Colombian-born Pedro Alonzo Lopez said he knew he would be a killer by the age of 8. That’s when his mother, a prostitute who also produced 12 other children, threw him out of their home for fondling his younger sister.
He was quickly taken in by a man who repeatedly sodomized and beat him, apparently over several weeks, until Lopez could run away. In 1960, at age 12, he attended a school for orphans, where he was reportedly molested by a male teacher. By 18, he was in jail for car theft, and within days of his incarceration, he was gang raped by four inmates there as well.
This time, however, he’d get the revenge that had eluded him during his youth. He fashioned a crude knife and systematically killed all four of the inmates who raped him. Authorities called it self-defense, and his sentence was extended by a mere 24 months.
Never able to escape the squalor and depravity that surrounded him from the moment of his birth, Lopez resolved to take further revenge on young girls just as soon as he could. While the exact dates in reports of his first incarceration vary, it is almost certain that by 1971, barely 23, Lopez was out of jail and prowling the Colombian countryside in search of young victims.
His first few killings were infrequent and experimental, but within a few years, Lopez was killing on a regular basis, murdering two or three girls every week over as many as four years. His body count was in the hundreds.
“I am the man of the century,” he said later in a prison interview with photojournalist Ron Laytner. “No one will ever forget me.”
Yet Lopez was broke, homeless and constantly on the move – the type of person most people would easily overlook. But it’s precisely this that made him so difficult to stop. He was unassuming, and he had a seemingly fail-safe system for killing.
Lopez preferred to lure his young female victims from busy street markets after sometimes studying them for hours. He’d convince them to follow him with the promise of simple trinkets then whisk them away to nearby hideaways, where he had previously prepared graves for them.
If it was dark, he would comfort them until morning, when he could more fully enjoy raping them and seeing them die in the light of day.
“There is a wonderful moment, a divine moment, when I have my hands around a young girl’s throat,” he relished. “I look into her eyes and see a certain light, a spark, suddenly go out. Only those who kill know what I mean … The moment of death is enthralling and exciting.”
“At the first sign of light, I would get excited,” he explained. “I forced the girl into sex and put my hands against her throat. When the sun rose I would strangle her. It was only good if I could see her eyes. I never killed anyone at night. It would have been wasted in the dark.”
“It took them between five and 15 minutes to die,” he said indifferently. “Sometimes I had to kill them all over again. They never screamed because they didn’t expect anything would happen. They were innocent.” Indeed, he claimed a preference for victims that appeared the most “innocent.”
Lopez often indulged in sick games with his victims’ bodies, propping them up in their graves for conversations or “parties.”
“My little friends liked to have company,” he recalled nostalgically. “I often put three or four girls in a single hole and talked to them. It was like having a party, but after a while, because they couldn’t move, I got bored and went looking for new girls.”
Asked why he only chose very young girls, he explained, “It’s like eating chicken. Why eat old chicken when you can have young chicken?”
His reign of terror almost ended in 1978. That year, Lopez was captured by village chiefs in rural Peru for the murder of at least two local girls; in all, he had probably killed more than 200 young girls by that time.
They buried him up to his neck and poured syrup over his head so they could watch him be eaten by ants. Just then, an American missionary woman intervened and promised to turn him over to Peruvian authorities. Instead of keeping her word, she released him at the Colombian border, and he wandered into that country to wreak havoc there. He would have killed her too, but she was “too old.”
A little over a year later, Lopez had made his way to Ecuador, where he was finally caught by angry market-goers as he tried to lure away a 10-year-old girl. The local residents were on alert. Days earlier, the bodies of four young girls had washed up on a nearby river bank.
Apparently, three of them had been strangled with such ferocity that their eyes had popped out of their sockets.
Following the discovery of 53 bodies across five provinces and evidence of his involvement in multiple other murders, Lopez was found guilty of killing 110 young girls in Ecuador alone. He confessed to an additional 240 murders of missing girls in neighboring Peru and Colombia.
Virtually all of his victims were between the ages of 7 and 12. At barely 31 years old, he was the most prolific serial killer in history.
Fortunately for Lopez, Ecuador has no capital punishment, and curiously, the maximum penalty for murder is 16 years – regardless of the number of murders. So whether for one or 100, the sentence is the same.
“Someday, when I am released, I will feel that moment again,” he prophesized. “I will be happy to kill again. It is my mission.”
Incredibly, despite what was clearly an exceptional case, Lopez was released from his Ecuadorian prison on August 31, 1994 – nearly two years early for good behavior.
He was handed over to Colombian authorities, who promptly charged him with a 20-year old murder, but he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and held in a Bogota psychiatric hospital until 1998. That’s when, again incredibly, he was declared sane and released on bail for the equivalent of about $50.
Despite undeniable proof of 111 murders, and his confession to perhaps 240 more for which he would never be tried, Lopez had paid his debt to society. All he had to do now was report to the Colombian court on a monthly basis for the next few years. Predictably, however, he was never heard from again.
Or was he?
In 2002, in an interesting postscript, Colombian authorities were again looking for Lopez – apparently over at least two fresh murders for which the MO seemed all too familiar. Interpol also released an advisory that year calling for his re-arrest.
But just as it seemed Lopez was back at work, the murders stopped. Was this his encore performance before finally disappearing to live out his final days in a rural Andean town? Or had someone finally caught up to him – perhaps the family member of a victim or the Colombian police itself?
Moreover, was Lopez already dead? And therefore, were these new murders the result of someone else’s handiwork?
As with all aspects of his life, numerous questions remained, and to this day, no one knows with certainty whether Lopez is even dead or alive. Colombian authorities are still trying to locate him and continue to follow up on several unsolved murders.
So it seems Lopez was right again. People haven’t forgotten him at all.