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Judge orders separate trials in Brazil’s soap opera killing

January 23, 1997

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ It is a crime story befitting a soap opera, involving tales of jealousy, infidelity and homicide. But the people involved aren’t just characters _ they’re real-life soap opera stars.

Guilherme de Padua and his wife, Paula de Almeida Thomaz, are charged in the 1992 stabbing death of Padua’s on-screen lover, actress Daniella Perez, after a taping of the popular prime-time soap opera, ``Of Body and Soul.″

Perez was stabbed 18 times with a pair of scissors on the night of Dec. 28, 1992. The slaying so riveted the nation it even eclipsed impeachment proceedings against President Fernando Collor de Mello, who resigned the next day in a corruption scandal.

Padua’s trial opened Wednesday after a 90-minute delay during which Judge Jose Geraldo Antonio agreed to try the couple separately. Thomaz was led back to jail, with no new trial date set.

Antonio read the opening statements and seated the jury. Then, he suspended the session to boos from spectators, only to resume it at night.

Under questioning by Antonio, Padua insinuated that he had had an affair with Perez and said his wife stabbed her with scissors out of jealousy.

``Around Christmas, I revealed many secrets to Paula, things I hadn’t said before, girls I had been with, friends of hers,″ Padua said. ``I said, `Daniella, for example,′ and she said `What? You were with Daniella?‴

Padua said he had approached Perez because he thought she could help him professionally _ her mother, Gloria Perez, was the soap’s author. When Thomaz got pregnant, he said, he tried to cool his romance with Perez and noticed that his TV role got smaller.

On the night of the murder, Padua said the three of them met after a taping session on a deserted stretch of road near the beach and argued. Padua said he hit Perez and thought he had killed her, so he went to disguise his license plate with tape so it wouldn’t be recognized.

``I heard something and said `Paula, what’s happening?′ I went back and witnessed only the last two or three blows,″ he said.

Padua said he then drove past the beach, threw the scissors into the sea and went home. The murder weapon was never found.

In the soap, Padua had played Bira, a brooding character rejected by Yasmin, played by Perez. The eerie parallels with real life heightened the drama surrounding the killing.

Padua initially confessed to the crime, and police said Thomaz also admitted taking part. Both later recanted, blaming each other for the killing.

Prosecutors say Padua and Thomaz killed Perez together to seal a pact of fidelity.

If convicted, Padua and Thomaz each face 30 years in prison. But under Brazilian law, first-time offenders serve only a third of their sentence and are eligible for work-release after serving only one-sixth.

Because the defendants have already been jailed for four years, they would be eligible for work-release within a year.

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