Marlúcia was just 28 when she was shot and killed.


Marlúcias sister Carla is grieving.


Carla often visits the Copacabana beach where Marlúcia used to bathe.


The police documentation of Marlúcia's injuries.


Marlúcia's syster Carla
Marlúcia Soares Gomes Oliveira
It is the evening of the 4th of January 2010 in Quiterianópolis in north-eastern Brazil. There is not a breath of wind in the hot high-summer air. Many of the people who live along the small road have brought chairs outdoors and sit chatting in groups on the pavement. Outside the house belonging to Marlúcia Soares Gomes Oliveira’s family, Marlúcia’s mother and sister Carla sit talking to a neighbour.

”Stop it daddy, don’t kill mummy.” 

Marlúcia Soares Gomes Oliveira
Killed: Aged 28

Marlúcia can hear their conversation through the open window. She has just woken up. She is often tired and needs to sleep during the day, ever since she had a heart attack, aged just 26. That was two years ago. She has high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. The doctor says that her illness was the result of stress.  Marlúcia knows the reason.
She has lived with the violence for over ten years, and it has made her ill. But it is all over now. Taking her two children, she has left Rio de Janeiro where she lived with José. She has made her mind up. She is leaving him.

It all started here in Quiterianópolis 13 years ago. Marlúcia was a happy girl who enjoyed partying and loved to dance. She met José Oliveira when she was 14 and they moved in together when she was 15. She was 16 when their son Jhosep was born. She was young, certainly, but she was hardly unusual in Quiterianópolis. Her older sister, Carla, was also 16 when her daughter was born.

The following year, Marlúcia’s small family packed their things and moved away.  José had got a job almost 3,000 kilometres south, in Rio de Janeiro. They moved in to the favela (the illegal slum area) of Pavãozinho, close to the Copacabana beach.  

Marlucia worked for a short period between the births of her children, but after her daughter was born she stayed at home. She often went to the beach with her children, and she loved sunbathing and swimming. José, a quiet but pleasant young man who invited the neighbours to barbecues and was always ready with a helping hand, was popular in the favela. Marlúcia kept in touch with her family but they never heard her complain .

José had a strong need to control her, and he was jealous.

It was not until her sister Carla came to Rio to work as a maid, and stayed with Marlúcia och José, that she began to suspect that something was wrong.  Carla became concerned about the increasing amount of bruising she saw on her sister’s body. After a while, Carla moved to her own apartment nearby, and eventually Marlúcia began to talk to her.
José had a strong need to control her, and he was jealous. He did not want her to go out; she was hardly even able to go to the hairdresser without him accusing her of seeing other men. He was drinking heavily and he had other women. If Marlúcia dared to protest when he came home, he would beat her, often in front of their son. Jhosep was becoming increasingly angry with his father.
And then she had the heart attack.

Darkness has fallen, and 12-year-old Jhosep is playing football on the road not far from his grandmother and aunt. His 7-year-old sister Loranna is also present. Aunt Carla often looks after them while their mother is sleeping, and Carla has kept them at home in the yard, not daring to allow them to visit their friends.  José is also in Quiterianópolis and he has already paid some unwelcome visits. Carla does not like José, and she does not want the children to meet him, although she is not actually afraid. She does not believe that José would do anything here, among so many people, in a house where there are only women and children.

Marlúcia calls out through the window that she is almost ready. She will be out to join them in five minutes. Suddenly Carla sees José approaching on his motorbike.
“What’s this? Is here here again?” asks the sisters’ mother anxiously.
“Don’t worry. If we just talk to him for a few minutes I’m sure he’ll go away,” says Carla.
She is wrong.

Things got worse after her heart attack. Marlúcia was weak and tired, and constantly depressed. She was taking a dozen different forms of medication, but nothing helped. She complained to her sister: “This isn’t living. I’m just a vegetable.”
Marlúcia told José that her illness was his fault, and that the constant violence was a danger to her health. That just made him more angry. Angry and violent.

Marlúcia told José that her illness was his fault, and that the constant violence was a danger to her health. That just made him more angry. Angry and violent.

Carla saw how her sister was suffering, and brought up the subject of divorce, but Marlúcia refused to discuss it. She said she was going to stay for the sake of the children. But she had another reason. José had threatened to kill her if she tried to leave him: “You’re married to me until death do us part,” he had said, and Marlúcia took his threats seriously. Carla did not. “That’s just something people say. He doesn’t mean it,” she said, and in the end Marlúcia listened.  

She moved to an aunt in another state, but without the children. José refused to allow her to take them with her.
Marlúcia lived with her aunt for three months and spoke to her children on the phone every day. José had told the children to keep asking Marlúcia to come home. He said a mother and father should be with their children. But Marlúcia knew that on the same day she moved out, another woman, José’s mistress, had moved in.

Living in the favela and seeing the new woman in her sister’s house was too much for Carla, who moved away.  
José continued to pester Marlúcia to go home, and when he finally promised that his mistress had gone, Marlúcia decided, despite everything, to return to Rio.

This was at the end of December 2009, and Carla, who did not know that Marlúcia had come home, was at the airport, waiting to fly home to Quiterianópolis for Christmas. Then Marlúcia called.

He said he was going north to celebrate Christmas, and he left Marlúcia with the children, with no money or food

She said that after she had been home for three days, José had just disappeared. He said he was going north to celebrate Christmas, and he left Marlúcia with the children, with no money or food. On that particular day, Christmas Eve, Marlúcia’s daughter Lorrana had been waiting all day for her father to ring and at least wish them Merry Christmas. Lorrana was very fond of her father. Now Carla could hear her heartbroken sobs. Carla arranged for Marlúcia and her children to be given food in Rio for a few days and promised to find the money for a plane ticket.    

By chance, Carla later met José on a street in Quiterianópolis and he told her he was thinking of flying back to Rio on New Year’s Eve. So Carla booked tickets for Marlúcia and the children on the same day, but in the opposite direction. Marlúcia had absolutely no desire to meet José, and this way she would not have to. Now she and her children could come home.  

To safety, they all believed.

“Go inside and get your mother,” José orders his son. “I want to talk to her.”
He waits outside by his motorbike and Jhosep goes indoors. Marlúcia says José can come inside if he wants to talk, but Carla does not want him inside the house so she persuades Marlúcia to take out two more chairs. They can sit on the pavement and talk, like everyone else. Maybe she thinks it will be safer, sitting among all the neighbours.

“What do you want?” asks Marlúcia when they have sat down.
“You know what I want. I want to sell the house. I want you to sign it over to me.”
“That’s out of the question. This house is for our children. It’s mine, and I won’t let you sell it.”

The house that José wants is in Quiterianópolis and is in Marlúcia’s name.  José has been to see Marlúcia’s family twice in the last few days to fight about the house. It turns out he did not go back to Rio on New Year’s Eve after all, because his brother, who also lives in the Pavãozinho favela, had found out that Marlúcia and the children had left the city, and José assumed, correctly, that his wife had gone home to her family. He decided to stay where he was.

I’d rather die than live with you.

The first time José visited Marlúcia’s mother’s house, on New Year’s Day, he was reasonably calm and composed. He said he could not understand why Marlúcia wanted to leave him, but when she stood her ground, saying “I’d rather die than live with you”, he appeared to give up.
José broke down in tears and Lorrana was distraught.
“My daddy’s crying,” she told her aunt Carla.

As José left he gave his daughter a hug, she felt the weapon which he had tucked inside his shirt. Lorrana told her mother: “Daddy’s got a gun.”
Marlúcia was beside herself. She broke down, but she did not want to upset her mother. She told Carla about her fear – that José would never let her go, that he would come after her wherever she tried to hide. In the end, Carla managed to persuade her to take some sleeping tablets, and she fell asleep.

Two days later, on the third of January, José came back. This time he was drunk and menacing. He continued to go on about the house, both the house in Quiterianópolis and the family’s home in Rio de Janeiro. He was going to sell everything they owned and take all the money, he would show her, so she could go on living off her mother and her sister if that was the way she wanted it.  He would make sure she ended up with nothing, she’d see. And he would be back. 

When darkness fell on Monday the fourth of January, Carla thought they had got rid of him. But no.

The argument on the pavement grows louder. Marlúcia continues to claim her right to the house.
“I am your wife and the mother of your children – not some whore you can do what you like with. I will not give up the house, ”she says, and José answers: “I’ve got nothing more to say. Now I’m going to make things happen. That’s why I’m here. If you want problems, I’ll give you problems. I’m not leaving before I’ve settled the bill.”

Carla, sitting on a chair beside them, tries to calm things down.
“Go home now, José, can’t you see she isn’t well? If you don’t think it’s fair, then go and get yourself a lawyer and get what you’re entitled to the same way as everyone else.”

José’s expression changes now; he is furious. He stands up. He is completely sober, as far as the women can tell. Sober and determined.
“I’ll make my own justice. I’m the one who gives orders in this damned place, no-one else. I’ll show you what I’m capable of.”

He turns and walks towards his motorbike. The women hold their breath.  They are hoping he will leave. But he turns back, stands facing Marlúcia and lifts his shirt, as if reaching for the keys for his bike.

Instead, he pulls out the gun and shoots his wife, right through the heart.
Jhosep pleads: 
”Stop it daddy, don’t kill mummy.” 

”Stop it daddy, don’t kill mummy.” 

Carla throws herself forward to protect her sister with her own body, but a neighbour pulls her away.  
“Don’t get involved,” José warns her. “I’ll do the same to you as I did to her.”

José fires four shots into Marlúcia’s body and she dies instantly.
Someone shouts:
“Hold him, don’t let him get away!” 

José shoots several more shots into the air, all the time shouting:
“I’ll shoot anyone who tries to stop me.”
He does not make it to the motorbike because the neighbours have come running and are blocking his path, so he throws the keys to Jhosep.   
“You can keep the damned things.”
Then he runs. 

Quiterianópolis is a small town, but it does have a police station, and after half an hour some policemen came and took Marlúcia’s body away. Carla stayed at home for three months and managed to arrange for a local search warrant for José, but the police did not go to any great trouble to find him. 

Carla was sure that he had moved back to Rio, so when she returned there to go back to work, she went into the police station at the Copacabana and showed them copies of the police investigation, along with photos of José.  She had also heard where her former brother-in-law might be and the police did, in fact, find him there.
The problem, however, was that he identified himself using his brother’s ID-card. The brothers were very similar in appearance, and since there was nothing to show that his brother might have committed a crime, they let José go. Neither had a national search warrant for José been issued. By the time Carla got to the police station, he had been released.

In June 2011, almost 18 months after the murder, Carla herself was forced to go home to Quiterianópolis to find a lawyer and talk to the local judge in person so he would issue a national search warrant.  

One has been issued now, with photographs, finger prints and a copy of the full investigation, but Carla has little hope that the killer will ever be arrested.  The police at the station at the Copacabana have even said that the only chance they have of catching José is if he commits another crime, so they can compare finger prints. But José is no common burglar.

 14-year-old Jhosep has become very aggressive. He has not come to terms with his mother’s death. 

Carla has returned to her job as a maid in Rio de Janeiro but she is not well. She is often very unhappy and she is taking anti-depressives.
Once a year she goes home to Quiterianópolis to visit her mother, who now looks after all three children: Carla’s daughter and Marlúcia’s two children. Lorrana is doing quite well, she is lively and and happy and has a lot of friends. She is doing well at school. Carla is not too worried about her. But 14-year-old Jhosep has become very aggressive. He has not come to terms with his mother’s death. Sometimes he insists she has just gone away for a while and will come back. Sometimes he swears that when he is 18 he will find his father and kill him himself.

Carla says: “I pray every single day that justice will be done.”

Karin Alfredsson