Every year, in July, Fátima Pires de França, 60, had the commitment to go out on a march with four other women who shared the same pain. In 2013, however, they decided to end the annual protest. They got tired of waiting for a solution in court for the death of their five children 20 years ago, in Teodoro Sampaio, in the far west of São Paulo.
To this day, in the interior city of São Paulo, it is not known who was the author of the deaths and why. The case was filed by the courts in 2013, with no plaintiff indicted. The weapon used was never found.
The crime took place in 2001. Found face down on a farm next to the local cemetery, the bodies had deep cuts on the head and back of the neck — it is not known whether by machete, ax or sickle.
Carlos Henrique de França, 20, Luciene Medeiros, 23, Lucicleide Lima de Souza, 17, Wilson Alves da Silva, 19 and Jaqueline Santos Zacarias, 20, studied together at the school and lived close to each other in the city, which today has 23,000 population.
In July of this year, the crime expired, that is, the State lost the right to punish the author for his act, as the legal action was not exercised within the legal period stipulated by law.
For the victims’ families, the prescription of the case gives a “mixed of sadness and anger”. “It’s a very small place. It is not possible that this crime cannot be solved”, says Fátima, Carlos’ mother. To her, it sounds like a forfeit. “It was the result of a sequence of errors, such as the delay in searching for those responsible.”
Wilson’s mother Francineide Lacerda says it would be a relief to know who killed her son. “My hope is in God, because I don’t have hope in men. I have it with me that God will show.”
The bodies were found 4 km from the city, by a rural worker. They were spread out within a radius of 1 km.
The five youths had been missing for a week, according to a complaint filed by family members at the local police station.
Delegate Luciano Paiva initiated the investigation and the District Attorney Marcelo Creste was the first member of the State Public Ministry to act in the case.
The police’s initial suspicion was that the group had left, over the weekend, to camp behind the city’s cemetery. The place was known as a drug point. At the time, the police claimed that all the victims were drug users.
The two mothers heard by the report deny that their children consumed narcotics. Fátima and Francineide report that their children were calm and obedient and did not get involved in conflicts.
Among the possible causes of the crime investigated by the police were black magic rituals, involvement with drug trafficking and even the agrarian conflict that kept the municipality in a state of constant tension — the Pontal do Paranapanema region, in the west of São Paulo, was mainly from the 1990s onwards, the scene of clashes between the landless and farmers.
None of these hypotheses have been confirmed. The victims did not have a criminal record, so according to prosecutor Creste, “there was no reason for possible revenge or retaliation”. “The bodies, found in a remote, desolate place, meant that there were no witnesses who would allow us to follow some clues, which made the work difficult.”
Two men from the city were arrested in 2009 on suspicion of participating in the massacre, but were released the following year. A report, which was delivered by the expert who confronted the crime scene with the testimony on which the arrest was based, was essential for the delegate who was handling the case, Marcos Vanderlei Zamae, to back down.
In a statement to the police, one of the suspects denied having killed the youths, but claimed to have witnessed the crime. During the reenactment of the crime, however, he changed the version and told the chief that he had never witnessed the deaths.
Even so, the information given was compared to the expertise carried out at the time of the slaughter. According to the new report, the description made by him did not match the scene found. With this result in hand, the delegate heard the suspect again, who again denied any participation in the murders. So he and the other man who were in prison were released.
The police asked for the case to be closed in 2013. According to the police assistance delegate, Sthéfano Rabecini, this attitude weighs like a defeat for the police.
“The policeman’s feeling is always to resolve. The policeman wants to clarify the case, wants to be accountable to society. But, unfortunately, in this case we understand that there is no more way to proceed, due to the exhaustion of what has been accomplished. We interview family, friends, possible witnesses to the case. We believe that we carry out all possible steps.”