Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos, aka "La
Bestia" ("The Beast") or "Tribilín" (American Spanish translation of
Disney's "Goofy") (born 25 January 1957 in Génova, Quindío, Colombia) is
a Colombian rapist and serial killer. In 1999, he admitted to the rape
and murder of 140 young boys. The number of his victims, based on the
locations of skeletons listed on maps that Garavito drew in prison,
could eventually exceed 300. He has been described by local media as "the
world's worst serial killer" because of the high number of victims.
Once captured, Garavito was subject to the maximum
penalty available in Colombia, which was 30 years. However, as he
confessed the crimes and helped authorities locate bodies, Colombian law
allowed him to apply for special benefits, including a reduction of his
sentence to 22 years and possibly an even earlier release for further
cooperation and good behavior.
In subsequent years, Colombians have increasingly
felt that due to Garavito's approaching early release, his sentence is
not sufficient punishment for his crimes. Colombian law originally had
no way to extend the sentence, as cases of serial killers like Garavito
had no legal precedent in the country and thus the legal system could
not properly address this case.
In late 2006, however, a judicial review of the cases
against Garavito in different local jurisdictions found that his
sentence could be extended and his release delayed, due to the existence
of crimes he did not admit to and for which he was not previously
Luis Alfredo Garavito was born on
25 January 1957 in Génova, Quindío, Colombia. He is the oldest of seven
brothers, and apparently suffered physical and emotional abuse by his
father. In his testimony, he described being a victim of sexual abuse
Garavito's victims were poor children, peasant
children, or street children, between the ages of 6 and 16. Garavito
approached them on the street or countryside and offered them gifts or
small amounts of money. After gaining their trust, he took the children
for a walk and when they got tired, he would take advantage of them. He
then raped them, cut their throats, and usually dismembered their
corpses. Most corpses showed signs of torture.
Garavito was captured on 22 April 1999. He confessed
to murdering 140 children. However, he is still under investigation for
the murder of 172 children in more than 59 towns in Colombia.
He was found guilty in 138 of the
172 cases; the others are ongoing. The sentences for these 138 cases add
to 1,853 years and 9 days. Because of Colombian law restrictions,
however, he cannot be imprisoned for more than 30 years. In addition,
because he helped the authorities in finding the bodies, his sentence
has been decreased to 22 years.
As Garavito served his reduced sentence, many
Colombians began to gradually criticize the possibility of his early
release, some arguing that he deserved either life in prison or the
death penalty, neither of which are applicable in Colombia.
In 2006, local TV host Pirry interviewed Garavito,
which aired on 11 June of that same year. In this TV special, Pirry
mentioned that during the interview, the killer tried to minimize his
actions and expressed intent to start a political career in order to
help abused children. Pirry also described Garavito's conditions in
prison and commented that due to good behavior, Garavito could probably
apply for early release within 3 years.
After the Pirry interview aired, criticism of
Garavito's situation gained increased notoriety in the media and in
political circles. A judicial review of the cases against Garavito in
different local jurisdictions found that his sentence could potentially
be extended and his release delayed, because he would have to answer for
unconfessed crimes separately, as they were not covered by his previous
Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos
Born Jan 25, 1957, in Genova, Quindío,
Colombia’s western coffee-growing region, he was the oldest of seven
sons and grew up in an atmosphere of violence: beaten by his father,
Manuel Antonio Garavito and repeatedly raped by two male neighbors.
just five years of schooling and left home at 16, working first as a
store clerk, then as a street vendor who sold religious icons and prayer
As an adult,
Garavito drifted from job to job, drinking heavily and behaving
aggressively until he wore out his welcome and moved on to the next
town. He attempted suicide at least once and was under psychiatric care
for five years, according to police reports.
confessed to killing at least 140 boys between ages 8 and 16 over a
five-year period that ended when he was jailed on April 22, 1999, on an
unrelated rape charge of a 12-year-old boy.
The police and
prosecutors say Garavito has admitted killing children in 54 cities
across Colombia as well as in Ecuador. The largest concentration of
killings appears to have occurred in his native region, in and around
Pereira, a coffee-growing area in the west-central part of the country.
of Garavito's confession has generated disgust, indignation and fear
throughout this South American nation of 40 million people. Colombia
does not have the death penalty for murder, but the enormity of the
crimes of which Garavito is accused has led Gen. Rosso Jose Serrano, the
chief of the national police, and many others to call for an exception.
drifter, would befriend the children and take them on long walks until
they tired. Then he would tie them up to trees with nylon rope, slit
their throats or behead them, and bury their bodies in shallow graves
and investigators presume a large number were sexually abused.
He has alleged
that all of his crimes were committed when he was drunk and was taken
over by a "superior being".
"The police have
so far found 114 skeletons".
Many, if not a
majority, of the victims appear to have been street children, from poor
families or separated from their parents by poverty or the political
violence that has displaced 1.5 million Colombians in little more than a
decade. Such children- grimy, hungry, morose and poorly dressed-have
become a familiar sight on the street corners of Colombia's large cities
and towns, where they beg, sell newspapers or chewing gum, or shine
were led to Garavito when witnesses and hotel records placed him near
many of the murders, and rope found in his home matched the cord used to
tie many of the victims’ hands, among other clues.
The police said
the evidence against the brown-haired, green-eyed Garavito, who has a
deep scar on his left arm, is so strong that it prompted the confession.
Police dug up a
mass grave of his alleged victims — 25 boys, in November 1997, in a
ravine in the western coffee-growing city of Pereira.
discovery, initially thought by local authorities to be the work of a
satanic cult, prompted authorities to create a nationwide task force
that began to encounter similarities between cases across the country.
all the time in Colombia, the authorities said it was because there was
no one to notice that the children were missing or to inquire about
their whereabouts that Garavito was able to kill for so long without
being detected. But his confession has brought an avalanche of criticism
from poor people, who say the police are indifferent, abusive or
himself off as "a street vendor, monk, indigent, disabled person or a
representative of fictitious foundations for the elderly and children's
education, in that way gaining entrance to schools as a speaker".
killings began in 1992, Garavito has moved frequently, and spent time in
Ecuador, where cops are trying to connect him to other child deaths.
Garavito would undergo extensive psychological examination.
been sentenced to prison for only two of his crimes.
A judge in Tunja,
the capital of the central Boyaca province, convicted Garavito for the
killing of 14-year-old Silvino Rodriguez, whose headless and tortured
body was discovered on the outskirts of the city in June 1996.
He also found
Garavito guilty of the attempted rape of the 12-year-old boy in the
western city of Villavicencio in April 1999, the crime that led to his
sentenced Garavito to the country's maximum prison term of 60 years.
But the sentence
was reduced to 52 years and six months because of a plea bargain deal
under which Garavito agreed not to contest any of the charges against
Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos (born
jan 25, 1957) is the serial killer with one of the highest proven
numbers of victims.
Between 1992 and
1999, Garavito killed more than 200 children at core ages between 8 and
13 years, with the exception of one boy aged 16 (walking handicap, March
His modus operandi remained
relatively stable. During daytime, he lured children of a lower social
status out of crowded parts of the city into hidden areas that were over-
grown with high plants. Garavito promised either payment for easy work,
or drugs, or made other offers. The children were tied up, tortured,
raped and killed by at least one cut in the lateral part of the neck, or
by decapitation. During the killings, Garavito was drunk.
Even after his arrest (for
attempted rape) under a wrong identity it was not immediately possible
to track his crimes since Garavito had frequently changed his places of
stay and his jobs. He also grew different hairdos and used wrong names.
During his still ongoing confessions, he now directs the investigators
correctly to all crime scenes all over Colombia.
In spite of an initial sentence of
2 600 years, it is in fact possible that Garavito will be released from
prison within the next 10 to 20 years, after serving a sentence of
minimum 25 to maximum 40 years in jail.
Our account is based on a ten-day
visit in Bogota and Villavicencio in July 2002 that included several
meetings with the investigators, Garavito himself and his social worker.
Technically, the case is still ongoing since Garavito still confesses to
vet unknown crimes. We also met Garavito in a different prison in 2005
for further talks and tests (Armenia).
On April 22, 1999, in bushes close
to a street leading out of the town Villavicencio (ca. 400000
inhabitants) in Colombia, a homeless man observed an adult male who
tried to abuse a boy. On the same day, taxi drivers observed a man who
matched the description given by the boy. The man had no personal I.D.
but gave the name and I.D. number of a man who was a politician in a
small town. Since at that time no computer or file network and no
obligatory registration of the place of residence existed, his data
could not be checked. However, being asked where he intended to go, the
man told the police that he walked to a town that was 90ƒ away from the
direction he had given. It seemed that the man had lost his orientation,
and because of the matching personal description given by the body, he
was put in prison.
Discovery of a serial killer's
In February 1998, 2 naked corpses
of children were discovered lying next to each other outside of the town
of Genua, Colombia. The location was set on the slope of a hill as most
of the other crime scenes. On the next day, only metres away, a third
corpse was found, this time in a state of advanced decomposition. All
bodies had been tied at the hands. Numerous blood stains could be
detected in the area, as well as a knife. The necks of the bodies and
the external genitals were deeply cut or severed. A closer investigation
of the bodies revealed bite marks and signs of anal penetration; a
bottle of lubricant was found, too. Post mortem interval could not be
determined; DNA typing of the collected stains could ne be performed
because of costs.
Since at that point there were
several known serial killers on the loose in Colombia, it was not clear
if these were victims of e.g. Pedro Alonso Lopez (around 70 victims;
locally known as the "monster/strangler of the Andes"). The crime scenes,
and the state of the corpses did however not at all match the crimes of
the other serial killers, e.g. Lopez only killed girls. Profiling was
not possible due to organizational and funding problems.
It was found that the dead boys had
been living in a town nearby, were aged 11 and 13,and had been close
friends. They came from a socio-economically weak background, and had to
work in the streets selling fruit, chewing gum, etc., to add to their
family's poor incomes.
The investigators noted that: a)
one victim's mother commented that her son briefly returned home on the
day he disappeared and told her that he would help a man with a cattle
transport, and that b) it was odd that all children disappeared around
10 a.m. on different days. The explanation found much later was that
Garavito usually either offered the boys juice or cake in a local shop,
checked out their character, structure of skin (soft, not too dark),
etc., and then asked them either to walk with him, or to help him with
carrying something. Garavito adjusted not only his outfits (street
vendor, bum, priest, etc.) but also the task that he asked for according
to the local situation (carrying a crate of oranges, help him with
cattle, harvesting sugarcane, etc.). He also promised drugs to addicted
children, and payed stakes for children interested in games. Initially
Garavito had simply offered money but since most children found this
suspicious, he switched to a mixture of promises and an appropriate, yet
slighty raised amount of money (usually an amount worth a little more
than one day of children's work - i.e., the children would not tell
their parents straight away but use the money as fake income in exchange
for a day off). In all cases, he tried to lure the children away
immediately so they would not return home beforehand.
Close to his home town, at 6 a.m.
on the morning after Halloween (considered to be the "Evening of the
Children" in Columbia), Garavito also found a victim by offering a child
to help him collect sweets that it had lost the night before.
A four-person unit from the D.A.'s Office of Investigations from the
province Armenia now started to look for similar homicides all over
Columbia. Hundreds of cases were reported but most of the children had
neither been identified nor was there a description of their injuries.
Retroactive identification by use of the teeth was frequently impossible,
either because the children never had an Xray, or the X-rays were buried
after the earthquakes of 1998. Therefore, until today, 27 of the
children killed by Garavito are not identified. Facial reconstruction
was performed in few cases at the Institute for Legal Medicine in
Another series of killings against
children aged 8 to 10 in the region Valle in 1995 raised further
suspicion. Two of the 4 dead children were cousins, and again, all
children came from a weak social background, were described as not very
intelligent, and again, they disappeared shortly before noon. Again, the
children were found on the slope of a hill with high-growing plants, not
far outside of the town. The pattern of children being killed more or
less at one spot but on different days is a signature of Garavito. He
did not bury the bodies but leave them on the spot. Once he had found a
suitable location for the killings, he would use it all over again. The
children may have suspected that something was wrong once they arrived
but were immediately tied up.
Garavito could not stop himself
even in dangerous situations. On the early afternoon of june 8, 1996, a
boy went missing in the town of Boyaca. He followed Garavito on his (the
boy's) own bike so no violence had taken place. The corpse was found 5
days later decapitated with the severed penis stuck inside of the mouth.
The mother of the boy had immediately started a search, and found that
the boy had last been seen in a local shop with some other boys and a
stranger who bought them sweets. The stranger was identified as Garavito
who stayed in town. He was questioned by the police but stated that he
sure bought the children sweets but then left alone. Approximately 4
days later, Garavito killed a 13-year old boy in the close by town
Signatures of the killings
Apart from the already mentioned
behavior, decapitations, or at least their attempt seemed to be typical
for Garavito. In many cases, because of the decomposition, the only way
to prove this, were notches in the fourth vertebra of the neck. Many of
the soft tissue cuts that could be documented were caused by a knive
that produced raw lacerations as if the blade was old or notchy. The
internal organs were usually left in place; on the abdomen, Garavito did
produce multiple stab wounds but no anatomical cuts. The only exception
was a 10-year old boy (killed in january 1997) who was found under
similar circumstances, but the wounds were produced by a stabbing weapon
without a blade (technically: impaling wounds). Dismembering of the
corpses only took place in cases where body parts had to be transported
out of houses in wich very few killings had taken place. In very few
cases, he also put the bodies in bags and sank them together with stones
On many crime scenes, empty bottles
of the cheapest brand of local schnapps were found. In fact, Garavito
had a habit of abusing alcohol, and left the empty bottles just like the
corpses openly at the scene of crime.
By now, it becomes clear that
Garavito subdivided suitable killing places into sectors, and killed one
child per sector. In many cases, he very slowly tortured the children
who were sometimes tied in way so that they could still walk around over
quite a distance but not escape. Anal penetration seems to be a common
feature of the cases but it remains unclear if this was a post mortem or
peri mortem act. Until today, Garavito draws precise maps out of his
memory which show the exact locations of the corpses.
Most of the crimes were performed
on or around weekends when most children hung around the market places.
Garavito tried to lure them away during day time because this raised
less suspicion concerning the odd jobs lie offered as well as a possible
non-presence at dinner.
Before Garavitos confessions, the
public still did not generally accept that one killer was responsible
for the crimes. Therefore, allthough there was no indication for it at
all, the usual suspects like satanists or other secret organizations
were accused. Their responsability was unlikely since no two killings
took place at the same time. At the same time, the travel pattern of the
offender was highly irregular. Another theory pointed towards alleged
organ trade. Since mostly stab wounds were found, and since the
conditions at the scenes of crime - identified by blood stains
protruding from living persons - were highly unsterile, this theory was
Determination of identity of the
Garavito had been arrested under
the name of a politician. Regular fingerprint identification had not
been possible for organizational and technical reasons. In March 1999,
after the police checked telephone numbers that had been found in the
prisoner's clothing, the investigators discovered that the prisoner's
identity was wrong and that he was actually Garavito. By then, Garavtio
had long been on the list of suspects. Now, one of the relatives of
Garavito handed over a case (box) that Garavtio had given to her. Inside
were not only crypic notes but also cut-out passport photographs of many
of the deceased children (these were the only trophies that Garavito
collected). Also, a calendar with further crypic notes was found. This
was later identified as a list of victims according to the dates. Since
Garavito does remember all details of his crimes, including the dates,
it is not yet understood why he kept track with such a list.
On October 28, 1999, after several
weeks of confirmatory investigations, Garavito was for the first time
exposed to the fact that his identitiy was known and that evidence for
his crimes was found. During the first questioning, he confessed to his
crimes straight away and asked god and mankind for forgiveness.
It became clear that since 1992,
Garavito had killed more than 200 boys (today's count: 300), and
commited numerous acts with sexual background against the will of
others. His popular name became "The Beast" (la bestia).
Cooperation of the different
agencies is difficult in a very large country that suffers from constant
and extreme political problems, massive violence (especially amongst the
guerilla and paramilitary units), and organizational problems. Compared
to industrialized countries, pedophilia is quite widespread, mostly
because children and juveniles need to gain some kind of income (39% of
the chddren in Colombia are considered to live in poverty [Terre des
Hommes]). This led to the high number of victims but on the other hand
could not be prevented. e.g., several times, Garavito also simply left
the country and went to Equador.
The public prosecutors (district
attorneys), together with their own investigation units (not the same as
the police) are allowed to investigate throughout the country. In the
Garavito case, this was used to commission the local investigative unit
of Armenia with investigating all related crimes. This was based on the
fact that the prime suspect (Garavito) came from Armenia but also that
numerous corpses had been found in this region. It seems that other
local investigation units did, however, not share all their information
with the Armenian police.
Legally, the case against Garavito
is not closed because he still confesses to killings. Until 2003, he was
technically found guilty 70 times, for 160 separate killings. Since
Garavito was considered to be sane (in the sense of being responsible
for his acts), he could not be sent to a forensic psychiatric
institution for an indefinite time. Therefore he was sentenced to
custody in prison. As in the Colombian sentencing system the sentences
for every single offence are added up, Garavito was actually sentenced
to about 2 600 years in prison. However, this does not mean that
Garavito will serve a life time prison sentence. After the reform of the
Colombian Penal Code in 2000, a person can neither be sentenced to death
nor stay imprisoned for more than 40 years in total (article 37.1 of the
Penal Code). Since Garavito is highy cooperative, mitigation, including
an earlier release might have to be applied.
Garavito did never appear in court.
This is due to a regulation that was introduced to the Colombian penal
code to simplify cases in which the defendant fully confesses, and in
which objective proof for his crimes is present and matches the
confession. In such cases, legally binding verdicts can be passed
successively and without a formal trial. Also, the public was massively
outraged already, and a regular trial was not sought after by any party.
Garavito is held separate from
other prisoners because it is feared that else he would be killed
immediately. He is afraid of getting poisoned, and only takes drinks
given to him by few persons. His guards are on very good terms with him
which is reflected by the fact that Garavito himself is relaxed and not
at all shy towards them.
The stereotype of the "intelligent
serial killer" is challenged by Garavito in several respects. The high
number of victims is on the one hand explained by his indeed clever way
to adapt socially and by changes of his clothing (except of his glasses)
to local environments. This seems to be natural to him or well trained.
To us, he did not make the impression of a person who is playing a
rehearsed role. The only thing he never changed, is the frame of his
glasses made of red plastic.
On the other hand, the high number
of victims was also due to the chaotic and violent structures in
Colombia. E.g., it will not raise any suspicion to work as a street
vendor by just buying a used cart and selling some type of fruit. This
way, it is very easy for a Columbian person to blend in, especially
around busy market places (as Garavito did). Furthermore, due to the
poverty, odd jobs are attractive for children victims.
Another observation that might
speak against regular intelligence is that Garavito cannot restrict his
train of thoughts. He will jump from one topic to the other, and even if
he starts a conversation on a topic that he feels is interesting (plane
crash, etc.), he will switch to a different topic only seconds, or
minutes later. Because of the complete absence of any psychological
treatment, he is not used to talk about personal matters, even if it
would aid his cause. For example, one of the first things he talked to
us about was an article from a popular science magazine that he found
very interesting; he had written down notes next to the article. The
article was dealing with children abused by their parents. When we asked
why this caused his attention, he would absolutely not comment on this
issue and switched the topic as if he had not heard the question. This
is remarkable because it is the opinion of the police that Garavito was
maltreated as a child.
In a picture test that we conducted
in 2005 (M.B.), he failed to understand or to solve the quiz items.
From a criminalistic point of view,
it is remarkable that Garavito seemed to be too careful to take any
trophies from the victims except of the photographs cut out of their I.D.
cards. At the same time, he liked to be photographed. Several pictures
show him as a street vendor, inside of apartments where he lived, etc.
Travelling for work is quite normal
in many economically challenged countries. Therefore, Garavito did not
raise suspicion constantly travelling throughout the country. In several
cities, he lived together with women who were the same age or older than
Garavito and who sometimes had children. in fact, Garavito seemed to be
a caring social father since his girl friends never complained about him
or stated any form of abuse concerning themselves or their children.
They even mentioned that he enjoyed friendly play with his social
children. In at least one case, Garavito continuously sent money back to
one of his girlfriends during his travels. The investigators believe
that Garavito may have lived together with these women on a platonic
The second stereotype of a
controlling personality seems to be correct for Garavito. He tries to
reach his goals by the most appropriate social methods, i.e. now by full
co-operation with the police. However, until now, he showed no sign of
true remorse. Talking to the police, he stated his sympa- thy for his
victims. in one case, he claimed to have felt sorry when a child told
him about its abuse back in the family. Nevertheless, Garavito still
proceeded to torture the child to death.
His comments on the personal safety
of others are ambiguous. For example, he very early in our conversation
warned against walking alone in the streets (which is in fact extremely
dangerous in Colombia). We asked ourselves if Garavito was actually
concerned about our safety or if he wanted to find out if we were afraid
of the whole situation, or if he wanted to put himself in a position of
It seems that due to his
personality, he still cannot control the situation because he does not
fully understand the intentions of others. His ongoing confessions might
seem to him a way to get out of prison earlier but obviously, the police
has their own plans to prevent this. When we visited Garavito, he
complained that we did not bring expensive gifts but only symbolic ones
(T-shirts, etc.). Instead of telling us, he wrote an informant-style
report to the police in which he noted what he remembered from our
conversation and what we looked like.
Garavito also told us that he
wanted to understand the cause of his actions. Since he does not discuss
personal matters in depth, we offered him to comment on the crimes of a
different serial offender, either Jürgen Bartsch or Father Denke. He was
very interested to hear about the cases (he asked specifically about the
number of victims) but did not keep track of this conversation.
Generally, Garavito gives the
impression of an open, friendly person. In our opinion, he did not
constantly lie to us but seemed to be tense at times. Without being
asked, he told us that he would not continue his killings outside of
prison and that he had got everything sorted out in his mind.