SÃO PAULO — Police in Brazil have arrested a man they say has confessed to killing at least 39 people in a four-year killing spree in the central-western state of Goiás.
Tiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha, a 26-year-old security guard at a hospital, was arrested on Tuesday in the state capital city, Goiânia, and has, according to police, confessed to at least 39 murders which targeted women, sex workers, gay people and homeless people.
Local police chief Deusny Aparecido, who headed a task force investigating at least 15 murders over the past two months, described the suspected serial killer as a “cold” person.
“He killed out of anger, anger at everything and everyone. He killed randomly; he never had any connection with any of the victims,” the local G1 news portal quoted the police chief as saying.
“It could have been me, you, our children.”
Police said Rocha demanded valuables from his victims, whom he referred to by number.
Rocha is suspected of murdering 22 women and 17 men in a number of different ways, which, when coupled with the lack of a personal link between him and the alleged victims, added a layer of complexity for investigating officers.
The security guard is suspected of targeting a number of young women, whom he shot in the chest, and sex workers who were either stabbed or shot in the head. The homeless people he allegedly killed were also shot in the head; the gay people he is suspected of murdering were strangled.
Police said that they eventually discerned a pattern: a passing motorcyclist appeared to kill a number of young women, and so they established a 150-officer task force.
A metal detail on the back of the suspect’s motorcycle reportedly led to police to identify him.
Rocha was put in front of the cameras on Thursday by police keen to show the result of their investigations. Local media quickly proclaimed that the security guard — if guilty — would be one of Brazil’s most prolific serial killers.
In chaotic scenes at the press event, relatives of the victims shouted “murderer” and some were taken ill. In chaotic scenes at the press event, relatives of the victims shouted “murderer” and some were taken ill.
Family members described Rocha as “quiet,” and a man with only a few friends, according to the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.
Rocha is awaiting a court hearing, and police say he attempted to commit suicide in his cell on Thursday morning by cutting his wrists with a broken lightbulb, but that he was intercepted by a prison guard.
Rocha’s lawyer says his client denies the murders and that he was pressured into confessing a number of crimes he had not committed due to the aggressive nature of police officers’ interrogation techniques.
But police say the suspect had both confessed to the crimes and pinpointed the location of each murder, as well as the emotions he felt at the time.
Local reports state that Rocha is also being investigated for a string of robberies in the area.