Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos
Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos, aka “La Bestia” (“The Beast”) or “Tribilín” (American Spanish translation of Disney’s “Goofy”) (born 25 January 1957 in Génova, Quindío, Colombia) is a Colombian rapist and serial killer. In 1999, he admitted to the rape and murder of 140 young boys. The number of his victims, based on the locations of skeletons listed on maps that Garavito drew in prison, could eventually exceed 300. He has been described by local media as “the world’s worst serial killer” because of the high number of victims. He is the oldest of seven brothers and apparently suffered physical and emotional abuse by his father. In his testimony, he described being a victim of sexual abuse when young.
Once captured, Garavito was subject to the maximum penalty available in Colombia, which was 30 years. However, as he confessed the crimes and helped authorities locate bodies, Colombian law allowed him to apply for special benefits, including a reduction of his sentence to 22 years and possibly an even earlier release for further cooperation and good behavior.
In subsequent years, Colombians have increasingly felt that due to Garavito’s approaching early release, his sentence is not sufficient punishment for his crimes. Colombian law originally had no way to extend the sentence, as cases of serial killers like Garavito had no legal precedent in the country and thus the legal system could not properly address this case.
In late 2006, however, a judicial review of the cases against Garavito in different local jurisdictions found that his sentence could be extended and his release delayed, due to the existence of crimes he did not admit to and for which he was not previously condemned.
Garavito’s victims were poor children, peasant children, or street children, between the ages of 6 and 16. Garavito approached them on the street or countryside and offered them gifts or small amounts of money. After gaining their trust, he took the children for a walk and when they got tired, he would take advantage of them. He then raped them, cut their throats, and usually dismembered their corpses. Most corpses showed signs of torture.
On April 22, 1999, in bushes close to a street leading out of the town Villavicencio (ca. 400000 inhabitants) in Colombia, a homeless man observed an adult male who tried to abuse a boy. On the same day, taxi drivers observed a man who matched the description given by the boy. The man had no personal I.D. but gave the name and I.D. number of a man who was a politician in a small town. Since at that time no computer or file network and no obligatory registration of the place of residence existed, his data could not be checked. However, being asked where he intended to go, the man told the police that he walked to a town that was 90ƒ away from the direction he had given. It seemed that the man had lost his orientation, and because of the matching personal description is given by the body, he was put in prison.
He was found guilty in 138 of the 172 cases; the others are ongoing. The sentences for these 138 cases add to 1,853 years and 9 days. Because of Colombian law restrictions, however, he cannot be imprisoned for more than 30 years. In addition, because he helped the authorities in finding the bodies, his sentence has been decreased to 22 years.
As Garavito served his reduced sentence, many Colombians began to gradually criticize the possibility of his early release, some arguing that he deserved either life in prison or the death penalty, neither of which are applicable in Colombia. In 2006, local TV host Pirry interviewed Garavito, which aired on 11 June of that same year. In this TV special, Pirry mentioned that during the interview, the killer tried to minimize his actions and expressed intent to start a political career in order to help abused children. Pirry also described Garavito’s conditions in prison and commented that due to good behavior, Garavito could probably apply for early release within 3 years.
After the Pirry interview aired, criticism of Garavito’s situation gained increased notoriety in the media and in political circles. A judicial review of the cases against Garavito in different local jurisdictions found that his sentence could potentially be extended and his release delayed because he would have to answer for unconfessed crimes separately, as they were not covered by his previous judicial process.
Determination of identity of the killer
Garavito had been arrested under the name of a politician. Regular fingerprint identification had not been possible for organizational and technical reasons. In March 1999, after the police checked telephone numbers that had been found in the prisoner’s clothing, the investigators discovered that the prisoner’s identity was wrong and that he was actually Garavito. By then, Garavtio had long been on the list of suspects. Now, one of the relatives of Garavito handed over a case (box) that Garavtio had given to her. Inside were not only cryptic notes but also cut-out passport photographs of many of the deceased children (these were the only trophies that Garavito collected). Also, a calendar with further cryptic notes was found. This was later identified as a list of victims according to the dates. Since Garavito does remember all details of his crimes, including the dates, it is not yet understood why he kept track of such a list.
Garavito was held separate from other prisoners because it is feared what else he would be killed immediately. He is afraid of getting poisoned, and only takes drinks given to him by few persons. His guards are on very good terms with him which are reflected by the fact that Garavito himself is relaxed and not at all shy towards them. The stereotype of the “intelligent serial killer” is challenged by Garavito in several respects. The high number of victims is on the one hand explained by his indeed clever way to adapt socially and by changes of his clothing (except his glasses) to local environments. This seems to be natural to him or well trained. To us, he did not make the impression of a person who is playing a rehearsed role. The only thing he never changed, is the frame of his glasses made of red plastic.
Garavito has been sentenced to prison for only two of his crimes. A judge in Tunja, the capital of the central Boyaca province, convicted Garavito for the killing of 14-year-old Silvino Rodriguez, whose headless and tortured body was discovered on the outskirts of the city in June 1996. He also found Garavito guilty of the attempted rape of the 12-year-old boy in the western city of Villavicencio in April 1999, the crime that led to his arrest. The judge sentenced Garavito to the country’s maximum prison term of 60 years. But the sentence was reduced to 52 years and six months because of a plea bargain deal under which Garavito agreed not to contest any of the charges against him.