Considered by experts to be the most prolific serial killer of all time, Luis Garavito is believed to have murdered close to 300 young boys between 1992 and 1999. Preying primarily on homeless and impoverish children, Garivito was careful to use a number of aliases, change his appearance often, and by dividing his killing zones into “sectors”, in order to avoid suspicion from local authorities. It wasn’t until Garavito was detained on an unrelated rape charge, that “The Beast of Colombia” finally confessed to the murder and rape of 142 young boys.
Colombian officials first suspected the work of a serial killer when a mass grave of 25 bodies was unearthed in November of 1997. Although there had been several serial killers around Colombia – most notably Pedro Lopez, within the same time frame, the young boys did not fit the profile of the victims related to the other cases. Believing that the murders were carried out by a satanic cult, a task force was assembled.
Finding similarities to those of the 25 found in a Colombian ravine to other unsolved murders across the country, the task force was left baffled. Even in cases where Garavito was a primary suspect, he moved so frequently that it was almost impossible for investigators to gather enough evidence to link him to the murders. Without the possibility of building a case against him, the tortured and beheaded bodies of Garavito’s young victims continued to pile up.
It wasn’t until April 22, 1999 that authorities were finally able to apprehend Garavito. A young boy, along with a homeless man, reported that another man had attempted to assault the young boy. The young boy provided police a description of the man, and later other residents of the town contacted authorities when they had seen a man fitting the same description.
When police questioned Garavito, he provided a false name and I.D. number, but when asked where he was going he responded with an area opposite to the direction he was walking. His suspicious response, along with him fitting the description provided by the young boy, was enough evidence to have Garavito thrown into prison.
Whether it was a sudden feeling of guilt, or Garavito had grown tired of being on the run, he finally confessed to the hundreds of unsolved murders he had committed. Through a series of hand drawn maps, Garavito led investigators to the remains of 142 of his alleged 300 victims. All of the exhumed bodies belonged to young boys, ranging from the ages of 8-16. The bodies had either been beheaded or had their throats slit. All of the bodies showed signs of sodomy, though it was unclear whether the act was committed before or after they were killed. Most showed signs of severe torture, one boy was even found with his genitals cut off and stuffed into his mouth. Along with the discarded bodies were empty bottles of cheap schnapps, left almost as a calling card.
Garavito told officials more details of his crimes as time progressed. He revealed that he often posed as a monk, a charitable worker, or a disabled person in order to gain access to children in an area without too many questions. He would then gain the trust of his innocent victims by enticing them with money or gifts. Once the unwitting victim agreed to his offer, Garavito would take them on a long walk. Eventually the child would grow exhausted, and that’s when he would tie them up, rape, torture, and murder them, before discarding the body– much like he discarded his cheap, empty schnapps bottles. He claimed that he was always drunk during these murders and that he had become possessed by demons.
Due to the lax laws in Colombia, Garavito was able to get the maximum sentence for his crimes, but had his sentence reduced by several years due to his cooperation with investigators. Since the maximum amount of time allowed by law is 30 years, Garavito will only serve 22 years – which has the potential to be further reduced for good behavior.