Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on email

Killer Petey

This week, one of the world’s most prolific serial killers, Pedro Rodrigues Filho, known as Pedrinho Matador, or “Killer Petey”, was murdered in Brazil. Despite over a hundred kills, he had been released from prison due to Brazilian laws not allowing anyone to spend over 30 years incarcerated (and even so, he spent more than that in prison).

A few years ago, I wrote a Casefile episode about Filho. I bought his autobiography, watched every interview, hired a Portuguese translater, and even had a brief Facebook Messenger conversation with the man himself.

Here is Killer Petey’s story in its entirety, excerpted from my book, Psycho.com: serial killers on the internet.

PSYCHO.COM PART II: KILLER PETEY

A YOUTUBE SENSATION

The Youtube video shows a pleasant-looking man who looks to be in his late 50s or early 60s. He’s laughing and chatting to the unseen cameraman in Portuguese as he signs copies of his newly-released auto- biography. His job today is to sign 500 copies for his most ardent fans. His Youtube channel has been exploding in popularity and he has over 8 million views and 125,000 subscribers.

Since its humble beginnings 14 years ago, Youtube has become an unstoppable phenomenon. It’s the second-most- popular website in the world, with visitors watching over a billion hours of video every day. The website’s extraordinary reach has been responsible for creating celebrities out of nobodies, launching the careers of people who could never hope for access to traditional broadcast media, and cata- pulting people into superstardom overnight. Sometimes this is for conventional talents, such as singing, speaking or acting. Some people prove themselves as adept tutors of anything from guitar to home renovations to makeup to knitting, building solid fan bases for their tutorials. Some of the most-watched Youtube channels are simply people playing video games. Then there are the fads: everything from people carrying out ridiculous, and often dangerous, challenges to the simplicity of children unwrapping their new toys, a trend known as “unboxing”.

The popularity of such videos on Youtube has created some very unlikely superstars. Who would ever have imag- ined that there would be people becoming millionaires simply by livestreaming themselves playing video games or unwrapping toys? But whilst gamers, unboxers and knitting tutors might seem to be improbable internet stars, they pale in comparison to the first celebrity serial killer.

Serial killers are psychopaths, the ultimate boogeymen. They are often shrouded in mystery and we hear of cruel tortures and victim ordeals that nightmares are made of, ritualistic murders and possibly necrophilia and canni- balism thrown in for good measure.

Serial killers are evil and kill without empathy and remorse. Anyone, no matter how innocent or blameless, could find themselves at the mercy of such a sadistic monster if they fit the murderer’s criteria, and the chances of escape are slim. Serial killers are, without a doubt, Very Bad People.

How is it, then, that a serial killer with over 70 murders to his name, could be legally walking around free? How is it that during his years in prison he could keep on killing, all the while receiving letters of support, love, marriage proposals and special requests for specific murders from people who never met him? How is it that since his release, that same serial killer has become a folk hero, has started his own Youtube channel that has an ever-growing fan base, as networks scramble to work with him to make films and documentaries about his life? How can there be, in this day and age, such a creature as the Superstar Serial Killer?

This is the tale of one such unlikely morbid celebrity. This is the story of Killer Petey.

DISCLAIMER

Killer Petey has been interviewed many times over the years. His official body count is 71, but he claims it is much higher, well over 100. He says there are many murders he was never charged with — mostly gang members in the favelas of Brazil in the late 60s and early 70s.

In interviews, specifics change often and he sometimes seems to confuse his stories from one recount to another. He is prone to exaggeration, as many serial killers are, and boasts of incidents and murders that may or may not have happened. Stories of occurrences that have been independently verified sometimes change in the details.

Recently he released his autobiography, Pedrinho Matador. Right from the start, he seems to be mixing fact and fiction, claiming to be born at the stroke of midnight on October 30, when his date of birth is listed elsewhere as being in either June or July. It seems likely that Killer Petey is trying to create a legend whereby the boogeyman was born at the very beginning of Halloween. His number of siblings sometimes changes between interviews too, as does the tale of his first murder.

All I can do is relay the story as truthfully as possible, using stories told by Killer Petey himself in interviews and his book, along with reports from news sources about incidents at the time they happened. I hired a Portuguese translator and where I have quoted directly from his book, I have been as accurate I can, but some errors or misunderstandings may have slipped through.

A GRIM CHILDHOOD

In 1954, Pedro Rodriguez Filho came into the world with a misshapen skull. The deformity to the little boy came from a kick aimed deliberately and directly at the pregnant belly of Manuela Filho by Pedro Senior in one of the many violent altercations between the two. Pedrinho, as he came to be called, was lucky to be born at all, such was the violence inflicted by his father upon his mother throughout their marriage, including when she was pregnant with Pedrinho and, no doubt, with many of the seven brothers and sisters who came after him.

Pedrinho grew up on a farm located in the Brazilian municipality of Santa Rita de Sapucai, south of the state of Minas Gerais. The family was poor, though perhaps not at the extreme level of poverty that could often be experienced in rural Brazil in the 50s and 60s. Food was neither scarce nor plentiful. The children didn’t have to fight for scraps at every meal, but they had only enough to ensure they didn’t go hungry. However, poverty surrounded them and was generally associated with criminality and high death tolls. Clean water was mostly diverted to be used elsewhere for the crops and a lack of sanitation led to diseases for which there was no money to treat. The poor were often viewed as disposable and life was cheap.

Many people, including Pedrinho’s mother, were devoutly religious. Pedrinho would accompany her to church as often as he could, but he never understood what the pastor was saying and often fell asleep, earning him a thrashing. A common saying in the area was that God must exist because the Devil certainly did.

Pedro Senior worked hard for a meagre salary and was an agreeable man until he started to drink, when he turned into the sort of monster who would violently beat his pregnant wife. Manuela, for her part, ruled the children with an iron fist and a bible; quick to punish and not afraid to administer beatings when Pedro or his brothers were out of line.

Pedrinho lived a grim life with his parents and younger siblings, but he was closer to his grandparents who provided him with much-needed affection. His grandfather, Joaquim, whom Pedrinho described as ‘a simple gentleman’, taught the little boy all the skills he would need to survive: how to swim, plant, harvest, hunt and defend himself. He took the boy to work with him at the butchery, where he taught him how to handle a knife, bone an ox and cut it to pieces. In his autobiography, Pedrinho wrote (translated from Portuguese): ‘He also taught me how to be a worthy, correct and just man. My grandfather loved me. Of all the grand-children I was the dearest.’

His grandmother, he would later claim, taught him that drinking ox blood would give him strength. He told Ilana Casoy, author of the book Serial Killers: made in Brazil: ‘It’s good for your health! My grandfather died 98 years old, still strong’.

Family was everything for the poor in Brazil, because it was usually the only thing you had. As the eldest, Pedrinho felt he had to provide for the littler ones. All the boys in the area worked before, after, or instead of school to help out their families, and before he was ten he was killing feral monkeys for their pelts and meat, and fishing to help feed his family. By the time he reached double figures, he was working in a chicken slaughterhouse, putting to use some of the skills that his grandfather had taught him.

He had grown into a tough, wiry teenager, smaller than most of the boys his age. What he lacked in stature, he made up for in steely determination and a lack of fear. But by far the most defining characteristic of Pedrinho was his sense of fairness and deep resentment of injustice, especially when that injustice was directed at him or his loved ones.

A COUSIN, AN INJUSTICE AND A SUGAR CANE PRESS

By the time Pedrinho was 13 years old, violence was simply a part of his life. He saw it at home, where he tried to divert his father’s rages away from his mother, he saw it in the streets where drug dealers fought for turf, and he saw it at his work, where animals were slaughtered without any regard to humane practices.

It was an incident in 1967 that unleashed a new urge in Pedrinho. He was working with an adult cousin, who he didn’t know very well and who had a horse. Pedrinho took the horse for a ride without asking, though he claimed he had no intention of stealing it. His cousin was angry when he found the boy on his horse and punched him in the face, hard enough to cause him to become dizzy. Shocked, Pedrinho looked his cousin in the eye and said: ‘I’m going to kill you’.

His cousin, older and bigger, merely laughed and then hit him again, piling humiliation on top of the pain. The usual desire for revenge welled up inside Pedrinho, but this time it was more. He felt he had done nothing wrong and the reaction of his cousin, an adult, was excessive and unfair on him, a boy. He didn’t just want to hit his cousin back; he genuinely wanted to kill him. The injustice festered in Pedrinho for weeks. He saw his cousin several times, but there was never an apology or acknowledgment of the pain he had caused. Others in the family heard of the incident and laughed at Pedrinho for being weak.

Sugarcane was the dominant agricultural crop in the area, and Pedrinho’s grandfather sometimes worked the sugarcane mill, where the noisy, smelly method of processing occurred. There were few safety standards applied to the heavy machinery and equipment necessary for the job. Grandfather would occasionally get his grand-sons to come along and help him. On this day, Pedrinho was working with his cousin and the two were responsible for feeding the cane through the sugar cane press, a machine consisting of two rollers that crushed the brown juice out of the long hard stalks. Watching the heavy steel rollers rotating and flattening even the toughest stalks, Pedrinho had an idea.

Not letting on to the rage quietly bubbling inside of him, Pedrinho waited for just the right moment to calmly but resolutely shove his cousin into the sugar cane press, and then lean against him pushing with all his might in an effort to make his entire body pass through the rollers. Pedrinho’s understanding of physics was not very sophisticated, so he was surprised to find that when his cousin’s arm went through up to his shoulder, his body jammed up against the machine, and there was no way to feed the rest of him through. He tried pushing his cousin’s head into the rollers, but the head was the wrong size and shape, so the rollers just spun against his skull without grabbing hold. Worried that he would be spotted before the deed was finished, Pedrinho picked up some pruning shears and began to stab his cousin, hoping to cut him enough so that he would pass through the rollers and come out squashed on the other side.

There was no luck. Pedrinho’s cousin merely remained trapped, his mangled arm on the other side of the rollers. Workers who heard the screams raised the alarm and shortly after, the boys’ grandfather came to his rescue, turning the machine off.

Pedrinho was made to spend a couple of nights in jail, but his family needed him back out to work and provide for them. His grandfather came to the police station and told them the family did not want charges laid, and as the boy was a minor, he was released back into their care. Pedrinho was made to clean the machine of the blood and flesh of his cousin as punishment, a job he said took him four weeks to do properly. He felt no remorse for crippling his cousin. He would often tell the tale, laughing with amusement, saying it gave him pleasure to do it as he had righted an injustice.

The incident had whetted the pleasure of revenge inside of Pedrinho and something more. He wanted to know what it would be like to kill somebody.

PEDRINHO’S FIRST KILL

A year later, when Pedrinho was 14, a calamity hit the family. Pedro Senior was laid off from his job as a night janitor at a local school, with no severance pay. He had been accused of stealing food and stationery from the kitchen during his patrols, which were from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am every night.

Even when Pedro Senior was working, having enough food was not always guaranteed. The loss of the job meant the family definitely went hungry and would also certainly lead to an increase in drinking and the resulting violent outbursts by Pedro aimed at his wife. He told his family that it was not he, but one of his colleagues, the daytime guard, who had stolen the items. When the thefts were discovered, the daytime guard told the bosses that it was Pedro Rodrigues who was the thief.

Pedro Senior had sworn to his employers that he was innocent of the crime, but his entreaties fell on deaf ears. He was fired and branded a thief, which meant he would never get another security guard position. Unemployed, he was unable to provide for his family, who had to get by on the money Manuela made by being a maid and laundress in the homes of better-off people. Pedrinho took to the jungle, hunting monkeys to sell for their pelts, which could be turned into fine leather. His grandfather had taught him to use a rifle, and he enjoyed both the hunt and the kill.

Even with Perinho’s help, things got worse for the family and he would often come across his mother crying. The worst part to Pehrinho was the injustice of it all. Those with the means to feed his family refused to listen to his father’s side of the story. His father had worked there for 12 years, and the headmistress and the deputy mayor, the man with the power to hire and fire the guards at the school, took the word of the other man without analysing the evidence. The familiar feeling of revenge welled up inside of him, but this time he was going to do something about it.

Once again Pedrihno visited the shed where his grandfather kept his firearms. He took the rifle, plenty of ammunition, a machete and a tent, throwing it all into a green army backpack. He went into the mountains and built a camp there, where he could plan what he was going to do. In his autobiography, he wrote: ‘I set up the tent and stayed there for about 30 days. My friends were the animals: monkeys, rabbits, snakes and jaguars; they stayed there close to me, surrounded me, but they didn’t hurt me. During my time in the woods I only killed what I had to eat, what was necessary to survive. I never exploited the woods and I never mistreated the animals. But I didn’t go there to live, or to hide from my problems. When I got the guns, I had a plan and I already knew what I was going to do. I was going to get revenge’.

It was a cold night as Pedrinho lay in wait for the deputy mayor outside his own house, fingers clutched around his grandfather’s loaded 36-calibre rifle. The jeep that rumbled up to the house was the sort of car only rich people drove. The deputy mayor turned in surprise at the sound of the gunshot that rang out as he got out of the car. Pedrinho lifted the gun and shot at him again, killing him instantly. Then he ran.

At 14 years old, Pedrinho Rodrigues Filho had killed a man who had harmed his family. When Pedrinho killed chickens and monkeys, he felt nothing. No compassion, no empathy, just indifference. But this was different.

He felt righteous.
He felt pleasure.
Pedrinho was an avenger, and he would avenge the wrongs done to him and his loved ones.

PEDRINHO CARTUCHEIRA

Although killing the deputy mayor gave Pedrinho a feeling of justice, he still seethed at the unfairness done to his father. One man could have put a stop

to the dismissal of Pedro Senior: that was the day guard, the true thief of the school lunches. If he had confessed, Pedrin- ho’s father would not have lost his livelihood, and the family would not be so poor. But there was the day guard, still working at the school, while Pedro’s family starved.

The second time came easy to Pedrinho. He had done it once; he knew how to use the gun. A month after the first time he killed, Pedrinho went to the school where his father had once worked and his enemy was still employed. He waited in the storeroom where the guard always started his day. When the guard arrived, Pedrinho pointed the gun at him and made him sit in a chair in the middle of the room.

According to the book Serial Killers: Made in Brazil, Pedrinho had decided that from that time on, he would explain to his victims why they were dying. He would make them understand that they had committed a wrong and were being punished for it. In the case of the thieving day guard, he claims to have looked right in the man’s eyes and said: ‘Did you see what you did? It destroyed my family. My brothers are starving because of you. Is it fair that you did this?’

Realising who he was, the guard began to sob, apologise and beg for his life. But the damage had been done and Pedrinho was hell-bent on revenge. Forgiveness was not part of his plan. He shot the guard twice, then piled the furniture and boxes from the storeroom on top of his body and set it alight, before scampering away into the morning.

AFTER THE SECOND MURDER, the heat was on the Rodriguez family and Pedrinho fled to take refuge in metropolitan Sao Paulo at his Godmother’s house. There the teenager met the woman who would be his gateway to drug trafficking, known as Botinha, or “Bootie”, in the local community. She was the widow of a well-known drug trafficker and a gangster in her own right. Bootie used her beauty and influence in the region to attract adolescents and children to the criminal organisation. Pedrinho was young and small, but cut a dashing figure with his mop of frizzy hair and lean, muscular body.

She took the boy into her home in Mogi das Cruzes, in central São Paulo, took his virginity and put him to work in the business, trafficking and dealing drugs. He didn’t have any experience, but his relationship with the crime boss allowed Pedrinho, still a minor, to take on high positions in the drug trafficking hierarchy. Older and more experienced drug dealers were not quick to accept the 14-year-old on their turf and were jealous of his connection with Bootie. The girlfriend of one of his rivals warned the boy that he should watch his back and be prepared for an ambush when he least expected it. From that moment, he was on high alert.

The ambush came at a local lagoon. Pedrinho had been lured to the swimming hole to escape the heat and smoke some weed with the boys. Walking down the incline toward the water, he noted that the others were armed and acting strangely. Before they got to the lagoon, Pedrinho pulled his own gun and made the others drop theirs. He demanded to know why they had been planning to kill him, but they turned and fled. As they ran for their lives, Pedrinho shot at them, killing two and putting the other into hospital.

Whether they had been a genuine threat or Pedrinho was suffering from paranoia, wiping out the competition allowed the boy to mark his territory and show that even though he was young and small, he was not someone to be messed with. He became known as Pedrinho Cartucheira, or “Cartridge Petey” because of his weapon of choice, a two-shot 12-gauge sawn-off pipe shotgun.

Nevertheless, Pedrinho still managed to trust some people. He worked with friends “Gauchinho” and “Zé Capeta” and the three boys had each other’s backs, some- times quite literally as they took turns staying awake as the others slept. The trio carried out numerous crimes including one in Jacareí, an industrial town located between the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. They were supposed to collaborate with a drug dealer who went by the name “China,” but Pedrinho took an immediate dislike to him as a bully and a cheat, and decided to rip him off instead. Pedrinho and his cohorts stole China’s drugs and guns and sold them to another dealer, somebody Pedrinho respected. It didn’t seem like too big a deal at the time, but it was a decision that would come back to haunt Pedrinho.

It wasn’t just rival gang members Pedrinho had to worry about. He had become a prime target of Brazil’s notorious death squads, comprising off-duty police officers and other members of the state security forces, which emerged in the late 1960s in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Essentially vigilantes, they roamed the streets with the stated aim of ridding the slums of crime. This meant killing drug dealers, vagrants and street children, with the covert approval of the military government and invariably without consequences to themselves. Pedrinho became transient, sleeping in cars, cemeteries and churches, as he had to hide from both the police and his enemies.

This phase of Pedrinho’s life came to an abrupt end when Brazilian police executed Botinha during a drug transaction. The police had been tipped off by Botinha’s enemies, and Pedrinho was also wounded in the shootout. Disturbed by the death of one of the few people he cared about, and in bad shape physically, Pedrinho ran to take refuge with some extended family.

BLACK MAGIC

When he arrived on the doorstep of his family, Pedrinho had a request — he wanted them to perform a ritual that would protect his body from his enemies.

The relatives who took Pedrihno in were practitioners of Candomble Macumba, a religion sometimes considered to be witchcraft or black magic. Others referred to it as ‘psychotherapy for the poor’. The highly ritualised belief system encompassed spirit offerings, ceremonial dancing and animal sacrifices. Participants would often report becoming possessed by spirits, and afterwards claim to feel cleansed, both spiritually and physically. The most sacred and symbolic substance in the rituals was blood, which was thought to represent life’s pure essence.

Pedrinho believed that being inducted into the faith would mean the spirits would protect him from his enemies. His uncle and aunt grilled him to ensure he knew what he was getting into. A core belief of their religion was that good and evil were irrelevant. As an adherent, Pedrinho would be taught to fully embrace his life purpose and to steer his life to accomplish that purpose, but to always be aware that any harms inflicted on another person would come back to the person who caused the injury. That philosophy sat well with Pedrinho’s own sense of justice.

When Pedrinho insisted he wanted to go through with the ritual, his uncle made him gather together a coconut, with all of its hair carefully removed, gunpowder and a wick to put in the coconut, an all-black cat and seven stringed beans. The Voodoo-like ceremony took place outdoors, as required by the faith, in a deserted quarry at midnight. Pedrinho had been shaved clean of his hair and eyebrows. The complicated ritual involved Pedrinho killing a cat and drinking its blood and then being covered in the remainder of the blood and entrails, whilst in a trance. The carcass was then filled with seeds and buried by Pedrinho. During the ritual, a dozen members of the religion surrounded the teenager, drumming and dancing. Pedrinho felt himself becoming possessed as the ceremony went on into the small hours of the morning.

He concluded the initiation exhausted but with the firm belief that he had become invincible. Knives would not pierce him and bullets would bounce off him. He did not need to fear his enemies or the death squads.

Exactly a week later he returned to the site, dug up the cat carcass and removed the seeds, which had hardened into beads. His uncle threaded them onto a string which he placed around Pedrinho’s neck, warning him never to remove his new necklace. In his autobiography Pedrinho wrote: ‘From then on, the cops opened fire, but the bullets didn’t hit me. The enemies attacked, and I defended myself with ease. Nothing would stop me. Before, I was afraid, but after [the ceremony] it was as if nothing could affect me.’

From that moment on, according to his autobiography, Pedrinho became a defender of the weak and vulnerable. He hijacked food trucks, which he took into the slums to feed the hungry. He burned the shops of those who cheated the poor. He defended the honour of women, killing the men who cheated or harmed them, and the penalty for cruelty to animals was the same inflicted on the perpetrator.

Pedrinho was 16 years old, and he was invincible.

THE RED WEDDING

Never wanting to stay in one place too long, especially if that meant putting his relatives at risk, Pedrinho moved to Campo Grande, a city in the west of the state of Rio de Janeiro. There he met and fell in love with a girl by the name of Maria Aparecida Olympia. When Maria became pregnant with his baby, Pedrinho moved with her into a modest shack, continuing his newfound career of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, and stealing from the bad drug dealers to sell to the righteous ones. Pedrinho believed himself to be a vigilante and justified his crimes as being legally wrong, but morally correct.

The legend of “Cartridge Petey” ran through the slums of Brazil’s largest cities, where he came to be both admired and feared. Those he assisted, or who wanted to curry favour, protected him and warned him when trouble was approaching. But his body count meant that Pedrinho would always have enemies and could never let his guard down.

The sins of his past came back to haunt him when Maria was seven months pregnant. Pedrinho’s world fell apart when he came home to find that someone had come to his house and slaughtered Maria and their unborn child, as well as the man Pedrinho had appointed to protect her. The murderers used Maria’s blood to scrawl: ‘We will get you’ on the wall.

Pedrinho had always felt that he was a righteous avenger, robbing from and killing only those who deserved it. But after the murder of the woman he loved and his unborn child, the need for vengeance burned in him like he never had before. He swore he would track down the murderer and have his revenge.

For more than a year, Pedrinho’s life was spent making enquiries and torturing any people who were not forthcoming but who he thought might have an idea of who killed his wife and unborn child. He had murdered so many people and had so many enemies, he didn’t know where to start looking. His enquiries seemed to be going nowhere until one day he stopped at a bar and was told there was a young woman looking for him. ‘She came from the Valley,’ he was told, and she drove a jeep. The Paraiba Valley was a region in the eastern part of the state of São Paulo and the western part of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The young woman was the former wife of a drug dealer who went by the name China, a man from Pedrinho’s past. She showed him scars, bruises and burn marks that she said she suffered at the hands of China. The woman told Pedrinho: ‘It was China who ordered your wife’s death.’

As she told her story, Pedrinho was convinced she was telling the truth. China had never forgotten nor forgiven Pedrinho for stealing his guns and drugs stash, shooting one of his men and injuring China and his brother, who had run away cowering. Pedrinho kicked himself for not having realised who the culprit was earlier.

China’s vengeful ex-wife told Pedrinho that China’s brother was getting married the following Saturday in Jacarei, the same place where Pedrinho had robbed the drug dealer two years earlier.

Pedrinho recruited the same two men who had visited Jacarei with him back then, Gauchinha and Zé Capeta, and told them they would be attending a wedding. Pedrinho’s orders were simple: every man at the wedding was to get a bullet, but no women or children were to be harmed. ‘If you shoot them, you are going to have to deal with me,’ he told them.

Half a century before anyone had ever heard of Game of Thrones, Jacaeri in Brazil had its very own Red Wedding.

Pedrinho, Gauchinha and Zé Capeta crept up on the revellers, who ate, danced and drank, unaware of the presence of the teenager hell-bent on revenge outside the venue. As glasses clinked and music blared, the trio slipped in unnoticed, pretending to be invited guests. The unsuspecting wedding party was in full swing when Pedrinho knocked on the door to the reception hall. When an older man answered, Pedrinho told him: ‘I am an honoured guest of China. I believe, the most awaited guest of the night.’

Spotting China behind him, the three burst in and over- powered China’s father, and yelled at the women and children to go upstairs. Pedrinho was brandishing his trademark 12-gauge shotgun — or scattergun as he preferred to call it when China came at him, pointing a .44. Pedrinho shot him straight in the chest, killing him instantly.

The death of China was not enough for Pedrinho however. The men in his family were all gang members, complicit in his business, and as far as Pedrinho was concerned, they were every bit as guilty of Maria’s murder as the drug dealer. He started shooting indiscriminately, using the cache of guns he had brought with him. They shot until they had almost run out of ammunition, keeping only what they might need to make their getaway. Pedrinho and his friends calmly strode through the carnage, ignoring the screaming and begging of the wounded and stepping over the bodies of the dead. They left by the front door and went to a bar to have a drink.

Pedrinho ended up killing seven men and wounding sixteen that night. No children were harmed and the only woman to sustain an injury was China’s mother, to her arm, something Pedrinho said later was her own fault as she threw her arms around her son to try and protect him.

KILLER PETEY

After the wedding massacre, the legend spread throughout Sao Paulo and beyond. It earned the pint-sized teenager the nickname “Pedrinho Matador”, literally “Little Pete the Killer”, or “Killer Petey”. He was the feared psychopath who killed without mercy or hesitation, the wronged man who sought the ultimate revenge for the murder of his lover and unborn child, but he was also the protector of women and children, ensuring they would not pay for the sins of their husbands and fathers.

According to his autobiography, Pedrinho hooked up with a pair of twins shortly after the wedding massacre, and they became a polyamorous threesome. He began to live the lifestyle of a cashed-up gangster. He loved his notoriety as Pedrinho Matador, and his reputation as a fearless killer. He wrote: ‘I had money, morals, respect and power.’ He enjoyed the fear that his presence caused on the street or the moment he entered a building, especially among those he considered scum — rapists, standover men who extorted local businesses and those who preyed on the weak. He worked to make sure those sorts of criminals were more afraid of him than they were of the Death Squads.

On the inside of his right forearm, he tattooed the words: ‘I kill for pleasure’. The phrase was added to the amateurish pictures of snakes, a heart with a dagger through it, skulls, knives, crosses, something resembling a pot plant on his chest, and random words the teen sought to have inked all over his body by friends, or which he did himself.

On his other arm he tattooed Maria’s name, and the inscription ‘I can kill for love.’

Pedrinho would later tell journalist Roberto Cabrini on Conexão Repórter that during this period he killed every day. If a day went by without him having killed someone, he said, he got agitated. He told the reporter: ‘I would summon the devil. It was a ritual. It was like: “It’s yours. This body is yours. This blood is yours”.’

Then he would kill his victim and drink his blood, believing as his Grandma taught him, that the blood of his enemies made him stronger.

But not even the corrupt police in the poor areas of Brazil could ignore that many bodies in a wedding party and a manhunt began to track down those responsible. Brazil is a very large country with many places to hide, but Pedrinho had many enemies and those who would betray him. Both Gauchino and Ze Capeta were killed during this time, the former by the police during a robbery and the latter by a death squad that was looking for Pedrinho. Pedrinho took cover where he could, but his paranoia grew, he could trust nobody and he felt they were closing in on him.

Killer Petey was finally arrested on May 24, 1973. He was having a drink at the bar where the father of the twins worked when they swooped. The twins’ father had ratted him out. Pedrinho was taken down in a dramatic gunfight, badly wounded, passing out to the sounds of men screaming for his death.

When he awoke, he was chained to a hospital bed, surrounded by nurses, police and news cameras, there to capture the moment Pedrinho Matador was charged with murder. At age 18, it seemed, Killer Petey’s murderous ways had finally come to an end.

PRISON

Pedrinho spent 25 days recovering in the hospital, chained to the bed and under 24-hour guard. He was all over the news, with the press fascinated by Killer Petey and his twisted sense of righteousness. When he was well enough to be moved into prison, he was provided with the option of going into protective custody or going into general population, where the friends, brothers and sons of many of the men he had killed waited for his arrival. Pedrinho chose to go into the general population.

He enjoyed his newfound celebrity and was disappointed when he learned that he would only be charged with 18 homicides, telling the court and reporters: ‘Only that? It can not be that little.’ Pedrinho swore he had killed over 100 men. In the end, he was convicted for just 14 that could be properly pinned on him at the time. For those, he received a sentence of 126 years in prison.

When transferring Pedrinho to the jailhouse, the police put him in the back of the police wagon with another criminal, a serial rapist. By the time they got to their destination, there was only one man alive in the back of the truck. Killer Petey really hated rapists.

BRAZILIAN PRISONS HAVE a reputation of being some of the toughest and most violent in the world and during the early 70s, it was even worse. The inhumane conditions were over- crowded, unsanitary, uncomfortable and unsafe. Prisons were breeding grounds for infectious diseases like tuberculosis and dengue fever. Prison guards at the very best were considered insensitive, crude, inaccessible, and indifferent. At worst they were either sadistic monsters or thoroughly corrupt, ready to take a bribe and willing to break any rules for anyone with enough money.

Araquara prison in Sao Paul was one of the toughest. Brutal bashings were a daily occurrence and deaths almost as common. Prison gang warfare pitted criminals from different cities against each other and the resulting battles would often end in prisoners being decapitated or disembowelled in a display of power. There could be dozens of prisoners in a single small cell where there was not even enough room to lay down, wallowing in deplorable, unsanitary conditions. The problems that came with overcrowding were exacerbated by boredom and idleness.

The underpaid and outnumbered staff largely left the prisoners to their own devices, and they could do whatever they wanted within the confines of the walls of the prison. The guards would hand over the keys to internal locks to whichever inmates were running the show, their job confined to securing the outside of the prison. Prisoners organised themselves into gangs, the largest of which wielded enormous power, and they waged brutal turf wars.

For most inmates, the only way to stay safe was to join a gang who would provide protection, a certain amount of comfort, and even money for an attorney. It was child’s play to smuggle in weapons and drugs and even women on occasion.

Pedrinho entered prison young, even by Brazilian standards, where half of all male prisoners are aged between 20 and 29. Average life expectancy of a prisoner in Brazil was low, and it was almost unheard of for an inmate to remain alive in jail for 15 years before being killed by either disease or an enemy.

Even though he must have heard stories of prison all his life, Pedrinho was completely unprepared for what awaited him. In his autobiography he wrote: ‘By the time I went through processing, I began to understand what I would go through. The cell was small, there was no mattress, there was nothing, just the frozen concrete floor. There was no shower, it was just a water nozzle; there was no toilet, there was only a hole in the floor.’ What’s worse, as the newest arrival, Pedrinho’s sleeping spot was on the floor closest to the toilet hole.

He arrived with a huge target on his back. Not only were there members of gangs of the men Pedrinho had killed outside who were hell-bent on exacting revenge on behalf of their brotherhood, but he was also a high-profile celebrity thanks to the media interest both before and after his arrest. Jealousy and the desire for notoriety put Pedrinho in the sights of prisoners from all sides.

His reputation as a killer had already run through prison before he arrived. Pedrinho knew he had to watch his back and keep his wits about him. With the help of a cellmate, he improvised a knife fashioned from spoons sharpened to a deadly blade and made sure to have it with him at all times.

It wasn’t long before the inevitable happened. The prison yard was hushed that day when Pedrinho entered. Five men were involved in the ambush on the killer teenager and when they surrounded him, the crowd turned to look. The inmates were well attuned to keeping to themselves and not poking their noses into others’ business, but it was difficult to look away from what would surely be a bloody massacre.

It is not entirely clear what happened next. Eyewitness accounts are apocryphal and Pedrinho’s own recollections can be muddled or embellished. What we do know is that three of the men in the ambush were killed and the other two wounded badly enough that they did not want to continue the fight and fled. The legend of Killer Petey increased tenfold within the Araquara prison.

It quickly became well known that Pedrihno could and would kill without hesitation for any reason, and he wasn’t afraid of anybody. Sometimes Pedrinho was able to get his hands on a weapon, whether that be a makeshift one such as a shiv fashioned out of any bits and pieces he found lying around the prison, to an illegally-obtained knife or firearm, which was not uncommon in the corrupt Brazilian prison system. Other times, it was his bare fists that were the weapon, with breaking necks a specialty. He taught himself martial arts, punching his cell walls until they were covered in his blood, training himself to withstand any sort of pain.

But Pedrinho was not the sort of person who was simply out of control, unable to curb his rage. Sometimes he had targeted somebody to kill, but for whatever reason it was not the right time. Pedrinho would befriend them, share his food or meagre belongings with them, even hug them. He would gain their trust over weeks or months before striking when they least expected it. Pedrinho’s major advantage was he was completely merciless. There was never any hesitation when he decided to kill someone, nor were there ever any regrets.

When he wasn’t working out, he enjoyed the gambling that went on in the prison, where the stakes were high. He looked forward to the visits of his mother and grandmother, who came every week to check on him. Pedrinho may have had a thousand enemies, but at least he had two women he could be sure loved him no matter what.

THE CRUELLEST KILL

The night his world turned upside down again, Pedrinho had gone to bed early. His cellmates had been drinking, snorting cocaine and gambling, but Pedrinho was feeling relaxed and sleepy, having had a joint straight after a visit from his mother earlier in the day. He had gotten up at one time to go to the bathroom and he noted that some of his cellmates were acting strange. They turned down the radio to a whisper as he passed.

The radio was the prisoners’ lifeline to the outside world. It played non-stop, so the inmates could keep up with a world that had forgotten them. Pedrinho noted the odd behaviour and upon returning to bed, made sure his shiv was easily accessible.

The next day, things still seemed a little off. Pedrinho caught prisoners sneaking glances at him and people stopped talking when he came near them, awkwardly changing the conversation. He went to an area of the yard that was used as a gym, where he filled plastic bottles with water and tied them either end of a broomstick to use as weights, and started his two–hour workout.

He was alone in the eerie silence when a guard came to tell him he was wanted in the Prison Director’s office. He was handcuffed and taken to see the Director, flanked by two guards, sensing the eyes of everyone he passed boring into him. Even though Pedrinho had never attacked any of the prison staff, no doubt this time they wanted safety in numbers, as they were bearing very bad news for him. Manuela Filho had been killed; stabbed to death in her bed as she slept. The news that Pedrinho Matador’s mother had been murdered had made it to the radio, but nobody in the cellblock had wanted to be the one to tell Pedrinho.

Pedrinho found the news hard to take in. He had just seen his mother the previous morning. He warned the jailer that if he was kidding, it was not funny, and the Director was no doubt happy he had his armed backup with him at that moment, even if Pedrinho was handcuffed.

There was another bombshell to come. Pedrinho’s father, Pedro Rodrigues, had been charged with the brutal murder and had been taken into custody.

The Director said they wanted to provide him with the opportunity to see his mother in the morgue before she was buried if he wanted. Pedrinho did want to. They took him, under heavy guard and leaving him in no doubt that if he made the slightest wrong move he would be shot. He viewed his mother’s body in a coffin, completely torn to shreds. When Pedro Sr finally went too far, he went way, way too far. Manuela Filho had been hacked apart with a machete, stabbed 21 times in some sort of psychotic rage.

As he stood over his mother’s coffin, Killer Petey made a vow. He promised his mother that he would kill his father and eat his heart to avenge her death. For anyone else, these would be empty words. But Killer Petey routinely drank the blood of his victims. It was one of his signature moves until the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s scared him out of it.

A week later, Pedrinho was told that his aunt, his father’s sister, had come to the prison and left a cake for him as a peace offering. Pedrinho divided the cake among his cell- mates and gave a little to the stray dogs that some of the prisoners kept as pets. The next thing he knew, one puppy was vomiting and another had fallen over. One of the prisoners who had taken a bite had also started vomiting.

The cake tested positive for poison. Police interrogated Pedrinho and soon after, he was transferred to another penitentiary, the first of many such transfers for Killer Petey.

THE SINS OF THE FATHER

Pedro Rodrigues Sr was convicted of the stabbing murder of his wife. As luck would have it, he was put into the same prison as his son, but in a different section, locked away for his own safety.

Pedrinho Matador has told the story of what happened next countless times. The details sometimes change, but the main facts are undisputed. One day, he called a guard to his cell, claiming illness. Using a large knife he had managed to acquire, he threatened the guard and took away his gun and his keys. He used the gun to shepherd other guards into a cell, which he locked up. He then made his way to the cell- block where his father was being held. Upon opening the cell door the other inmates, seeing who had come in, promptly scattered. Pedro Sr did not attempt to run. He stood in the corner, near the wall. As Pedrinho approached him, he said: ‘You are right, my son’.

Pedrinho didn’t want to hear anything his father said to him. The older man offered no resistance when Pedrinho lunged at him and wrestled him to the ground, straddling him with the knife held high. Pedrinho began stabbing his father, counting as he went. One, two three…the sound the knife made each time it was pulled out kept his rhythm of counting going, as he reached double figures. When the numbers got into the high teens, he concentrated the blows on his father’s chest area, as he worked toward his goal.

At number 22, Pedrinho stopped. His father had stabbed his mother 21 times. Pedrinho wanted to be sure Pedro was stabbed one more time than his mother. As the blade went in the final time, Pedrinho felt an overwhelming sense of relief: it was right and good that his violent murderous father was dead. Killer Petey was the righteous avenger once again.

Then it was time to make good on his final promise to his mother.

Pedrinho dug around his father’s chest cavity until he found his still-beating heart, wrenching the organ away from the warm corpse. He laid his father’s heart on the ground, sliced off a sizeable piece of meat and popped it into his mouth, chewing vigorously.

It was so tough and chewy, he couldn’t bring himself to swallow it, so he spat it out onto his father’s body. He had what he came for: the ultimate insult and the ultimate vengeance.

Pedrinho stayed just a few seconds more with his father’s body, before making his way back to the cell where he had locked up the guards. He released them, handing over not only the guard’s gun but his knife as well and allowed himself to be handcuffed and taken away.

THE PUNISHER

Killing his father did nothing to curb’s Pedrinho’s murderous ways. He figured he was going to be in prison for a very long time, so there was no need to be in prison with people he felt did not deserve to live. Pedrinho was an advocate for the death penalty, and he had appointed himself judge, jury and executioner for carrying it out. His moral code saw him targeting rapists, pedophiles, and the men who murdered women and children. His reputation, both from his life on the streets and then in prison, continued to grow. Some people nicknamed him “The Punisher”, after the Marvel Comics character who employed murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, threats of violence, and torture in his campaign against crime.

Pedrinho kept to himself a lot of the time, but occasionally he would befriend fellow inmates. One such man, Claudio, had come into the prison needing protection, and Pedrinho provided it to him. When Claudio was due to be released, he promised Pedrinho that he would help him escape. Pedrinho gave him the address of his grandmother’s house, where he would be welcomed and assisted. There, Claudio met and started dating Pedrinho’s sister, Silvana. However, one night, Pedrino’s brother disrespected Claudio, hitting him and accusing him of helping Pedrinho because he believed the two had had a sexual relationship in prison. In rage and retaliation, Claudio fired shots, killing Silvana and wounding her friend.

When Claudio arrived back in prison, Pedrinho reassured him that he bore no grudge and it was understandable that the brother’s words and actions set him off. The two had been close friends and Claudio relaxed in relief that Pedrinho would continue to protect him.

A short time later, Pedrinho visited Claudio in his cell. Claudio was studying and lifted his pen as his friend entered. Pedrinho wordlessly pulled Claudio’s head back by the hair and went to work on his throat with his knife, stab- bing, cutting and sawing until he was able to lift Claudio’s decapitated head high in the air. He felt nothing, but his sister had been avenged.

‘He was my friend, but I just had to kill him, I’m justified,’ he said later in an interview.

When he wasn’t killing people, Pedrinho lifted weights and practiced martial arts, but most importantly he finally learned to read and write. Once he learned to read, he became an enthusiastic visitor to the library. He devoured the books of trashy fiction author Sidney Sheldon, but his favourite book was Roots, the classic and depressing story of a teenager sold into slavery.

His new skill also meant he could read the letters he received from the public about men who were locked away with him. People on the outside were requesting the help of Killer Petey to avenge the wrongs his prisonmates had done. If the writer seemed genuine enough, sometimes Pedrinho would carry out their request, but he refused to kill for money. He enjoyed choosing a victim and luring them into a trap, and had no problem pretending friendship right up to the moment when he would strike. He would either club them to death, stab them or break their necks. He threw one man down an elevator shaft because he had extorted the relatives of prisoners. His twisted form of celebrity spread throughout Brazil and beyond. He relished his reputation as the most feared and dangerous man in the history of the Brazilian prison system.

The letters of requests for murders turned into requests for relationships. Pedrinho claimed to get up to fifty letters every week: fan mail and love letters. He even received several marriage proposals. He was bemused that people would write to him and found it odd that women were attracted to someone like him. Mostly he ignored them, but he did strike up a relationship with a woman who was also in prison. They wrote to each other regularly over the years, and when she was released she would come to visit him.

The prison sent in psychiatrists to evaluate Pedrinho and they diagnosed him as a psychopath, incapable of feeling remorse or sympathy, with the added complications of paranoia and anti-social personality disorder. Psychiatrists who evaluated Pedrinho in 1982 wrote that the greatest motivation of his life was ‘a violent affirmation of self.’ Like most serial killers, Pedrinho kept all the newspaper clippings about his life and crimes that he could lay his hands on.

When he went before a judge for the murders he carried out inside the prison, the judge asked him for reasons for the killings. Pedrinho said: ‘I did not like his face’ for one and ‘He snored too much’ for another.

The press always attended court hearings of Killer Petey and the story of the serial killer murdering a cellmate for the crime of snoring too much entered into folklore. Many years later, he would tell reporter Roberto Cabrini that he was just being droll with the court and this wasn’t true. He said that the real story was that after a riot in the prison, Pedrinho was put into a private room in a hospital. Due to overcrowding, it was necessary to place another inmate with him, and Pedrinho assured the guards that there would be no problem. A couple of days later, Pedrinho received a visit from his girlfriend. As the couple became amorous, he noticed that the second prisoner was staring at them. It was his disrespect and rudeness that got him killed, not his snoring.

Pedrinho’s innate propensity to violence and his psychiatric problems were not helped by the Brazilian prison system. The conditions of squalor and boredom only exacerbated his issues and fed his paranoia, which meant his killing became for increasingly pointless reasons. Every time he was transferred — to nine different institutions — Pedrinho committed more crimes.

The story of Pedrinho Matador’s most extreme incident is sketchy. He told the tale of breaking his own record of murders in one day in an interview with Roberto Cabrini for Conexão Repórter, but there doesn’t seem to be any public record of the event in any other news sources.

The reporter said: ‘Pedrinho, tell me about the transsexuals night.’

Pedrihno Matador told Cabrini that a transgender prisoner had been in love with a friend of Pedrinho, who did not return the affections. The prisoner spread a rumour about Pedrinho’s friend, which resulted in him being killed. Pedrinho swore vengeance and rampaged through the section where the transgender prisoners were housed, stab- bing and killing indiscriminately, until sixteen inmates lay dead. He told the reporter he had gone crazy “killing faggots” and was deaf for three days from all of the blood- curdling screams of the unsuspecting prisoners.

By this time, Pedrinho’s official body count was 71, and that was just the ones that could be confirmed and pinned on him. His cumulative sentence was now 400 years. The authorities decided enough was enough. Pedrinho was sent into a psychiatric ward, with orders that he was not to have contact with any other prisoners.

MAXIMUM SECURITY

In 1985, Pedrinho was transferred to Taubaté Maximum Security Prison and Psychiatric Treatment Centre about 80 miles outside Sao Paulo. The centre had a custom-built annex, known as the “Piranhão” that was designed to house prisoners considered so dangerous they could not be kept in the somewhat loose general prison system. At Taubate, Prisoners lived in individual tiny cells, where they spent most of their day. They were allowed outside for exercise and out of their cells for meals only under strict supervision.

The methods of the prison were effective. Killer Petey stopped killing. Pedrinho distracted himself by reading, writing letters, playing solitaire and repeatedly punching the cell wall until he was allowed to have a bag of sand to punch instead.

At night, sometimes the people he had killed would return to Pedrinho. Into his dreams came an array of different creatures — panthers and tigers, rats and monkeys, but mostly snakes — and they would talk to him. Pedrinho always knew exactly which man it was who had come to him in disguise. And he would kill them again.

The one who returned most often was his father. Pedrinho told reporter Roberto Cabrini: ‘Sometimes I kill him again when he appears on my dreams. He would appear in the form of a snake, speaking… He would appear to be a snake and, in my dream, he attacked me, biting me, and I would hold him and tell him: “I killed you, that’s right, and I will kill you again”. And I would crush the snake that was speaking. It was a snake but it was my father, speaking.’

In the early 1990s a new prisoner was transferred to Tabaute. Former plastic surgeon Hosmany Ramos had been sentenced to 53 years in prison for theft of airplanes, car smuggling and the murder of his personal pilot and a stewardess.

According to Pedrinho, Ramos had lagged to the wardens about a plan by a younger prisoner to escape. When Pedrinho approached him about it in the lunch room, Ramos hit him in the mouth. The next moment, Ramos was on the ground with Pedrinho’s foot on his neck. Ramos was saved from death when the guards intervened.

From then on, Pedrinho ate in his cell.

A private war between Pedrinho and Ramos began. Some time later, Pedrinho claims to have received a cake through the bars from a fellow prisoner. When he bit into it, he started to bleed from his mouth and was only saved after swallowing a whole can of powdered milk to detoxify. Pedrinho was sure it was Ramos who had sent the cake, but he never had another chance to see the other man. Ramos was eventually released and went back to practising surgery.

From 1992 to 2002, Pedrinho was completely isolated, in a kind of solitary, where he only had contact with the jailers. Other prisoners were allowed in the yard together for their hour of exercise, but Pedrinho was only allowed the company of two guards, who were ready to shoot him if he made a single move out of place. For a decade, Pedrinho’s only human interaction was with the guards, to whom he was always polite and respectful, and the journalists who dared visit to interview him. He told one interviewer that the staff of the prison had nothing to fear from him because, he said, ‘I only kill scoundrels.’

The interest by the press in Pedrinho Matador had not waned. In August 1996, journalist Eduardo Faustini visited him in prison for an interview, which was recorded for TV. In it, the journalist asked Pedrinho if he was released, would he kill again. Pedrinho said calmly: ‘Yes, I would have to. To put it simply, I’m a murderer. I always have been.’

In 1998, another notorious inmate arrived at the prison. “Motoboy” Francisco de Assis Pereira, better known as the Park Maniac, had been accused of raping, torturing and murdering eleven women in the State Park in Sao Paulo. Nine other women had been raped but not killed during his reign of terror. The Park Maniac found his victims by posing as a talent scout for a modelling agency. He was sentenced to 268 years in prison.

When asked about Motoboy by a reporter for a TV channel that had come to interview him, Pedrinho said: ‘Today my biggest dream is to be alone with him. My dream is to break that neck. What he did should not be done. He killed a lot of helpless girls. I hate rapist murderers.’

Pedrinho’s declaration that he would kill the Park Maniac made headlines all over South America and won him even more fans. The director of the prison had to make a statement assuring the public that, no matter how popular the idea was, there was no way Pedrinho was going to be able to keep that promise. Pedrinho was kept completely isolated, spending 23 hours a day in his cell, and using the exercise yard alone. The director told the press: ‘Even if Pedro can get out of the cell, he will not know where to find Francisco. In addition, the two are always accompanied by prison guards.’

On December 17, 2000, during visiting hours, an inmate of Taubate Prison opened fire on prisoners from a rival gang with a gun that had been smuggled in. Amid the ensuing confusion, the prisoners took control of the facility and took 23 hostages, including four children.

The inmates had taken over the asylum.

During the standoff, prisoners negotiated for the transfer of ten inmates to another facility in return for releasing the hostages. Through tense negotiations, hostages were released in small groups. At the same time, news started to filter through that prisoners were being murdered, mostly as a result of rival gangs taking advantage of the situation to exact revenge on their enemies. One of those reported dead was the Park Maniac, a story swiftly seized upon by news networks. Everyone knew of the threat by Pedrinho Matador, and it looked like he had come through and killed one of Brazil’s most notorious serial killers in Brazil’s highest security prison.

The rebellion finished just one day later, with all of the hostages released unharmed. They told the authorities that they had been treated well by their captors throughout the ordeal. Some were excited to reveal that Pedrinho Matador himself had been in charge of bringing food to them and keeping them comfortable.

The next day the authorities reversed their initial report that the Park Maniac had been killed during the uprising. The Sao Paulo State Prison Administration Department said that Francisco Assis Pereira had not been killed. Prison authorities said they had initially believed Pereira was dead because he had received frequent threats from other prisoners and was missing from his cell when the uprising began.

Pedrinho would later tell reporters that he wanted to kill the Park Maniac during the rebellion, but he had been busy looking after the hostages. His failure to carry out his promise was met with disappointment from much of the public.

HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE KILLER PETEY?

In the early 2000s, the Brazilian authorities gathered to discuss a rare, but very big, problem. Article 5 of the Brazilian Constitution provides that “there will be no penalties of a perpetual character”. In other words, nobody in Brazil can be sentenced to the term of their natural life in prison. The Brazilian Penal Code, created when life expectancy in Brazil was 43 years old and not since updated, puts the maximum prison sentence that can be served for any individual at 30 years for all their crimes combined, no matter what sentence they have been given. The 30-year rule in Brazil means that, unless they die before their sentence is up, all prison inmates will be released at some point. It also means they will invariably be readmitted because they come out brutalised by their experiences, lacking any employable skills and generally ostracised by society. It is rarely required, however, as very few prisoners last in the Brazilian prison system for even half that length of time before being killed by disease or their fellow prisoners.

So it was that Pedrinho Matador, sentenced to a cumulative 400 years, came to be eligible for parole in 2003.

Officially, Pedrinho had been convicted of 71 murders, but he claimed to be responsible for many more, over 100. However, in a 2003 article, “A Monster of the System”, journalist Ricardo Mondonca wrote: ‘He likes to bolster his fame by telling other stories, many of which we can not be sure whether they happened or not. Like many serial killers, his tales often blend reality and fantasy, and most of the corpses he is proud to have produced were never found.’

However, Mondonca goes on to say that prison record- keeping in Brazilian prisons in the 1970s was “chaotic” and both authorities and journalists had to rely on spoken testimony to piece together what happened with certain homicides. The article concluded: ‘Therefore, it is probable that Pedrinho has killed less than he says, but more than appears in his file, in a display of inefficiency of the police and the Judiciary.’

The psychiatrists brought to the prison to meet with Pedrinho concluded there was no doubt: Killer Petey was a psychopath. He felt no remorse and no regret for his crimes. Indeed, he didn’t even pretend, telling reporter Eduardo Faustini in 1996: ‘The things I do are good for society, in my opinion. I’m killing my enemies and people who rape, who kill children, who kill family men because of some trainers… Do they deserve to live? Tell me! They don’t.’

Psychiatrist Antonio Jose Elias Andraus, one of the doctors who analysed the serial killer said: ‘Pedrinho is a cold psychopath who speaks naturally about the deaths, without any remorse.’ However, the doctor admitted that most people did not need to fear him, saying: ‘You would enter the cell alone with him and he would never raise a hand. He spoke very well and sounded well educated. Never, as far as I know, has he raised his hand to anyone who worked there. But with the bandits he meted out justice. As he himself said, “I could see a dying face and laugh. I did not feel anything”.’

In the year leading up to his proposed release date, Pedrinho was returned to the State Penitentiary, where he behaved as an exemplary inmate. He became the coordinator of cleaning and gravely stated that he had no enemies and did not plan to kill anyone. Unless he came across the Park Maniac; him he would kill, just as he had promised.

Unaware that police, prison authorities and politicians were meeting to discuss what they could do about him and if there was any way they could keep him locked up, Pedrinho was looking forward to his release. He still looked young, thanks to two hours of exercise every day, and had family to go to, even though they had not visited for several years. To earn a living when he got out, he figured he would go back to working in a slaughterhouse as he had when he was a boy. He was the first to admit that he didn’t know how to do anything else.

The Brazilian prison system did not provide for any sort of re-socialisation. Recidivism for even normal prisoners ran to at least 70%, and Pedrinho had been in prison his entire adult life. His enormous strength was enhanced by his high level of adrenaline and his ignorance of fear. He was a killing machine, and they had to let him back out into the world.

At the eleventh hour, a judge found an item in the Criminal Code that could be interpreted to say crimes committed after the commencement of a sentence could be considered as new and separate. If so, Pedrinho’s sentence could be extended to 2017. This interpretation could, however, be challenged in higher courts. Unfortunately for Pedrinho, he did not have a lawyer and remained blissfully unaware that the authorities were plotting against his liberation.

When journalist Ricardo Mendonca visited him the month of his proposed release, he found he was in the awkward position of apparently knowing something Pedrinho did not. He wrote: ‘He believes he will be released on the 25th. In fact, this will not happen. His sentence was extended because of the crimes he committed behind the bars. Pedrinho could even appeal the decision, but he doesn’t know about it.’

There’s no record of how Pedrinho took the news that he was not getting out when he thought he was, but no doubt it was in the same wooden, emotionless way he reacted to even the most probing and impertinent questions from interviewers over the years.

RELEASE

Someone must have helped Pedrinho appeal, because he was released from prison April 24 2007 after serving 34 years; four more than the law permitted. There is no monitoring of prisoners once released in the Brazilian system, so Pedrinho was turned out to fend for himself. He took himself off to a part of the country where he could be away from the prying eyes of the law. He moved into a pink cottage, surrounded by greenery and acquired a Labrador.

It took him a while to readjust. Everything was completely foreign to him and he had to ask for help for the simplest of tasks. He had no idea how to catch a train, buildings seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere, and the technology and machinery on farms were completely different to what it had been before he went in. TV was in colour. Although he had seen plenty of mobile phones that had been smuggled into the prison over the years, the internet was a mystery to him.

He led a quiet life, attending church in a village where most people knew the story of the man who claimed to have killed more than 100 people and served 34 years in prison. He got a job as a caretaker on a farm, and his neighbour later told reporters Pedrinho was a hard-working, serious and religious man.

There’s not much to go on around this time, but it seems that the authorities had wanted to re-arrest Pedrinho almost from the moment he was let out, but did not know where to find him. He was arrested on September 15, 2011 at around 11 o’clock in a farmhouse on the General Road of the Apes in Camboriú after an anonymous tip-off to Civil Police Division of Criminal Investigations.

Pedrinho was charged in relation to six riots whilst he was in prison and deprivation of liberty of a prison officer during one of those riots. Police seized a loaded 38-caliber revolver that he wasn’t supposed to have, and he was charged with that too. He did not resist arrest and entrusted his Labrador to his neighbour to look after.

Killer Petey’s story excerpted from this book

The media was waiting for him at the police station. He gave a press conference standing against the Police banner where a dozen reporters shoved microphones at him. He calmly answered all their questions, many of which seemed designed to elicit sympathy for the killer.

‘Do you think you’ve already paid for your crimes?’ they asked.

The prisoner nodded. ‘I’ve paid for my crimes,’ he said quietly.

Pedrinho fell back into the familiar routine of prison, working out, reading and feeding his celebrity status. The fan letters came thicker and faster than ever and news outlets sent a constant stream of reporters to interview him.

Inevitably, he was compared to Dexter, the serial killer in the TV series who only killed killers. Like Dexter, Pedrinho claimed he was a vigilante dispensing justice where the system had failed to do so and preventing more deaths of innocent people. He told reporter Roberto Cabrini: ‘I only killed those who were no good, if I didn’t kill them, they would kill me and they would kill others who didn’t deserve to die.’

In another prison interview in 2012, Marcelo Rezende asked him: ‘Is there anyone you kill that you regret killing, that you think maybe you shouldn’t have?’ Killer Petey answered there was not. He didn’t believe in regrets.

Thanks to the internet, the story of Killer Petey spread beyond Brazil. The pop-culture references to Dexter and serial killer’s odd but fierce adherence to his morals served to permit people to support him. If you didn’t look too hard and took the headlines on face value, this was a serial killer we could all get behind. He was The Punisher, the guy you needed when the only person who could properly deal with a baddie was another baddie. People conveniently forgot about the stories of those who were killed for the slightest and most mundane reasons. With his twisted logic, Killer Petey reasoned that if they were in prison, they were already guilty, so they deserved to die if he targeted them.

This time he had new visitors in addition to the constant procession of journalists. Film-makers who wanted to document his life. Authors who wanted to help him write his biography. People who wanted to be there when he got out to help him capitalise on his bizarre but undeniable celebrity status.

KILLER PETEY, SOCIAL MEDIA STAR

On December 6, 2017, Pedrinho Matador was once again released. At 64, he still looked youthful, thanks in part to his strict fitness regime that started every morning at 4 o’clock. After making his bed, he would get straight into jumping rope, then on to stretching and holding the plank position for as long as he could. There were no more murder convictions in that time, although he told Roberto Cabrini of Conexão Repórter in an interview after his release that the last murder he carried out was “about five years ago.” However, he also said it was outside, not inside prison, which would have put it between 2007 and 2011. When pressed about that murder, Pedrinho didn’t want to talk about it, saying: ‘It’s kind of complicated, all right?’

In that same interview, Pedrinho also said he was done with killing unless someone were to harm his family. He remained close with his sister Clarice, his niece Jaqueline and her husband, catching up for regular family dinners. He would like a family of his own, a wife, a son and a daughter. He attended church regularly and was certain that God had forgiven him his sins. He still had his enemies — a few months after his release, he was almost killed in Santa Catarina. Enemies were surprised to find him there, but with Killer Petey’s reputation, they decided to go for reinforcements. By the time they returned, he had escaped to his sister’s house. Pedrinho did not seek revenge. At least, that’s what he said.

The world was still a foreign and crazy place to Pedrinho, but he came to embrace social media, where his story had taken on a life of its own. They called him the “Dexter Serial Killer”, and his followers saw his crimes the way he did — that he was ridding the world of evil and protecting those who could not protect themselves. He became the vigilante many Brazilians believed they needed in a country where less than ten percent of murders are solved.

Pedrinho has amassed over 4200 friends on Facebook, where he posts motivational quotes, videos of him showing off his culinary skills and pictures of his new tattoos. Piece by piece, he has been covering up the homemade and jail- house tattoos with professional artwork. He covered up his most infamous tattoo, the one that said ‘I kill for pleasure,’ with a picture of a scorpion. He covered up the tattoo that said “Revenge” with one that said “Love”. The devil on his bicep was covered by a tribal tattoo. The wonky cross on his back became a picture of Jesus and cherubs. Maria’s name was tattooed over by a feather. ‘I erased it because she no longer exists. She is no more,’ he told Roberto Cabrini. He lists himself on Facebook as “Single”. The comments are filled with heart and flower emojis from female fans.

He has written and released the first part of his autobiography, which he sells through his social media platforms. Someone else has written a rap song about him. He’s working on a documentary about his life with director Bruno Santana. He’s available for motivational talks and interviews

He claimed that he wanted to leave Pedrinho Matador, “Killer Petey” behind. He told reporter William Cardoso, ‘I do not want to be known by that name anymore’ But Killer Petey has become his brand. His Youtube channel, which has over 125,000 subscribers and more than eight million views, is called “Pedrinho Ex-Matador”. His promo video is set to The Driving Force by the Jingle Punks, an uplifting soundtrack suggesting excitement and adventure. The wording lives up to the promise: ‘In this channel you will know and follow the life of the Greatest serial killer in Brazil. Pedrinho Matador was sentenced to the largest penalty ever seen in Brazil. He beat the record for survival in jail and beat the record time arrested. There had never been another detainee spent so much time behind bars.’

He is a prolific uploader, often adding several videos a day, sometimes live streaming. The videos are produced by 30-year-old Pablo Silva. They are messages from Pedrinho about crime and God, archive footage of old interviews, reports on the sorts of crimes that he is morally opposed to, lessons for youth that crime doesn’t pay, publicity for his book, and snippets of his day-to-day life: cooking, socialising, getting a haircut or a tattoo. He warns the kids of today that it is not just drugs that start trouble; things like vandalism, skateboarding, disrespecting older people and lying to parents about where they are going are all against his code of conduct.

He often gets stopped when he is out and about by fans keen for a selfie with the infamous killer. He is a genuine celebrity in his home town. Nowadays when a policeman stops him on the street, it is to shake his hand and congratulate him. He is perhaps the first superstar serial killer.

Pedrinho Matador claims he craves the quiet life, living on a farm with a dog, surrounded by trees and animals. He sleeps through the night. He no longer has nightmares where the men he has killed return to him as animals that he must kill over and over again. He believes he is proof that psychopaths can be cured.

‘In this world, where we are now… I’m not taking anyone’s life… I’m cured,’ he told Roberto Cabrini of Conexão Repórter in 2019. The hour-long interview tried to find some degree of humanity and repentance in Pedrinho, but he remained emotionless throughout. It came across that this man was, indeed, a psychopath, who feels no remorse. It’s like he wants to regret it but can’t. He told the reporter: ‘I don’t regret it because the people I killed weren’t worth a shit. The people I murdered weren’t even worth the food they eat. If I didn’t kill them, they would kill me, they would kill other people who didn’t deserve to die.’

Cabrini asked: ‘Do you sometimes feel like a temptation, a will to kill?’

To which Killer Petey replied: ‘Yes, but it fades away.’

EXCERPTED FROM PSYCHO.COM: SERIAL KILLERS ON THE INTERNET

FOR MORE BOOKS SEE EILEENORMSBY.COM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to my mailing list

… and receive an exclusive, FREE copy of a true crime story in ebook format.
You can unsubscribe anytime.

You may also like...

The Drug’s in the Mail

Below is the full text of an article I wrote for The Age, which was the Focus Feature on 27 April 2012. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/the-drugs-in-the-mail-20120426-1xnth.html More Australians are buying illegal drugs from internet websites and having them delivered by regular post straight to their door. Eileen Ormsby reports on the new frontier of drug dealing. IT’S JUST like eBay, complete with vendor

Read More »

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.