Philippine News Today section editor dead in Florida; man arrested, charged; family calls for help

SAN FRANCISCO – A man has been arrested in connection with what the police said was a traffic homicide that resulted to the death of Philippine News Today entertainment editor and California correspondent and full-time web developer Jo Erlinda Maufit Gabot  in Sebastian, Florida last December 30 (December 31, Manila time).

The Indian River County Sheriff’s office in Sebastian identified the man as Drew Leibrock, 52, of 119 Crawford Drive, Sebastian. Leibrock was charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death and tampering with or destroying evidence, according to the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigation showed Leibrock reportedly run over Jo Erlinda with his truck after some discussion and then reportedly dumped her body along US Highway 1 where her lifeless body was found several hours after the incident between 3:00 a.m and 4:00 a.m.

Sheriff Eric Flowers said Jo Erlindadied from what medical examiners described as “massive internal trauma” after being struck by both front and back sets of wheels.

Leibrock was jailed on $100,000 bail following his first court appearance last Thursday.

Jo Erlinda, 47, who started a full-time career as web developer in Florida, was a daughter of Philippine News Today editor in chief and former president of the National Press Club of the Philippines Alfredo G. Gabot. She was a goddaughter of former Manila Mayor and Deputy Speaker Jose Lito Atienza Jr. and Los Angeles-based journalist Val G. Abelgas who expressed shock at the untimely and tragic death of Jo Erlinda and called for justice for the loss.

Jo Erlinda started writing travel and showbiz stories in the weekly Philippines Today in San Francisco. When Philippine News and Philippines Today merged, she continued writing entertainment stories and California stories from the office of Governor Gavin Newsom and the Department of Public Health under the names Jo Erlinda Maufit, Jojie Maufit, Jo Erlinda Yabut and Jo Erlinda Nebres when she migrated to the US three years ago. Her Texas-based sister, Marie-Alsie G. Penaranda, works as a reporter of the Manila-based television station UNTV.

Meanwhile, Jo Erlinda’s son, Ian G. Nebres, has set up a GoFundMe in the US and appealed for financial assistance to cope with unexpected big expenses for funeral services, the homicide case, and bringing her body to the Philippines, among others. Contributions thru GCash in Manila thru her daughter Ysabelle Denis Gabot Nebres (GCash 09269481663) or BDO 000200826565,

The GoFundMe link is:

Reports from Sebastian indicated that the lifeless body of Jo Erlinda was found between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. along US Highway 1 in Sebastian, Florida after receiving calls from passersby who notified authorities about the body lying along the highway. Rescuers immediately responded but found she was already dead when they arrived at the scene.

The Indian River County Sheriff’s office earlier declined to identify the woman but her father told local media like TCPalm that Jo Erlinda Maufit Gabot, 47, was living in Sebastian and working as a web developer.

Alfred Gabot, of the Philippines, said his daughter also was a part-time section editor of Philippine News Today, based in San Francisco, California.

“Her death was senseless because she was always friendly, helpful, cheerful to all and she was loving to her four children, one with the U.S. Navy, and three in Manila who she has been supporting for their education, among others,” Alfred Gabot said in a written statement to TCPalm.

Mr. Gabot, who is a retired senior editor of the Manila Bulletin, a major daily in Manila, Philippines, has reached out to the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. and the honorary consul in Florida for assistance. He also sought the help from Sebastian media and the Sebastian community, especially those who know her daughter, for assistance. (Claire Morales True)