Image: Police officers stop a man
Andre Penner  /  AP
Police officers stop a man Thursday to search him in Paturis Park, where 13 gay men were murdered in suburban Sao Paulo.
updated 12/11/2008 9:12:08 PM ET 2008-12-12T02:12:08

A retired police officer has been detained in connection with the murders of 13 gay men in a low-income suburb of Sao Paulo, police said Thursday.

Retired state police Sgt. Jairo Francisco Franco was taken into custody Wednesday night after a witness identified him as the killer of a homosexual man on Aug. 19, said police inspector Paulo Fortunato.

Franco is suspected of acting alone in all of the 13 killings between February 2007 and August 2008 at Paturis Park, a favorite meeting point for gay men, Fortunato said.

Franco, who worked as a private security guard in a supermarket, has denied the charges, Fortunato said. He added that Franco did not yet have a lawyer.

"We have a credible witness who says he saw Franco pump 12 bullets into a black gay man inside the park," Fortunato said in a telephone interview.

A second witness said Franco visited the park frequently, "apparently cruising for gay men and victims," Fortunato said.

Police have dubbed the killer of the 13 men as the "rainbow maniac," a reference to the gay-pride symbol.

"We are convinced he is the rainbow maniac we have been looking for," Fortunato said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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