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Man Confesses to 140 Murders

October 30, 1999

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A 42-year-old man arrested in April has confessed to abducting and killing 140 children during a five-year nationwide spree, Colombia’s chief prosecutor announced Friday.

``This has no precedent in Colombia,″ chief prosecutor Alfonso Gomez Mendez told a news conference.

He identified the suspect as Luis Eduardo Garavito, who was shown in police mug shots to be a tall, dark-skinned man with mustache.

Garavito was arrested after an 18-month investigation into the disappearances of children in at least 11 Colombian states. The children’s bodies were found with their throats slit and showing ``signs of having been tied up and mutilated,″ the prosecutor said.

Only 114 bodies have been found thus far.

The victims were largely poor, many of them children of street vendors.

Garavito passed himself off as ``a street vendor, monk, indigent, disabled person or representative of fictitious foundations for the elderly and child education, gaining entrance to schools as a speaker,″ Gomez added.

Until November, police had few clues into a rash of recent child disappearances. It was then that the remains of 36 boys ages eight through 16 were found in a ravine and an overgrown lot in the western city of Pereira, Gomez said.

That gruesome discovery prompted authorities to create a nationwide task force that began to encounter similarities between cases across the country, he added.

That effort turned up an arrest warrant for Garavito in a 1996 homicide case of a child in the north-central city of Tunja.

At the time of his arrest in the eastern provincial city of Villavicencio, where he is currently being held, Garavito was living under an assumed name, prosecutor’s said.

A search of the apartments of a girlfriend and another friend turned up newspaper clippings about cases of several of the disappeared children.

Gomez said Garavito often gained a victim’s confidence by offering money or a drink, then persuading them to go for a walk.

Garavito moved around the country frequently since the killings began in 1994, and also spent time in neighboring Ecuador, where investigations are under way to determine whether he might be linked to child slayings in the neighboring country, the prosecutor said.

The greatest number of killings took place in the state of Risaralda, of which Pereira is capital, where 41 bodies have been found, and in bordering Valle de Cauca, where another 27 turned up.

Gomez said Garavito was apparently abused himself as a child, and would undergo extensive psychological examinations.

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