Dr. Juan Chua and it was here, that this case takes a very peculiar turn.
Dr. Juan Chua was a surgical assistant at Franklin Boulevard Community Hospital and according to him, his wife, Mrs. Remy Chua, was possessed by Teresita Basa. He explained to the stunned officers that his wife had sporadically gone into a comatose state and would speak in the voice of another woman. At one point during these trances, Mrs. Chua blurted out: “I am Teresita Basa.” Afterwards, while speaking in Tagalog, Mrs. Chua claimed that she had been stabbed to death by Allan Showery.1 Dr. Chua said he asked the voice why she had admitted Showery to her home, to which she replied because “he was a friend.” When Mrs. Chua snapped out of the trance around half an hour later, she had no recollection of what she had just said to her husband. Initially, Dr. Chua and Mrs. Chua were apprehensive about contacting police out of fear “we would only appear foolish.”2 However, when the voice of Basa returned several times, they finally decided they would contact police.
Police initially weren’t convinced; Mrs. Chua was a Philippine native herself and had briefly worked at the same hospital as Basa and Showery. While Mrs. Chua had met Basa during an orientation session, the two worked different shifts. However, when Dr. Chua told police that the voice of Casa had claimed that Showery had also stolen jewellery from her apartment; this was something that even the police didn’t know about. According to the voice of Basa, Showery had given some of the jewellery to his common-law-wife. After getting Showery’s address, Detective Stachula and Detective Epplen went to his apartment on the 11th of August. Showery confessed that he knew Basa but denied ever visiting her apartment. Shortly afterwards, he changed his story and claimed he had gone to her apartment to fix her TV but claimed he had left immediately afterwards. While at the apartment, the two detectives noticed that Showery’s common-law-wife, Yanka Kamluk, was wearing a pearl cock tail ring which was eerily similar to the one described as stolen by the voice of Basa. They soon discovered other pieces of jewellery which would be identified as belonging to Basa by her family.
After presented with this evidence, Showery confessed to the murder of Basa. In his confession, he declared that he had gone to Basa’s apartment to rob her so that he could pay his rent. He said that all he got was $30 and a handful of jewellery. During his trial, which was sensationally dubbed the “Voice from the Grave Trial,” Showery would claim that he was “just kidding” when he made the confession. During his trial, prosecutor Thomas Organ roared “Well, Allan Showery, you weren’t kidding when you plunged the knife into Teresita Basa’s chest!”3 During Showery’s trial, his defence lawyer, William Swano, suggested that Mrs. Chua faked the trances because she had been fired from the hospital. “Never to my knowledge has a man been arrested because of a vision.”4 The first trial was declared a mistrial when the jury met a deadlock. A new hearing was the scheduled for February of 1979.
While back at his jail cell, Showery seemingly had a change of heart and decided to plead guilty to the murder of Basa as well as robbery and arson. Many whispers speculated that the spirit of Basa visited Showery in his cell. More likely, however, his defence lawyers suggested he change his plea to receive a more lenient sentence and receive a lenient sentence he certainly did. Showery was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the murder and concurrent terms of 4 to 12 years on the armed robbery and arson charges. Showery was paroled from Stateville Correctional Center in July of 1983, after serving just under five years. “To this day, I’m not quite sure whether I believe how the information was obtained,” said Detective Stachula. “Nonetheless, everything is completely true.”5
Over the forthcoming years, many sleuths have tried to explain these seemingly paranormal trances. Some have suggested that Showery had complained about Mrs. Chua’s work quality thus leading to her being fired from the hospital. In fact, her psychic symptoms allegedly started shortly after her termination. Could she have heard Showery speaking about his involvement in the murder? Whether or not one believes the claims that Mrs. Remy Chua was possessed by the spirit of Teresita Basa, the clues given led to the arrest and conviction of her killer. To this day, the murder and ensuing mystery is arguably one of the most bizarre murder cases in Chicago history.
- The Evening Star, 6 March. 1978 – “Did Voice of Dead Woman Identify Killer?”
- The Boston Globe, 6 March, 1978 – “Did Voice of Dead Name Murderer?”
- Chicago Tribune, 27 January, 1979 – “Voice from Grave Case a Mistrial”
- Chicago Tribune, 6 September, 1978 – “Voice from Grave Accusation Repeated”
- News-Press, 6 March, 1978 – “Grave Accusations”