Two American hackers charged with murdering a young American woman in the Philippines in December pleaded not guilty in a regional trial court in Mandaluyong City on Monday.
It was the first pretrial appearance for Mir Islam, 24, and Troy Woody Jr., 22, who are accused of killing Tomi Masters, 23, Woody’s girlfriend. CCTV footage shows both men loading a box containing Masters’ body into a taxi early in the morning of Dec. 23. They later threw the box in a local river.
Longtime members of the hacking collective UG Nazi, Woody and Islam traveled to the Philippines last year to start a business, though the exact nature of its operations are unclear.
Dressed in yellow prison shirts, Woody and Islam requested to be moved to a special detention facility for foreigners who are accused of violating Philippines law. Both men, who had visibly lost weight since their arrests, complained of the conditions in their cells. Judge Rizalina Capco-Umali did not grant the request.
The men’s stories have changed significantly from the days after Masters’ death, when each implicated the other in the killing. Today, in a separate interview with BuzzFeed News, Islam said that Masters died from asphyxiating on her own vomit and that throwing her body in the river had been a misguided attempt at a burial.
Islam implied that he and Woody had told inaccurate stories when they were initially apprehended because they were hungry. “When we were arrested, we weren’t given any food or anything so we were both very delusional,” he said.
Islam said that his defense was being hindered by the FBI and claimed its agents had threatened to plant drugs on his Filipina fiancée — whom he said he had proposed to after his arrest — if she took the stand in his defense. He told BuzzFeed News that the agency was “obsessed” with him because of his past hacking offenses, for which he served several years in federal prison.
The two men claimed that the FBI, working with the US embassy in the Philippines, “illegally” seized their property “without authorization,” including laptops that Woody said contained a large amount of bitcoin.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the FBI for comment.
“I should not be here. I’m truly innocent, and this guy can tell you the whole story,” Woody said, referring to Islam.
Woody also spoke of his undying love for Masters. He said that they were engaged to be married.
A trial is set for March 13.
Ramon Royandoyan contributed reporting to this story from Manila.