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The Case of the Dead Brazilian Torturer Gets Murkier

In the course of these searches, according to news reports, federal agents removed three more computers, several unspecified digital devices, appointment books and documents dating from the time of the military regime, to include reports on actual operations that Malhaes’ may have directed or participated in. It should come as no surprise that details on the contents of these records have not been made public, but it has leaked out that one of the three computers seized by the feds was missing its hard drive.

Several days into their inquiry the police began to suspect that the handyman Rogerio Pires was himself an accomplice in the crime when he balked at providing details for composite sketches of the two thieves whose unhooded faces he had undeniably set eyes upon. This was because the two turned out to be his brothers, Anderson and Rodrigo, and Rogerio had indeed known of their plans in advance, although he claims to have opposed the crime, but did nothing to prevent it. By what means Rogerio was persuaded to confess has not been reported.

Assuming there are beans to be spilled here, it seems unlikely that Rogerio and the other two Pires brothers - not yet apprehended but inevitably headed to jail – will spill them. Inside the kind of prison, unspeakably inhumane, where the Pires boys will be jailed, inmate murder is an extracurricular activity. If the three brothers are conspirators they would be wise to accept their meager compensation, and keep their own counsel, hoping upon release to gain a chance to serve again wherever shady employment is offered. Since they are not likely to face charges of murder in the first degree, their sentences, by American standards, will not be long.

The other principal eyewitness to the events under examination, the colonel’s widow, has allegedly shown a much less urgent impulse to practice discretion. Since the day after she learned of her husband’s death, Cristina had avoided speaking with reporters. But it is now being suggested that she was far from silent within her closest circles. Two similar accounts of what Cristina is supposed to have shared with acquaintances or intimates have appeared in print, one citing a neighbor who spoke anonymously, and the other in the voice of her late husband’s godson, identified as Joaquim Sarmento Souza.

In an unsigned article distributed by Agence France Presse, Souza related that during the robbery and/or rubout, Cristina is said to have heard the intruders speaking over a radio, and that it sounded as if they were receiving orders. “You haven’t killed him yet?” she heard a voice ask. “This is taking too long. You have an order to kill him.” Also, according to Souza, Cristina said she heard one of the assailants ask “if my godfather remembered a family he had killed in Duque de Caxias (a contiguous municipality), and that he said no.” This last, whatever its provenance, clearly refers to some extralegal act of extermination in which Malhaes was suspected of playing a role. Unfortunately the AFP dispatch sheds no light on whether Souza came by this astounding account directly from Cristina or heard it second hand, and therefore, however tantalizing and suggestive, it is for now only hearsay.

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