BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) – Two men have been sentenced to a total of 92 years in prison for the kidnapping and ritual killing of young boys, in a remote Amazon town, court officials said on Saturday.
Amailton Madeira Gomes, son of a local businessman, was given 57 years, and security guard Carlos Alberto Santos received 35 years for attacking five boys, three of whom died and two of whom escaped after being mutilated.
The trial, more than 13 years after the first killings, was seen as a test of Brazil’s ability to bring justice to isolated areas where the legal system may be under the sway of powerful locals. “It’s a beginning,” said Clodomir Araujo, one of the prosecuting lawyers, adding that three other defendants will be tried on Tuesday.
They include Valentina de Andrade, whom the prosecution says is the leader of a sect known as the Superior Universal Alignment, accused of carrying out the killings.
The prosecution says Andrade’s sect was founded on the belief that she was contacted by a medium who told her boys born after 1981 were possessed by the devil.
“We are convinced we have enough evidence to condemn all of them,” Araujo told Reuters.
The defense said it would appeal the sentences but the judge ruled that Gomes and Santos will remain in custody during the appeal due to the brutal nature of the case.
The two surviving boys, who escaped from the gang after being doped and mutilated, identified Santos in the court as the man who dragged them away when they were just nine and 10 years old.
“I was a child and I was scared, he followed me,” Otoniel Costa told the court when he took the witness stand in the trial that started on Wednesday. “Today I am an adult and there is no doubt in my mind that he is the one that dragged me into the forest.”
A group established by the families’ victims say a total 19 poor young boys aged 8 to 13 were tortured or killed between 1989 and 1993 in the Amazon town of Altamira. Some had their eyes gouged out, wrists slit and sexual organs cut off.
Police dropped many of the cases because of a lack of evidence or incompetence, leading to years of delays in bringing the case to trial, according to the prosecution.
There were threats against witnesses who took the stand in the trial, which prompted the prosecution to ask for the trial to be moved to Para state capital Belem from remote Altamira.