This Brazilian Dexter Loves Killing Killers
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because bad guys come from somewhere.
By Eugene S. Robinson
- Pedro Rodrigues Filho claims to have first felt the urge to kill at the age of 13.
- Filho’s specialty, exercised in prison where he had a steady stream of victims, was to murder those who had committed murder, in some cases in the same way they had murdered others.
In his captivatingly dark track “Murder in the Red Barn,” American artist Tom Waits sang it best: “There’s always some killin’ you got to do around the farm.” Nowhere was this more true, or more prescient, than on a farm in Santa Rita do Sapucaí, Brazil. Specifically because this was where, in 1954, Pedro Rodrigues Filho, later called “Killer Petey,” was born with a bruised skull, thanks to all the times his father tried to kill his mother while she was pregnant with him.
Not surprisingly, Filho was, in turn, badly abused by his father, who did indeed eventually murder Filho’s mother. Murder and then dismember her. With a machete.
On discovering this, Filho went to visit his father in prison, where he promptly, in a manner befitting the son of a killer father, killed his father — by stabbing him 22 times, an event the father did not survive. Which, even if he had, would have been trumped by Filho’s addition of insult to injury: He carved out some of his father’s heart and, without much ado, took a gnaw at it.
Filho then killed a steady stream of folks who shared but one singular characteristic: They were all people who, by his calculations, deserved it.
It was a failure of the world’s imagination that ultimately allowed Filho to not only kill his father but also to stretch his slaughter tape to where best guesstimates have it at today: a body count of more than 100 victims. After all, Filho just didn’t come across as a threat — a trait that apparently is endemic among flesh-eating murderers who are, if you’re alive, very much a threat.
“When I was inside, I knew Ed,” says ex-con Sam McBride, referring to Ed Kemper, another noted serial killer and cannibal, in response to a query about cannibals and killers. “He was always super nice to me. You’d never have guessed that he was a cannibal.”
Filho started slaying at 14 years old, when he murdered a politician who had fired his father from his security guard job. While on the lam, Filho picked up the habit of killing drug traffickers, then killing a steady stream of folks who shared but one singular characteristic: They were all people who, by his calculations, deserved it.
He sees himself as an avenger, according to Brazilian writer Ilana Casoy, whose book Serial Killers: Made in Brazil features extensive interviews with Filho. The tattoo on his left arm that says “I kill for pleasure.” (And the fact that he killed a cellmate once for snoring argues against this being his only motivation, of course.) However, given the fact that many of his killings — with the victims stabbed or hacked to death with knives and razors — occurred in prison after his first arrest at 19, in 1973, perhaps it’s easy to see how he could think of himself as a murderer with morals.
“Killing to survive in prison or because you’re involved in a criminal enterprise and your competitors are trying to kill you is very different from a Ted Bundy, who it seems killed for pleasure,” says Casoy, ignoring the fact that Filho killed his fellow inmate and passenger, a rapist, while being driven to jail in 1973, an act seemingly born of neither survival nor competition.
Warranted or not, Filho’s numbers add up. And given the humanitarian vagaries of Brazil’s prison system, where it’s held that no crime merits a sentence longer than 30 years, he’s had chances to leave prison despite spending most of his adult life murdering others behind bars. In April 2007, after a solid 34-year run in prison — back when noted psychopaths were a slight exception to the three-decade limit — Filho was released for the first time.
Freedom didn’t take to him initially, and he was incarcerated once more in 2011 due to a variety of charges, including one count of inciting a riot. But after being released again in 2018, something strange happened: Filho became a celebrity. With his own YouTube channel, a documentary and a film on his life in the works — plus age possibly mellowing the 66-year-old, Filho has not murdered again. At least, as far as we know.