Monday, July 19, 2010

Murder In Brazil #1

Someone commented recently that this blog is misnamed, that Murder Is Everywhere seems to deal with just about everything except murder. It wasn’t meant as a criticism, but it did give me pause. After all, folks, we’re crime writers. Writing about murder is our stock-in-trade.
So, this week, I’m gonna do it.
Let me start by asking you a question:
How many people do you know, know personally, who’ve been murdered?
Here in Brazil, unfortunately, it’s a pretty safe bet that most people know at least one.
Me? I know three. One was a young woman I’d known since she was a child of eight, another a close friend, and the third was my wife’s maternal uncle.
The sad reality about this place is that the great cities of Brazil have murder statistics that top those of many small countries – and most big cities in any country. When a murder occurs, the competition for media space is fierce. Many of them get no mention at all.
Over the course of a few posts, spaced about a month apart, I’m going to try to give you some feeling for what does get into print – and onto the television news. And with it, hopefully, furnish you with some insight into this country and it’s people.
If a given murder gets more than ten percent of the air time in the country’s most popular nightly newscast (Rede Globo’s Jornal Nacional) and then goes on to capture a front-page headline in my local newspaper (O Estado de São Paulo) I’ll consider it a candidate. If it goes on doing so for a week, I’ll write about it here.
So what makes for a “winner”? What propels a given murder to the top of the headlines?
Well, let’s see.
Brazilians love kids, so the killing of a child is usually a contender.
We had one of those in Rio de Janeiro this week. Not really a homicide, more like an accident. The cops were shooting it out with some bad guys, and an eleven-year-old boy got taken down in his classroom by a stray bullet. It hit him in the heart. He died on the spot. But the media storm over that one blew up and died down rather quickly.
Totally innocent people being murdered by the police is something else that usually attracts a few days’ frenzied indignation. We had one of those a couple of months ago in São Paulo. They took the victim, a motorcycle messenger, back to the precinct house and beat him to death. That crime, too, has pretty much sunk without a trace. Other murders by the police have longer-term repercussions. You might want to check out this one, which made world headlines back in 1993:
And then there was the case of an attractive woman murdered by a major sports star. Even here in Brazil, that sort of thing doesn’t happen all too often. And last week, when it did, the case occupied fully twenty-percent of the Jornal Nacional for five nights in a row.
And takes center stage for this, the first installment of Murder In Brazil.
Here’s a photo of the victim, Elisa Samudio.
And here’s the guy who’s accused of killing her. His name is Bruno Fernandes, and he’s one of the biggest stars in Brazilian football. (Soccer.)
Bruno is the goalie for Flamengo, the Brazilian team that engenders the most fanatic support in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Elisa was one of his mistresses.
She got pregnant.
She even had the baby, although he told her not to.
And, apparently, she wound-up dead.
Apparently, because they haven’t been able to prove it.
According to a young man, a relative of Bruno’s who claimed to be in the know, she was spirited away to Bruno’s country house (above) and strangled.
The story goes that it was done for pay, and it was done by this guy, an ex-cop.
Who then cut her body into pieces and fed it piecemeal to his pack of ferocious Rotweilers.
Apparently there were some bits and pieces the dogs didn’t want, and they were buried in the cement poured to make some additions for his house.
But they can’t find those parts, and DNA tests with the dogs have been inconclusive.
And now the kid who squealed to the cops is changing his story.
And, as a result, it’s even possible that the superstar, now being held in police custody will get off. (Sound familiar, America?)
Bruno’s wife, with whom the baby was found, isn’t talking.
And neither is this woman, Fernanda Gomes Castro, Bruno’s current mistress, purportedly 
being treated for a nervous breakdown.

Leighton - Monday


  1. EEEK!! None of us could make this stuff up. This harkens back to Tim's posting last month on novelists having to be believable. I believe it. Why? At an MWA/NY monthly meeting, we once had a profiler for the NYPD who said that when a young woman is murdered, upwards of 95% of the time the killer is her husband or lover, and more than 80% if those murders happen when she is pregnant or has just given birth. It chills me to the bone marrow to think about it.

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  2. Very interesting concept, Leighton. Picks up from Martin's guest blog too.

    Unfortunately Stan and I can certainly keep up our end with real murders in South Africa. Day to day hijackings and the like hardly make the papers anymore. The media interest still seems to revolve around crimes of passion - preferably involving celebraties. Anything personal where "professional" profit isn't the motive.

    We also have an extreme version of popular press which brings in witchcraft and demons. These seem to get a lot of interest too. The stories are carefully reported with interviews and the like. And sales are booming, which is not the situation for most newspapers. Anything similar in Brazil?


  3. Hi Leighton,

    So Bruno and his wife took the baby and are allowed to keep it? Do you know if the family of the mother is fighting to get their daughter's baby?

    I hate to say it but since my niece filed for divorce murder doesn't sound so terrible. I'm not being sarcastic or do I believe anyone has the right to take a life. When you've had the bad fortune of hooking up with a true sociopath it's hard not to think about murder.


  4. More women are murdered when they are pregnant or have just given birth because the man sees the baby as a threat. Legally, a man is held accountable for the support of the baby; he may ignore his responsibilities but that is likely to lead to a few court appearances and the garnishing of his pay check. Scott Peterson murdered his wife just weeks before the baby was due because he wanted more than a divorce; he wanted to protect himself from 21 years of child support. There was a similar case in Boston about 20 years ago. Charles Stuart devised a plan with his brother to kill his wife after they had attended a child-birth class at a hospital. The brother also shot Stuart; his aim wasn't too good and Stuart was much more seriously injured than he had planned but it made the story more believable. When it fell apart, Stuart jumped off a bridge. The brother is a guest of the state for the rest of his life.

    My daughter interned in a domestic violence unit. Part of her responsibilities was to give support to women who came to court to get restraining orders. One woman, her age,early 20's, came to court to have one issued against her boyfriend. When the judge had signed the order, my daughter walked with her as she left the courthouse. The boyfriend was waiting and in less than 5 minutes he had talked her into having it vacated.

    Abusers find women with low self-esteem who are convinced that they deserve the abuse. Staying in an abusive relationship for the sake of the children leads to generational abuse. Children who have seen their mothers abused by their partners, married or not, are much more likely to be abused or to be the abusers. Neither gender escapes unharmed.

    The murders of the children at Candlaria go beyond the pale. Groups in positions of authority all too frequently see anything but instant acquiescence as a threat to their right to dominate individuals or groups they perceive as inferior. Who is lower on the social scale than a homeless child?

    I had a bit of a discussion with a Jewish friend on much the same topic. He didn't understand why I didn't understand that children who throw stones at Israeli soldiers should not be shot. The soldiers maintained that they had to fight back for fear of injury. In fact, the soldiers responded to a threat against their dominance.

    Domestic violence comes out of the same mind set. How dare she not do as I tell her to do?


  5. Michael,
    No, those kind of articles in the popular press we haven't got.
    Which surprises me, in a way, because we have adopted a great deal from the spiritualist religions of Africa and belief in the power of the spirits (as I've previously written here) is very great. How about highlighting one of those articles in a future post? Sounds interesting.

    When you said your daughter left with that young lady, and that her boyfriend was waiting, I read the next sentence with trepidation.

    The baby was taken out of the hands of Bruno's wife and delivered to Elisa's father. So far, so good. But then the story starts getting even more sordid. It turned out he was being prosecuted for having sex with a (very young) minor. So they took the kid away from him and gave it to Elisa's mother. (The couple is separated.)

  6. On the one hand this post confirms what I think I know about Brazil.

    On the other hand, I live in peaceful Denmark, and I know two persons who have been murdered quite brutally. Well, one of them lived in Africa, but still.

  7. Deeply disturbing story, Leighton!

    After posting a link to this blog to my Facebook page, a couple of my Finnish FB-friends remarked, that your question "How many people do you know, know personally, who’ve been murdered?" would give the same result in Finland than in Brazil - only if you change the end to "who´s committed suicide?"


  8. Dorte,
    Now, that surprises me.
    Somehow, "Denmark" and "Murder" just don't seem to go together.

    I have heard there are high suicide rates in Finland during the long, dark winters - and what you're saying seems to confirm it. I don't suppose you'd be willing to contribute a guest blog on the subject, would you?

  9. Jan,
    Sorry. I mistyped.
    Not blog, post.
    I think a blog might be a little too much.
    But everybody would be interested in a post.

  10. Leighton, I think I only know one murder victim.

    Apparently he was robbed and murdered after leaving a bar in another state. Took weeks for the news to filter up to the man who eventually acted as executor for the estate--there was an ex-wife and kids.

    The executor and I both wondered if the deceased had flashed what looked like a nice big roll of bills. It would have been "just like" him to have put the one big bill on the outside, all the one-dollar bills on the inside to make him look more flush than he really was.

  11. Actually I know someone who was murdered. It was my daughter's ex-boyfriend. Just after they broke up, he hooked up with someone else. While he was in bed with this new one, another old girlfriend came out of the closet and shot him. He was quite well known in the music business, so it was a huge story in L.A.

  12. Bruno the goolkeeper refused to pay the child maintainance which was less than 2.000 pounds per month (his wages was over 1.5 million per year) It is estimated that he will spend over 1.2 million with the lawyer's team . He has not only destoyed the baby's mother life, but the life of all the 8 people involved and his brilliant career... his biggest dream was to play in the 2014... all shattered dreams...