Southern Exposure

Desde as Entranhas dos Labirintos Latinos.

Friday, December 05, 2003

More on the Staheli Murder(s)

Our referrer logs are full of Staheli-related hits, so I thought I'd publish a brief update.

Michele Staheli died yesterday after 4 days in critical condition. Her condition worsened during the week and she was said to have no neurological function and no recovery was expected. She suffered cardiac failure caused by the swelling in her brain. Her body has been sent for autopsy, and it is believed that the same weapon - heavy and sharp, was used on both Todd and Michele. Police are looking at a sample of her blood as well to see if the Stahelis might have been drugged.

The case continues to be front-page news here in Rio. Every day this week O Globo has given a full page of commentary to the latest developments. It's high-profile because a foreign executive was involved, and it's such a mysterious crime, with no obvious weapon, criminal or motive.

The crime left so many unanswered questions: Related to work? There were reports of heated telephone calls late last week. Threats relating to his role on the Brazil / Bolivia pipeline project? Related to a previous job? Professional hit? Then why were they left alive and agonising? And the assassin seemed to know the home intimately. They were killed in bed, and appeared to have done nothing to defend themselves. Drugged? Nothing was stolen. They had been in Rio only 3-1/2 months. They were devout Mormons. The security cameras were not working. The electric perimeter fence had been disabled. No fingerprints were found. No weapon. No one seen entering or leaving. A friend says that other ex-pats in the condominium are now planning to leave, seeking more secure arrangements.

The police have barred the older Staheli children from leaving the country. Police want to interview their 13-year-old daughter. Despite earlier reports, she is said to have a boyfriend, an American, "bem mais velho" (much older) who has been in Brazil for some years. A letter from the mother to the daughter discussing an irregular domestic matter was found in the house. A machete from a decorative display in the home is missing.

Police are still also interviewing others close to the case: the housekeeper, the driver, a man who did some work in the home and had access, the neighbours who responded to the children before the police were called - all are being asked to reproduce as many details of the situation as they can.

There's such a mix of outside and inside factors that it's hard to speculate on exactly what happened. Or rather, it's hard to stop speculating. And on top of it all, the language barrier is said to be a factor since the police involved do not speak any English. Two FBI agents have arrived in Rio and are assisting in the case.


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