Tales of the Naked City

Las Vegas murder victims (L-R): Daisy Dahan (Source: Elizabeth Fisher's facebook page) and Elinor Indico (Source: Las Vegas Police Department)

LAS VEGAS–Beneath the silky haze of this glittering city, where dancing lights invite visitors and locals to try their luck in the gaming tables and slot machines, is the reality that life can be tough, really tough.

This toughness often explodes in violence.

At least 30,000 Filipino-Americans (some say the number is actually as many as 100,000) make their living here, a burgeoning community that is now heavily courted by politicians and business owners. 

Most Filipinos work in the casinos as card dealers, slots machine techs, cashiers, cocktail waitresses and in the healthcare industry as doctors, nurses and caregivers. Each is trying to carve his or her own American Dream, but is still truly rooted in Philippine traditions, including what can be the worst in Filipino culture.

Close family ties help Filipinos cope and survive in a foreign land, but they also trigger animosity and bad blood even among the nearest of relatives.

Last October, a 31-year-old Filipina given shelter by her brother at his apartment stabbed to death her sister-in-law, also killing the nine-month-old baby in her womb.

The good and the bad can all figure in the pursuit of dreams in a city where fun seems to have no end.

In January, a 40-year-old former chef used three knives to cut up to death his 28-year-old wife, a nurse, in their apartment.

"These are horrific crimes," said Rozita Lee, a longtime Las Vegas resident and well known Filipino-American community leader. "You can only cringe in disbelief."

If convicted Elinor Indico, who stabbed to death her sister-in-law, and Richard Magdayo Dahan, the chef who killed his wife, could get the death penalty.

The case of Dahan is particularly appalling. He and his wife Daisy met in Bohol and married in 2011, after living together for a while. They moved to the United States shortly after getting married.

Trouble started right away in the marriage because Dahan, then employed as a chef at Mandalay Bay, maintained his relationship with an ex-girlfriend and his two kids with her.

Friends of Dahan said she began asking for divorce, which Richard said was unacceptable. The abuse, mostly verbal, began.

Richard Dahan, who surrendered to police right after the killing, provided gruesome details of the crime.

In a police report released the week after his arrest, Richard said he got angry when Daisy again asked him for a divorce.

He said he took a large knife out of their dishwasher then walked up behind Daisy and stabbed her in the base of her neck.

Daisy began fighting with him, but he forced her to the floor. He then began trying to saw at her neck with a serrated knife, but the knife became entangled in her hair.

Dahan next used a meat cleaver. He struck her several times on her head. After that, he stabbed her in her abdomen and placed the knife in her mouth, cutting outward from the corner.

Richard Magdayo Dahan
(Source: Las Vegas Police Department)

He then showered, dressed up, and drove to a police station, where he said, ” I think I have killed my wife.”

His first appearance on January 17 was postponed; he indicated he wanted his own lawyer and requested a Tagalog interpreter. Prosecutors indicated they would seek the death penalty for Dahan if he is convicted of murder with a deadly weapon.

Dahan's next court appearance is on February 3.

Elinor Indico's case is as horrific and just as sad.

Indico, who has a history of drug abuse, was asked to move out from the house where she was temporarily staying with her brother's family.

According to the charge sheet, Elinor stabbled Ashley Indico after the two had a fight in the North Las Vegas apartment that they were sharing.

Ashley sustained stab wounds in her neck, the back of her arm and her ankle, police said. Elinor, who was found bleeding from minor wounds, claimed she acted in self-defense when her sister-in-law attacked her.

At the time of the incident, two of Ashley’s children, a five-year-old-son and a three-year-old daughter, were home. It was the boy who called neighbors, telling them his “mom was bleeding,” police said.

The presence of the children in the house during the killing forced prosecutors to add the charge of child abuse, neglect and endangerment to murder and manslaughter. It also prompted Judge Linda Bell to hold Elinor without bail. Elinor is represented by her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Norman Reed.

While the community seems to be soiled by sin in Sin City, a splash of virtue cleared the stain on the reputation of Filipinos.

A taxi driver from Mabalacat, Pampanga and Silay City instantly became a hero and the toast of Las Vegas.

On Christmas Day, Gerardo Gamboa found $300,000 in cold hard cash left behind by a passenger in his taxicab.

The 54-year-old Gamboa, a 13-year veteran of Vegas’ streets, said he did not think even briefly of keeping the money, and instead turned the money over to his supervisor at Yellow Checker Star.

Memorial to Daisy Dahan (Source: Elizabeth Fisher's facebook page)

With police help, they were able to trace the owner and return the money. The professional poker player is quite popular in the Strip but asked to remain anonymous.

He rewarded Gamboa $10,000. Gamboa’s taxi company gave him another $1,000 and a steak dinner for him and his wife.

Praise came from Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval wrote letters of commendation, hailing Gamboa as an example of honesty and good citizenship that must be emulated by Nevadans.

“I’m happy that we can show to the world the Filipino is a good person and cannot be easily dazzled by money,” Gamboa said.

So, the good and the bad can all figure in the pursuit of dreams in a city where fun seems to have no end.

But when the curtains close, the dancing and singing stop, and reality sets in, even the strongest immigrant seeking a better life must rely on his or her sturdy roots to keep from going over the edge.


A journalist for more than 25 years, Bert B. Eljera has extensively covered the Asian Pacific American community in California, Florida and Nevada. His expertise in ethnic culture, political empowerment and issues that impact minority communities provides depth and nuance to his writings. He has written for top newspapers in the Philippines and the United States, including the Los Angeles Times, Florida Times-Union, Vero Beach Press-Journal, Stockton Record, Asian Week, and The Manila Bulletin. He resides in Las Vegas, Nevada.