History is littered with the tales of serial killers, those monsters who burst forth from our nightmares to cause death and suffering. Some of these are worse than others, while others have curious stories behind their motivations and drive to kill. One such tale is the Brazilian killer who managed to rack up a considerable body count, notable in that most of his victims were other criminals and killers.
The man known as Pedro Rodrigues Filho was born in 1954 in Santa Rita do Sapucaí, Brazil, and had a taste of violence from a very young age, being born into the world with a bruised skull due to his father kicking his mother while she was pregnant with him. This violence would spill over into his youth, with his father constantly beating and abusing him, and it is perhaps this ruthless existence that gave him a taste for suffering and death at a young age. When he was just 13 years old he tried to murder his older cousin during a fight, pushing him into a sugar cane press, and although the cousin survived Filho felt emboldened and confident that he had the power to exact his wrath on those he felt had wronged him. He felt that he was ready to kill.
The following year, at the tender age of just 14, Filho’s father, a school guard, was fired after being accused of stealing food. Now, while he was certainly not a good father, he was no thief, and Filho felt a sense of righteous anger about it all. He felt that the mayor of the town, the one who had fired him, needed to die, and Filho proceeded to gun him down with a shotgun right in front of city hall in a blaze of breathtaking and unchecked violence. Wasting no time, he then went and killed the man who was the real suspected thief. This brazen display of violence and vigilante justice made Filho a very wanted man, and he was forced to flee, going into hiding in the filthy slums of Mogi das Cruzes, Greater São Paulo. It was a dangerous den of drug dealers and buzzing hive of the shadier elements of society, but Filho fit right in.
To make a living, Filho began killing and stealing, not from innocent civilians, but rather from drug traffickers and gangs who he deemed deserved it. Somehow he found time to marry a woman by the name of Maria Aparecida Olympia, and for perhaps the first time in his life he managed to feel a sense of normalcy, actually settling down to live with her and then expecting a baby together. During this time, his streak of violence against the drug gangs subsided somewhat, but they had not forgotten about him, and drug dealers soon took out a hit on Maria, killing both her and the unborn baby and forcing Filho, who was not even 18 years old yet, to seek refuge once again. It would soon become apparent to the drug gangs that Filho was not someone to cross.
Filho went about methodically torturing drug dealers and gangsters for information like something out of an action movie, and in retribution for his wife’s murder he took it upon himself to launch an extremely bold attack on a wedding party attended by the gang leader responsible. By the time Filho and his friends were finished there were seven dead gang members and sixteen wounded in the savage daylight attack, and he had his revenge. The police at this time did not really make any efforts to catch him, as he was seen as cleaning up the scum, a vigilante who they were willing to let kill drug gangs, but he was about to cross the line and take things a bit too far.
As Filho was going about his one man crusade against the drug gangs, life at his childhood home was no less violent than it ever had been, and one night in a drunken rage his father brutally killed his mother with a machete. As soon as Filho heard this news, he did what he was best at, seeking revenge, and to this effect he got himself a knife and in May of 1973 headed to the jail where his father was being kept. By all accounts he waltzed right into the city jail, asked for a visit with his father, and then stabbed him 22 times right there in front of the shocked guards and other prisoners. To make it all even more shocking still, he then carved his father's heart out and took a bite out of it. Considering that this was right there in jail and that he had nowhere to run he was arrested. According to news reports at the time, he was put into a police car with two other criminals, and when he found out that one of them was a rapist he apparently killed the man right then and there in the car as the other screamed for help.
Filho was found guilty and sent to one of the harshest prisons in Brazil, where he immediately proved himself to be just as ruthless a killer as ever. Within these prison walls he deemed himself a judge, jury, and executioner of other despicable criminals, making it a point to seek out who he believed to be the worst and methodically torturing and killing them with any weapon at hand, favoring rapists, pedophiles, and drug dealers. Word got out around the prison that Filho was a killer who liked to kill other criminals, and many of the prisoners, who you have to remember were some of the toughest, hardest men around, were terrified of him. When a prison gang tried to take him out it would be reported that five men attacked him in the yard, and Filho would allegedly kill three of them and send the other two running. After that, no one bothered him, and all they could do was keep two eyes in the backs of their heads because no one knew who he might target next. By the time he was to be released in 2003, it is estimated that Filho had killed at least 47 other criminals while incarcerated, although it was difficult to prove as in Brazil’s hellish prisons people die every day. Nevertheless, he had an extra four years tacked on and finally saw freedom in 2007.
Filho then moved to to Fortaleza, in the Brazilian state of Ceará, but his past crimes in prison caught up with him, and he was arrested again in 2011 on new accusations of inciting riots and false imprisonment. He would in the end claim that throughout his life he had killed over 100 people, but also is quick to add that they were all bad men who deserved it. He would boast how he had done society a favor by killing these people, and explain how he felt a thrill in killing the worst of society. Even despite all of this, in 2018 Filho, now known in some circles as the “Brazilian Dexter” after the American TV show Dexter, in which a serial killer kills other serial killers, was released again after serving just 8 years. He has since then supposedly changed his ways, reaching out to troubled youths in order to keep them away from a life of crime and violence, hopefully not by killing them, and he even has his own YouTube channel. It is hard to know whether we can excuse such crimes or let them off the hook simply because they eliminated the lesser of two evils. After all, how much can vigilantism be condoned? That is a discussion for another time, but for now there is no doubt that Filho is a special breed of killer, one who targeted society's worst, and whether you think of him as a hero or villain his legacy remains.