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Actor and Wife Charged in ‘Soap Opera Murder,’ But Doubts Persist

January 9, 1993

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ Although police have charged TV soap opera actor Guilherme de Padua and his wife, Paula Thomaz, with murdering his sexy co-star, a lurid cloud of questions still hovers over the case.

In the latest mysterious development, Padua’s three lawyers abruptly quit late Thursday, hours after police investigator Cidade de Oliveira delivered a 240-page report to a judge and requested the indictment.

The lawyers said only that they quit for ″professional reasons.″

At first, the case seemed open-and-shut. Padua confessed that he murdered 22-year-old Daniela Perez, his on-screen girlfriend in the hit soap ″Body and Soul″ in the heat of an argument.

The body of Perez, who played the dark-eyed beauty Yasmin in the series, was found Dec. 28 in an empty lot in Rio’s chic Barra da Tijuca beach district. She had been stabbed 16 times.

But the investigation unveiled a tale of sex, obsession and black magic, and the ″official version″ did not fully explain many questions:

- Who killed her?

Although Padua confessed, Thomaz told police she had taken part in the killing, then later denied the statement. Oliveira said he was convinced Thomaz had struck the first, fatal blows but didn’t have enough evidence to make that charge.

- What was the murder weapon?

Padua said he killed Perez with scissors. Thomaz said she used a screwdriver. But the coroner’s office said 12 of the stab wounds were made with a double-edged blade, such as a dagger. The other four wounds were unidentifiable, the coroner said.

- What was the motive?

Padua said he killed Perez because she demanded he leave Thomaz and have an affair with her. His colleagues from ″Body and Soul″ testified that it was the other way around: Padua had hounded Perez to go out with him, but she refused.

Oliveira said the motive was Thomaz’s ″sick jealousy″ of Padua. She reportedly fumed at the torrid on-screen love scenes between Yasmin and Padua’s character Bira. The real-life couple’s relationship sometimes appeared obsessional, supporting the jealousy theory.

Friends recalled that the two would attend parties dressed alike, each wearing half of a split amulet. Ten days before the killing, Padua had his wife’s name tattooed on his penis, and she had his name tattooed on her inner thigh.

- Was black magic involved?

Padua was a devotee of black magic, according to colleagues. Actor Mauricio Mattar, who starred with Padua in the play ″Blue Jeans,″ told reporters that Padua held seances in his home and ″consulted″ a statue of a dead slave named ″Pai Chico″ - ″Father Chico″ in Portuguese - that he kept in the dressing room.

Thomaz also was involved in spiritism, Mattar said. She would sit every night in the front row, take a statue of ″Pai Chico″ from a knapsack and talk to the plaster figure.

Police lab experts took a shattered statue of ″Pai Chico″ to examine for possible links to the killing.

On Thursday, Thomaz was visited in jail by a black magic ″priest″ identified as Helinho de Exu. ″Exu″ is an African deity of fertility that has been associated with the devil in Afro-Brazilian spirit religions.

An estimated 60 percent of Brazil’s 150 million people participate in some form of spiritism derived from African animism, European witchcraft and other beliefs.

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