Three French nationals who ran a nonprofit group that helps poor children were stabbed to death Tuesday at their headquarters near Rio's Copacabana beach and authorities arrested three suspects, police said.
The grisly slayings that left one of the victims decapitated were part of a botched scheme to protect a Brazilian accountant, Tarsio Wilson Ramires, 25, accused of stealing money from the group, police said.
A doorman at the building heard screams from the third-floor office and captured the accountant as he tried to flee with a safe, police inspector Marcus Castro said. Two other suspects were arrested within hours.
Castro identified the dead as Delphine Douyere, 36, and Christian Doupes, 42, the directors of Terr'Ativa -- roughly meaning Active Earth -- and Jerome Faure, 38, an employee.
Globo TV reported that Ramires was a homeless child rescued off the streets more than a decade ago by Douyere and Doupes who gave him a job.
Castro said the attack began as Ramires, the accountant for Terr'Ativa, entered the building about 7:30 a.m. along with the other suspects.
After donning masks and surgical gloves, the attackers seized Faure in the group's 3rd floor office before luring Douyere and Doupes down from their ninth-floor apartment in the same building.
Castro said the suspects then stabbed the couple to death and decapitated Faure, leaving blood spattered on the floor and walls.
The 2-year-old son of Douyere and Doupes, Max, was in their apartment with a nanny during the slayings.
Officers found an ID card for Luis Gonzaga Goncalves de Oliveira, 27, at the scene, and arrested him at a hospital where he sought treatment for a knife wound. A third suspect, Jose Michel Goncalves Cardoso, 25, was arrested after he showed up for work in another part of the city.
Douyere had recently discovered Ramires was stealing money from Terr'Ativa and confronted him about it, Castro said. Ramires, he said, pledged to return the money.
It was another vicious crime in a city that has been hit by waves of killings in recent months. But most of the violence has been confined to Rio's vast shantytowns, while Tuesday's killings occurred in an upscale art deco building less than a block from the beach.
The couple once lived in a colonial neighborhood on one of Rio's steep hills. But they moved because they thought Copacabana was safer, said Nicholas Haber, a restaurant owner who knew them for five years.
‘They were good people’
"They were good people who worked to help people," Haber said. "She used to pass by every day with her boy in the stroller, and say, 'Bonjour.'"
Police lined up the three suspects for reporters and photographers, and they blamed one another for the killings. Detectives will ask prosecutors to charge them all with murder, Castro said.
Terr'Ativa is a non-governmental organization working to improve education for children and adolescents from poor communities. The group's Web site said it began operating in Brazil in 2000.