Flordelis (R) and her late husband Anderson do Carmo

Recently, streaming TV viewers, foreign and Brazilian alike, learned of the stranger-than-fiction story of Wallace Souza—the TV host-turned-politician who was accused of commanding a group of hitmen to carry out killings in order to boost his own viewing figures—thanks to Netflix’s Killer Ratings. Now, Brazil is witnessing another startling criminal case involving another high-profile political figure. It’s a story with so many twists and turns that it has been hard to keep up.

On June 16, an evangelical preacher, Anderson do Carmo, was killed outside his home in Niteroi, in Greater Rio. He was the husband of Flordelis de Souza, herself a preacher and a federal congresswoman—last year, she was the fifth best-voted lawmaker in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The couple had garnered attention for their religious work (in a church named after the congresswoman) and for adopting 51 children—raised alongside four biological children.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Immediately after the crime was reported, many high-profile evangelical leaders flocked to support Ms. Flordelis, including Human Rights Minister Damares Alves, also a preacher, and televangelist Silas Malafaia (one of the </span><a href="https://brazilian.report/podcast-brazil/2019/06/19/march-for-jesus-corpus-christi-evangelicals/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">biggest political influencers</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the evangelical world). The latter spoke of his “deep mourning”: “The brutal death of pastor Anderson do Carmo, husband of lawmaker and sister in Christ Flordelis…. May God comfort the family.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Initially, the family reported that it was a botched robbery attempt that ended with Anderson being shot multiple times. But as police started to pull the thread, things got weirder. Flávio Rodrigues, one of the congresswoman&#8217;s biological children, confessed to shooting his stepfather six times, using a gun allegedly bought by his adopted brother Lucas. Then, another sibling has <a href="https://odia.ig.com.br/rio-de-janeiro/2019/07/5664656-mais-um-filho-de-flordelis-teria-rompido-relacoes-com-a-mae-apos-morte-de-pastor.html">accused</a> their mother and three of their sisters of planning the murder— and said that the tears shed by his relatives at the funeral were nothing but an “act.”</span></p> <h2>Evangelicals in the spotlight</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Congresswoman Flordelis was the best-voted woman running for Congress in Rio last year, at the first time of asking. Her rags-to-riches story begins in the Jacarezinho favela, in northern Rio, where she began preaching the gospel outside of funk dances. She later became famous for adopting 51 children. &#8220;One night, I was awoken by a loud noise from outside of my house. When my husband and I opened the door, we were surprised by 37 desperate youngsters, running from a mass murder scene in Rio&#8217;s central train station. That&#8217;s how my story with adoption started.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She then started several charity programs—even having a biopic of her own produced by her late husband, which was released in 2009. The film features some of the country&#8217;s most famous actors, such as Bruna Marquezine (internationally known for being Neymar&#8217;s former girlfriend), Cauã Reymond, Alinne Moraes, and Deborah Secco.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“There are many elements to this tragedy which make it stand out. Notably, the fact that she is a congresswoman and an emerging political leader,” says Ricardo Ismael, a political scientist and professor at Rio’s Pontifical Catholic University. He also points out that the country&#8217;s morbid attraction for shocking family crimes stories also plays a role.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Ismael outlines the religious aspect of the case. Ms. Flordelis is a member of the evangelical caucus, from the first major Brazilian city ran by an evangelical mayor, Marcelo Crivella. “The attention given to this part of the population and to evangelical leaders is not a new phenomenon associated only with the Bolsonaro administration. Even former president Lula was not indifferent.”</span></p> <h2>Loose ends</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What makes this case so captivating is that even now, one month after the murder, several questions remain unanswered.</span></p> <ol> <li><span style="font-weight: 400;"> The victim’s cell phone, a crucial piece of evidence for the investigation, was never found. But it was used twice after the crime, according to police. A moto-taxi driver stated he saw one of the couple’s granddaughters throwing it into the ocean. The girl confirmed she had been to the beach, but “just to relax.”</span></li> <li><span style="font-weight: 400;"> A bonfire was lit in the family house’s backyard two days after the murder. Cops carrying out a search and seizure warrant that day found the fire to be almost completely extinguished by the time they arrived. Most of the objects thrown in the bonfire were completely destroyed. The material was sent to forensics and the results have not yet been released.</span></li> <li><span style="font-weight: 400;"> The victim&#8217;s stepson, Flávio Rodrigues, confessed to the crime to the police, but his lawyer later said he had not signed the statement willing, though the lawyer refused to give details about possible coercion.</span></li> <li><span style="font-weight: 400;"> In early July, weeks after the murder, Ms. Flordelis wore a golden bracelet while ministering a service at her church. She had previously claimed it had been stolen—along with other valuable items—after the crime had taken place. The item belonged to her husband.</span></li> <li><span style="font-weight: 400;"> The motives for the crime remain unknown. The investigation was sealed, but the case&#8217;s lead investigator stated that “family affairs” are the main cause—in his statement, Flávio mentioned that Carmo could have been cheating on his mother. Flordelis denied it was the case.

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PowerJul 20, 2019

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BY Maria Martha Bruno

Maria Martha is a journalist with 14 years of experience in politics, arts, and breaking news. She has already collaborated with Al Jazeera, NBC, and CNN, among others. She has also worked as an international correspondent in Buenos Aires.