The case that broke in the news in early July 1998
when over a period of three days, four young female bodies were found at
a forest reserve on the skirts of São Paulo became a free-for-all after
Brazil's leading news magazine, scooped the competition
giving its cover to a close up of the suspect dubbed the "park maniac"
with the quote: "It was I." It is hard to separate what it was sincere
indignation from jealousy from being beaten at the news race. But the
rest of the media were fast in condemning Veja for lack of
scruples in obtaining privileged lawyer client information and then
splashing it over its cover. To obtain the information the magazine
infiltrated a woman reporter who presented herself as a law intern.
Given the opportunity, however, it is probable that anyone of the
accusers would have done the same, some experts pondered.
The police story introduced a new word to the
Brazilian-Portuguese language: 'motoboy.' The word 'boy' is used in
Brazil to designate an office worker, often a young one, in charge of
doing errands and small office tasks like serving coffee. The suspect in
the case, Francisco de Assis Pereira, 31, is a motorcycle courier who
confessed to raping and killing nine women.
He was arrested near the Brazil-Uruguay border, when
a fisherman with whom he was staying denounced him after having seen his
picture on TV. Pereira had left the country for a short stay in
Argentina and passed several police barriers without being identified.
To arrive at the suspect police were helped in their investigation by a
partially burned ID card that was found in a clogged toilet where
Pereira worked. The document was from 18-year-old basketball player,
Selma Ferreira Queiroz, one of the murderer's victims.
The finding on July 4 of two female bodies at Parque
do Estado (State Park)—a 550-hectare forest park on São Paulo's southern
border—was the first hint that there was a serial killer on the loose.
Two days later two other bodies were found on the vicinity of the first
ones. All four bodies were naked, lying face down, with their legs
On July 7 the police had identified one of the bodies,
that of Selma. On July 9, authorities added to the list of victims
another young lady whose body was found in January in the same area and
then another found in May. Before the end of the month the list would
grow to include eight dead girls.
By July 15 several ladies had told authorities about
their experience with the same man. They all had been approached by the
maniac with the story that he was a talent scout looking for models and
that he wanted to take their pictures.
After divulging drawings of the suspect based on the
recollection of witnesses, the police, thanks to an anonymous tip, were
able to get a picture of Pereira on July 17. The discovery of semen in
Selma's body on July 30 made the police believe that they were close to
getting serious evidence against the criminal. It was revealed a little
later though that the semen sample was mishandled and could not be used.
Luck and Lack
The São Paulo police revealed that they have no
laboratory to examine such samples and have to count on the good will of
college labs to do the work. Some police officers used the occasion to
complain that they didn't have enough vehicles to go out on patrol and
that they had sometimes to make a collection among themselves to buy
material for fingerprinting, for example.
On August 4 the suspect was
arrested in Itaqui, state of Rio Grande do Sul, after being denounced by
fisherman João Carlos Villaverde. During a press conference in São Paulo
on August 7 the police indicted Pereira as the murderer of Selma Queiroz.
Pereira denied being a murderer and launched a challenge to his accusers:
"You have to prove it!" The phrase became the headline of Jornal da
Tarde, sister publication of traditional O Estado de São Paulo.
That same night, talking to his lawyers and police
officers, the suspect confessed to having killed nine women. The Veja
cover story was based on transcripts from this candid talk. The self-confessed
murderer then took police to a still-undiscovered body as evidence that
he is saying the truth.
The press didn't omit the most clinical details often
identifying victims and witnesses with full names. Folha de São Paulo,
the leading paper in São Paulo, which had one of the less
sensationalistic approaches, so described a police finding: "The
spermatozoids were found in the rectum channel of Selma Ferreira Queiroz
whose body is among those found at the park. They indicate that she had
maintained anal sexual relations" "What if the girl did not maintain
anything and was simply raped? She is not here anymore to tell her story,"
wrote Folha ombudswoman Renata Lo Prete, on her Sunday column,
criticizing her own paper.
Jekyll and Hyde
Pereira was living in Santo André, the A of the ABCD
region in the Greater São Paulo. The suspect had been investigated at
the beginning of the year after a girl he was going out with disappeared
and he was even jailed after being accused of rape in São José do Rio
Preto—interior of São Paulo—in 1995. He posted bail and was let go at
On explaining why he committed the crimes, Pereira
told judge José Rui Borges: "I was possessed by an evil force." and
added that he had a double-sided personality and that the "bad side"
sometimes took over. Pereira's lawyers decided for a plea of insanity,
hoping for a lighter sentence than 30 years in prison, which is the
maximum sentence allowed under Brazilian law.
The suspect also confessed using shoelaces to
strangle his victims after sexually abusing them. On his initial
approach he was a charming seducer, who praised the prey and talked
about their bright future as models. In the park he became a monster,
strangling and biting their victims, sometimes taking pieces of their
Born and raised in an extremely religious family,
Francisco de Assis, was named after the Italian saint Francis of Assisi.
He explained: "I am a person with a good and a bad personality.
Sometimes I am not able to dominate this dark side. I pray, I pray, but
I cannot resist and then I chase after women. I wished that they would
not go with me into the park, that they would run away."
Francisco de Assis
Through his lawyer Brazilian serial
killer Francisco de Assis Pereira, confessed he is Sao Paolo's feared
Park Maniac. "My client is guilty. My client is sick," lawyer
Maria Elisa Munhol told reporters in comments broadcast by Globo Network
television. This sweet-talking, roller-blader is believed to have
charmed his way to mirdering nine young women and burying them in a
wooded park in Sao Paolo. Pereira, 30, told investigators he was about
to start eating his victims had his six-month killing spree not been
Targeting women between the ages of 18
and 24, he strolled through the city's vast Parque do Estado, passing
himself off as a fashion photographer. Pereira flattered his victims,
telling them they had a bright future in modelling and drew them into
secluded areas of the park for a "photo shoot." There, he is
said to have strangled the women with shoelaces or scarves after
sexually abusing them.
Pereira informally confessed to his
lawyer and two others on the night of August 7, 1998. The next day he
told police he was responsible for the eight bodies found in Sao Paolo's
State Park. He also confessed to have killed Isadora Fraenkel and led
police to her remains, a partly covered skeleton that he had burned with
gasoline three days after the murder. He also tried to locate a tenth
body, of a 15-year old girl, but failed. He testified about each killing
in detail, but said he may have lost the actual count of his victims.
After his arrest the former motorcycle
courier was nearly lynched by a mob of 200 people as police escorted him
to a maximum security prison. Authorities say Pereira will be held in an
isolated cell, saying he would almost certainly be killed if jailed with
other prisoners. Pereira was caught on August 4 in Itaqui, state of Rio
Grande do Sul, near the Argentine border after a frantic 23-day manhunt.
He initially proclaimed his innocence, saying that he was unaware of
that he was wanted by police and was heading to a skating competition,
but later confessed to journalists and took police to the bodies, all of
which were buried in the park. Nine women who escaped the killer's
clutches helped police identify him.
On December 18, 2000, inmates at the
Taubate House of Custody and Psychiatric Treatment tried to kill Pereira
during a prison riot. Four inmates died in the disturbance. Authorities
moved Pereira to another psychiatric facility to spare his life.