The Monster of the Andes By Ron Laytner Copyright Edit International QUITO, ECUADOR - Modern history's worst murderer, a serial killer of young girls, has been released from prison and is free to kill again. Pedro Alonzo Lopez served less than one month's prison time in Ecuador for each of 350 young girls he murdered in three countries. But now he’s free because the country holding him has no death penalty and had to release him after 20 years.. Lopez became known as the 'Monster of the Andes' in 1980 when he led shocked police to the graves of 53 of his victims in Ecuador, all girls between nine and twelve years old. Three years later he was finally found guilty of murdering 110 young girls in Ecuador alone and confessed to a further 240 murders of missing girls in neighboring Peru and Columbia. When Lopez was a prisoner in Ecuador this journalist was granted the only interview he ever gave. Meeting the world’s worst modern serial killer required preparation. Pedro Alonzo Lopez was held in the center of an otherwise abandoned section of Ambato Prison on top of a mountain far from other prisoners for their safety and his. There was an unofficial reward, believed raised by the families of his victims, of $25,000 US for any guard or prisoner who killed him. I was searched for weapons as I went through three levels of security. Taking off my shoes, I tiptoed down the corridor and peeked over the edge of the small barred window into his cell. The Monster of the Andes, as he was known, was on the floor, sitting against a wall, huge hands flexing. On the wall behind him were faded clippings of his mass murder trial. I sat on the other side of the corridor, turned on my flash and pre-focused my camera on the barred window. Somewhere down the corridor behind me a guard made a hissing sound. The guards liked to torment the serial killer who feared they would kill him. The Monster stirred. He growled and ran at the window, grabbing the bars and snarling. That’s when I captured the picture showing his rage and powerful killer hands. The next day I returned with the warden. While guards with cocked pistols watched through the little window and from the larger entrance to his cell in which he had been kept for 12 years in solitary confinement, I stepped into the cell. From outside the bars, the Prison Director, Victor Lascaño, introduced me and I foolishly and innocently held out my hand for the Monster to shake.
He was surprised. Probably no one had ever touched him since he was locked away in 1980 following a three year killing rampage. He stared into my eyes then gripped my hand and began squeezing. His enormous hand, which had exerted so much pressure on young girls’ necks that many had their eyes popped out by the pressure, now turned its power on me. My hand went numb. If I’d been wearing a ring my fingers would have broken. Instead, the ends of my fingers began to swell up like tiny red balloons, gorged with blood. I was about to scream out when the Monster suddenly stopped and smiled. That’s when he decided to grant me the one and only interview he ever made. He now invited the the director of the prison in with me, but only if the director's pretty daughter, who was acting as interpreter, came in also. He told the warden he had not touched a woman in a dozen years. He would go forward with the interview but only if he could touch the hands of the warden’s daughter. Everyone gasped. We three were now in th cell with the Monster. Guards aimed pistols through the bars. If there was shooting I hoped I wouldn’t be shot. Then the brave girl held out her hands and the Monster of the Andes, very carefully touched the ends of his fingers to her wrists. Would he grab her by the throat and kill her? The moment passed. He released her and began talking. Later he told us that at about 26, she was too old to attract him. With pistols aimed at him continuously so he wouldn’t suddenly strangle any of us, The Monster of The Andes answered every question - questions no serial killer had ever answered before: What is it like to kill? Why kill at all? And why such young girls? Just as other men shave, shower and eat, Lopez killed on a regular basis slaying two, sometimes three girls every week, every month, every year over a three-year-long murder rampage. Locked within his cell, watched by nervous guards holding cocked pistols, the mass murderer told me, “I am the man of the century. No one will ever forget me.”
Lopez killed his young girl victims by luring them away from market places with the promise of giving them trinkets such as hand mirrors. He took them to secret hideaways where he had prepared graves. Sometimes there were bodies of earlier victims lying in the shallow pits. Lopez lulled the innocents by holding them in his arms like a loving parent before raping them at sunrise. He explained: “At the first sign of light I would get excited. I forced the girl into sex and put my hands around 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. I had to watch them by daylight.” He said it took the girls five to fifteen minutes to die. “I was very considerate. I would spend a long time with them making sure they were dead. I would use a mirror to check whether they were still breathing.” Lopez slit the girls' wrists or throats to see if blood was still pumping. If they had somehow survived, he finished them off. “Sometimes I had to kill them all over again,” he admitted. They never screamed because they didn't expect anything would happen. They were so innocent.” He explained how he snared his victims. “I walked among the markets searching for a girl with a certain look on her face, a look of innocence and beauty.” “She would be a good girl, always working with her mother. I followed them, sometimes for two or three days, waiting for the moment when she was left alone. I would give her a pretty, shining trinket, then get her to leave with me for the edge of town where I had promised to give her another trinket for her mother.” The killer also revealed he wanted to rape and kill the children of visiting tourists. “I often followed tourist families, wanting to take their beautiful blonde daughters. But I never got the chance. Their parents were too watchful.” Lopez acted out gruesome 'parties' with his dead victims propping them up in their graves and talking to them.
He told me and the shocked interpreter, “My little friends liked to have company. 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 out looking for new girls.” He explained why he only chose very young girls: “It's like eating chicken. Why eat old chicken when you can have young chicken?” The monster's crimes came to light in 1979 when a river overflowed near the town of Ambato in Ecuador and the bodies of four girls were washed up on the banks. Three had been strangled with such ferocity that their eyes had popped out of their sockets. The fourth child's eyes were still in her head frozen open in horror. Three days later Lopez was captured as he tried to snatch another girl. Luckily for her, the 10 year-old's mother, Carlina Ramon Poveda, saw Lopez walking away hand in hand with her daughter Maria and screamed. An angry mob of market workers pounced on the stranger, holding him down until police arrived. He had been captured once before, revealed Lopez. “Indians in Peru had me tied up and buried in sand to my neck
“They had placed syrup on me and were going to let me be eaten by ants. But an American missionary lady came by in her jeep and promised them she would turn me over to the police. They left me tied up in the back of her jeep and she drove away. But she released me at the border of Columbia and let me go. I didn't hurt her because she was too old to attract me.” But he wasn’t able to get away from the police in Ecuador. To find out whether Lopez had murdered the river bank children, police placed undercover detective Pastor Gonzales in his cell. Detective Gonzales said, “For 27 days I hardly slept, afraid I'd be strangled in my bed. I kept a towel wrapped around my throat. But I tricked Lopez into confessing by pretending I was a rapist too. He boasted to me of murder after murder in Ecuador, Columbia and Peru. It was beyond my wildest nightmares. He told me everything.” Lopez took shocked police to the graves of 53 of his victims, then refused to help further. Two months later in 1980 he pleaded guilty to 110 charges of murder. Police said the killer could have been charged with a total of 350 murders of missing girls but additional trials in Columbia and Peru would have been too complex and costly. Lopez was already a convicted murderer before he started preying on girls. He had slit the throats of three men who had raped him as an 18 year -old in a Colombian jail where he was serving time for car theft. Lopez said he knew from the age of eight that he was going to be a killer. He explained, “I was the seventh son of 13 children of a prostitute in Tolima, Colombia. All the children slept on a big bed behind a drawn curtain while our mother did her business with men.” “My mother threw me out when I was eight after she caught me touching my sister's breasts. She took me to the edge of town but I found my way home again.” “Next day she took me on a bus and left me off more than 200 miles from home. There I was found by a man who took me into an abandoned building and raped me over and over again. I decided then to do the same to as many young girls as possible.”
He tried to explain his killings, comparing himself to spectators who attend bullfights to watch the ‘Moment of Truth’ when the fighting bull or Matador faces death. Said the Monster of The Andes, “There is a wonderful moment, a divine moment when I have my hands around a young girl's throat.” “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. Someday, when I am released. I will feel that moment again. I will be happy to kill again. It is my mission.” That night I went to my hotel room, shaken, knowing I had just met the Devil inside a man. I locked my door carefully. The world’s worst serial killer was out there in the night just a quarter mile away. I closed down the wooden shutters to my room and carefully locked them. I was so unnerved, I pushed a piece of furniture up against the door. Then I drifted into a troubled sleep. At 3 am I awoke to find a hand around my throat, squeezing and choking me. I screamed and fell onto the floor, almost breaking my elbow. That’s when I discovered it was my own hand! Thank God! In my disturbed sleep it had made its way protectively around my throat. I thought over and over again of the more than 350 young girls who had died alone and terrified at the hands of The Monster and of the dark secrets he had told me. Ever since that interview I keep hearing the voice of the world’s most deadly serial killer laughing. “I will soon be a free man again,” said Lopez, then 33. “They are releasing me on good behavior in 1998 or 1999.” For much of his eighteen years in captivity Pedro Alonzo Lopez feared he would be extradited to Colombia where he would have faced a firing squad in a country with a death penalty. But it never happened. Instead, modern history's worst killer was released into the night. They came for Pedro Alonzo Lopez some hours after midnight just after New Years 1999. Four loyal prison guards and an officer took him out of solitary cell 29 in Penal Garcia de Moreno (to which he had been moved) in Quito and with his powerful hands cuffed behind his back, put the world's worst serial killer into the back of a locked police van.
Lopez must have been fearful. Would they simply kill him for the 'reward' money offered for so many years? But that night there were no attempts on his life according to police and the Monster of the Andes went free. Followed by two escort vehicles protecting the mass murderer from possible attack by families of his 350 young girl victims, he was driven to the Columbian border. The Ecuadorian government said they were deporting him because he had no visa to stay in Ecuador. Lopez was given a bottle of water, newer shoes and a shirt and pants, a small amount of Columbian pesos and a package of food. Then he was set loose. A week later police found The Monster of the Andes back in Ecuador, the best country for a serial killer because of its lack of a death penalty. They quickly took Lopez back into Columbia and told him to never return. Meanwhile, in Columbia, Ecuador and Peru, families who have heard that the Monster has been freed are watching carefully over their young girls in what is being described as 'a life of terror'. Phone lines to radio and television stations in the three countries have been full of sightings and citizens calling on police to act immediately and capture Lopez again. Jose Rivas, commander of the Carchi police in Ecuador, said Lopez was seen in the mountains between Ecuador and Columbia. Police, who are carrying my photographs of Lopez are currently searching without success. Quizzed about the killer's release sometime in 1998 or 1999, Prisons Minister Pablo Faguero admitted, “Yes it does sound strange, but that is our law. The law of no executions or sentences longer than 20 years was passed over 100 years ago to protect presidents of Ecuador from being killed following revolutions and military coups. In the past they had been executed in horrific ways like being pulled apart by four horses. The law seemed humane.” Victor Lascaño, governor of Ambato jail, where Lopez was first held before transfer to Quito, is terrified that he will strike again. Said, Lascaño: “God save the children. He is unreformed and totally remorseless. This whole nightmare may start again!” “He won't live long”, predicted the tough mother of Maria Poveda, the young Ecuadorian girl who helped in his capture. “It will be a kindness to the world for someone to murder this fiend. The Monster of the Andes won't last long on the outside. Maybe that is why we haven’t heard of more missing girls. Perhaps someone, even the police in Columbia or Ecuador, have already killed him. If they have, I hope they made him suffer.” Since He was taken into Columbia for a second time. Lopez has not been heard of since. There have been no cases of missing young girls reported. No one knows if Pedro Alonzo Lopez is alive or dead. Police believed it likely that many fathers and brothers of murdered little girls would go after The Monster of the Andes when he was released. Perhaps the Monster of the Andes was finally murdered by someone who felt they were doing humanity a service.
When news of the secret release of Pedro Alonzo Lopez was first announced there was anger among victims families and some talk of trying to change Ecuador's constitution to re-instate the death penalty. But it soon faded away. Since then Ecuador has become a training ground for serial killers who know all they face is a maximum of 20 years in prison. Serial killing is a growing crime throughout the world. About 3% of all world-wide murders are thought to be at the hands of serial killers. But police around the world hope there will never be another like ‘The Monster of The Andes.’ – The End – By Ron Laytner Copyright Edit International
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