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Note from BW of Brazil: This is a very disturbing case and before I even make a comment or analysis I will say that 1) it is a sad situation, 2) no one deserves to die in such a violent manner and 3) I do not condone violent murder. I feel it is necessary to make these disclaimers before delving into the many questions that one must ask when approaching such a situation. My analysis is below the story, but first, here’s how the case has been reported up to this point…
Sailson José das Graças, who confessed to killing more than 40 people, says he has an addiction to killing white women
By Diego Valdevino and Alba Valéria Mendonça
Rio – “I was glad when she struggled, screamed and scratched me.” This is how the serial killer, Sailson José das Graças, 26, tried to justify the deaths of 38 women in the last nine years. He confessed to killing four people, at the behest of his accomplice, Cleuza Balbina, and a two year old child. The killer said late Thursday morning that he felt pleasure in the moment that he took the lives of his victims.
Black, young, very cool and quiet, Sailson said he only killed mulheres brancas (white women), loiras or morenas (blondes or brunettes). “Negras (black women), of the race, no, because they are of the family,” he said.
“I stopped at the bakery, at the square, I was seeing the newspaper. I looked at a woman and said: ‘That one.’ Following her home, but I never raped anyone. A woman for me had to be white, not black, because of my color,” he re-affirmed in another interview. “I was pleased when she struggled, screamed and scratched me. I thought I was a little crazy, sometimes normal.”
Showing a lot of cool and calm, Sailson claimed to be addicted to killing. “The first woman that I killed was strangled with my hands. I felt pleasure, like I had a very strong desire. I had already killed some 38 women, I had an addiction,” guaranteed the serial killer, that regrets only one crime.
“I don’t regret it and to stop killing is difficult. Leaving prison, I would go back to again kill 38 other women. I only regret the case of the child, but there was no other way. The child cried a lot and could have wakened the neighbors,” he recalls. Sailson also said that when he gets out of jail he’ll probably kill again.
He told the assistant deputy of the Homicide Division (DH) of Baixada Fluminense, Marcelo Machado, that he studied up to the fifth grade and enjoyed reading books in the library of the prison and watching thrillers, where he would learn some techniques in order to not leave any traces of crimes, using a cap, gloves or cutting the nails of the victims when there was a tussle.
According to Machado, Sailson committed lewd acts after killing the victims. “Sometimes, he killed the victims and masturbated to seeing them with their eyes open,” he details.
The killer said he lost his father tragically when he was only 11 years old, during an accident at work. But he ensures that this was not the episode that made him want to kill. “My father’s death was when I was 11, he was electrocuted in an accident at work, it marked me a lot. But that was not the reason for having committed these crimes.”
“I’m going out for the hunt,” said Sailson to Cleuza Balbina Paula, his 42-year old companion, 42, who was also arrested last Wednesday (10), along with her ex-husband José Messias. The three lived together in the same house in the Corumbá district of Nova Iguaçu, in the Baixada Fluminense region of Rio de Janeiro, since early this year. According to research, Cleuza maintained Sailson and paid for the crimes she ordered by giving him money, clothes and food. According the Baixada DH agents, Fátima Miranda’s death, last Tuesday, was the initiation of arresting the trio and unraveling this unbelievable story.
“It started on the 9th, when we were called to a murder in Corumbá, in Nova Iguaçu. Three suspects were driven to the police station (José Messias, Cleuza and Sailson). We pulled up his profile. He takes pleasure in killing women. He strangled women with his hands.”
According to the investigation, four murders that happened in the last two months (Francisco Carlos Chagas, who died on October 23, Paul Vasconcellos, who died on November 12th; Raimundo Basílio da Silva, killed on November 30 and Fátima) were by Cleuza’s orders. Marcelo Machado said other people were marked for death.
“Sailson said he would have a list to kill others next week, at the behest of Cleuza. However, the list was not found.”
The titular police chief, Pedro Henrique Medina, doesn’t rule out the possibility of Sailson having invented all of these deaths. However, everything leads him to believe that he actually committed the crimes because of details the revealed during the testimony.
“Everything indicates not, because he is giving a wealth of details. Including in one of the crimes, he said he broke a knife in the leg of a victim. And this was confirmed.”
Sailson had been arrested for robbery in August 2007 and arrested for theft in January 2007, illegal possession of weapons on February 2010 and privileged theft on February 23rd this year. Now, the police are requesting relatives of victims killed by strangulation to come to the police station to assist in investigations. He said he liked prison and even asked at being arrested if he would go to prison in Niterói (across the bridge from Rio), because he liked it a lot there. Sailson reveals that he never worked, but did some “odd jobs”, like painting a wall or planting trees.
He also revealed that he has an ex-girlfriend, a son and mother and that he is from a religious family. Until Thursday (11), no relative appeared at the precinct in Baixada Fluminense. By late afternoon, the three didn’t have a lawyer. Psychiatrist Jairo Werner watched the video of Sailson José’s interview and said that he seems to have a full understanding of what he was doing.
“He has an understanding. It’s a kind of determination, an obsession and he did everything to do that. Then he prevented himself in some way and, in theory, this personality doesn’t have a mental disability,” said the doctor.
To Jairo Werner, Sailson identified his targets and, in a cool manner, even took measures to not be discovered by the authorities if he managed to kill his victims. He also identified obsessive traits in the comments of the man who was arrested red-handed after stabbing Miranda to death. “He understands what is happening and, in a way, he located the type of target and, from there, he became obsessive in achieving that goal,” said Werner.
Police said four crimes committed by Sailson had been ordered by Cleuza Balbina and José Messias. Vasconcelos, 52, that died in December of 2011, in Amaral district of Nova Iguaçu, supposedly due to a debt of R$40 (US$15). The stabbing death of Francisco Carlos Chagas, 49, was commissioned by Cleuza because of the theft of a cell phone. Raimundo Basílio da Silva, 60, died in the Santa Rita district of the same city, because of a quarrel with Cleuza. The latest victim, Fátima Miranda, had been marked for death by José Messias, after an argument with Cleuza.
Note from BW of Brazil: OK, so what are we to make of this case? According to the report, the man doesn’t come across as insane and appears completely cognizant of everything he’s done. The story is still relatively new and I’ve sat back for a few days and analyzed a few readers’ comments on Brazilian news outlets. I’ve read comments of the “reverse racist” type and a lot of comments by people who believe that had it been a white man who killed a number of black women it would be all over the press as an example of white racism/supremacist hatred, but since he’s black it’s not being presented as such. Here’s my take….
No one seems to want to consider the very violent Western societies or Western-influenced societies that we all live in. The simple fact is that European obsession with violence, murder and rape is at the heart of the origins of many our nations. Surely many of us know the story. Devastate and butcher millions of Native Americans, exploit, rape brutalize and murder millions of Africans and exterminate entire populations in some cases. In modern society, everyone prefers to see the continent of Africa as the “Dark Continent” where black people act as savages in the middle of decimating disease, famine and ongoing civil wars without ever considering the European role in Africa’s present condition. Oh, you didn’t know? It sounds impossible? Do the research if you dare!
Today, after the massive European thirst for war, blood, riches and human cargo, our populations are raised on a daily stream of media that presents violence, sex, rape and savagery as entertainment 24 hours per day. Thus, after Europeans conquered the world in this very manner, they turn around and present these types of conquests as something to be enjoyed. Tell me, how many American-made films have you seen in the past two years that featured assault weapons, bombs, cars and buildings being blown up? How many ridiculous reality shows have you seen that show people acting in over the top manners to produce bigger ratings for the networks? How many films have you seen that push the envelope of explicit sexuality in movies that are not considered pornographic? How many crime and crime investigation TV shows have you seen that don’t spare any blood or violence? How about video games?
This reminds of a certain day last year when I waited for a friend in his apartment in a lower-middle class São Paulo neighborhood. While I waited, I observed his two teen-aged sons playing an extremely realistic video game in which one uses militarized weapons to kill people from a point of view perspective. When the person dies the blood oozes out of the victim’s body. I admit to being a little startled by the graphic nature of images. The two teens obviously weren’t. De-sensitized maybe? When I asked my friend about his thoughts on the game he asked, “What? It’s just a game.” Would you say that we are completely saturated with sex and violence? And what are your reactions to such scenes? Have you been de-sensitized to graphic sex and brutality? And just so you know, although Brazil has its own TV and film industry, its cable TV networks and movie theaters are completely dominated with American productions dubbed or subtitled in Portuguese.
Brazil is a very violent country. Its police kills five times more people than those in the US, the country whose military expenditures cost almost make up about 40% of the entire world’s defense costs. Brazil’s murder rate statistics are on par with a country involved in a civil war. It is also one of the most socially unequal in the world. So where does all of this lead us? In the details presented in Sailson’s confessions, he admitted that he studied much about how to commit crimes and get away with them. And he confessed to these brutal slayings in a very calm, rational manner. Kind of…de-sensitized. Do you honestly think that we can continue to put out filth and decadence and not have it have an effect on the population at large? I personally believe we are being programmed to become whatever it is that we see and accept it as normal, which is part of the reason I haven’t had much interest in TV, movies or music over the past several years.
And then we have the racial aspect here. I’ve always wondered what effect beyond Brazil’s “we’re all equal” rhetoric in the face of blatant racism/white supremacy/racial exclusion has on its black population. Through the everyday hegemonic white supremacy that is passed on person to person in everyday interactions, Afro-Brazilians often grow up, consciously and subconsciously, understanding themselves to be inferior to those with white or whiter skin color, naturally straight hair and European features, and though people don’t want to admit it, no doubt this often plays a role in people desiring to have whiter looking children. Curiously, while reading the comments on this story, I came across this comment.
Translation: “I’m black, born in Rio de Janeiro and raised in Nova Iguaçu, with several black friends, beyond relatives, obviously. I’ve never known a black racist, besides getting tired of seeing many ass kissers of non blacks, that’s it, yes. Often what I see is an exaggerated and even unhealthy admiration for whites at the expense of a good intra-racial relationship. The interracial romantic relationships represent this well. Now comes this sick person there to the delight of those who believe there are black racists in the same proportion of whites, which absolutely does not match reality.”
I would expect from comments sometimes posted on this blog and in social networks, someone is probably thinking, what does inter-racial relationships have to do the case of the murder of possibly several white women? The connection here is understanding the emotional and psychological state of the Afro-Brazilian population, and for that matter, any African descendant population living under the domination of white supremacy. As we’ve seen in various posts on this blog in which blacks racially insult other blacks, carry an inferiority complex about what they can achieve in life, celebrating a white grandchild or the shame/avoidance of blackness, and many other examples, it is not difficult to imagine that Brazil’s black population values itself less than the population represented by their very oppressors or, if you prefer, beneficiaries of black oppression.
Sailson José das Graças admitted that he purposely chose to kill specifically white women. But why? OK, we know from his comments that he felt a certain allegiance to persons that he considered to be of the black race (which is worth an analysis in itself). But does this mean that he saw white people, or specifically white women, as being part of an oppressive group? Does he hate white people and if he does, did he develop this hatred because of the dominance of whites in all facets of society and this same group defining itself as God and humanity itself? As the interviews didn’t delve into these possibilities, as of yet, we don’t know the answers to these questions. And for those who may be thinking that it’s out of place or even absurd to ask such questions, if you’re not willing to consider the possibilities before discarding them, then I suspect you aren’t honestly willing to take an honest look at the societies in which we live. Structural inequalities can indeed create feelings of frustration and hostility at a given group.
But these are but a few of the hard questions that need to be asked.
For me, others would be: why does the media not focus on exposing the routine murder of black youth by the Military Police? Why not ask why often times black Military Police soldiers are the killers of these black youth, as so many persons have pointed out in online comments sections? I’ve written this before and I believe it applies again here. Brazilian society can continue to define itself as a society in which everyone gets along regardless of race due to the fact that, for the most part, Afro-Brazilians have not challenged their inferior position. And over the years we have seen numerous examples of the fact that Brazilian elites want to keep it that way. We’ll provide examples of this in a future post.
For now, another question: With such high rates of black murder in Brazil, how is it that an international media network such as CNN chooses ignore that but feature a story about a black serial killer? With all of the protests going on in the US over police murder of blacks in that country, this would be a perfect moment to expose a similar situation in Brazil. But then, it’s much easier to connect a black face to danger as this is already the image associated with black people worldwide, right? Several months ago I wrote a post in which I emphasized how easy it is for society to point the finger of culpability at poor, mostly black communities, for the high crime indexes of certain cities. It’s easy because no one wants to analyze the social conditions that are purposely created that often lead to the crime index and, in following, are used to justify “necessary” security, brutal and often fatal policing tactics. In other words, create the problem that leads to the crime and then offer the solution that society demands in the form of oppression of defenseless communities.
Again, the point of this article is not to excuse what Sailson José das Graças did. Rather, it is to shine a bright light on Brazilian society and the global community that created the system itself, uses its all-encompassing media to influence social norms and behavior and then picks and chooses which criminals will get away with what crimes while the vulnerable others they created pay the price. I remember many years ago, a well-known black psychologist said in a lecture that black people have to be crazy in order to survive in such an evil, corrupt system. With this in mind, Brazilian society, like its highly-influential neighbor in North America, often wants to ask the question, “what’s wrong with black people?” In response I would say 1) take an honest a look at your country’s history and the psychological effects on non-white peoples and 2) perhaps these people aren’t actually crazy but rather simple reflections of the societies in which they belong.