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A man who died in a plane crash in Paraguay in 2005 is responsible for the deaths of three women whose murders in South Florida have gone unsolved for two decades, authorities said on Tuesday, citing advances in technology crime scenes and years of detective work on two continents.

The killings began in June 2000, when the body of Kimberly Dietz-Livesey, 35, was found in a suitcase by the side of a road in Cooper City, Fla., Southwest of Fort Lauderdale, according to the office. from the Broward County Sheriff and the Miami Police Department.

Several weeks later, the body of 21-year-old Sia Demas was found in a gym bag near Dania Beach, also in Broward County. A year later, the body of 24-year-old Jessica Good was seen floating in Biscayne Bay, Miami.

Ms. Dietz-Livesey and Ms. Demas had been beaten to death. Mrs. Good had been stabbed. All three had struggled with drug addiction and turned to prostitution, detectives said.

After questioning Ms Good’s boyfriend, authorities said they quickly identified a suspect in her death: Roberto Wagner Fernandes, a Brazilian citizen living in Miami who immediately fled to Brazil after the murder.

Credit…Broward County Sheriff’s Office, via Associated Press

Mr Fernandes’ abrupt departure for Brazil presented detectives with a series of bureaucratic challenges, said Detective Zachary Scott of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. But he said that “over the years” the Brazilian government “has been only helpful in this investigation, in part because Mr. Fernandes’ name has also appeared in several investigations in Brazil.”

A break in the case came in 2011, when investigators matched DNA collected during the investigation into Ms Good’s murder with the DNA profile of the suspect in the Broward murders, the sheriff’s office said. in a press release. Investigators said they also learned that Mr. Fernandes’ fingerprints were taken in 1996, when he was charged in Brazil with the murder of his wife. He was acquitted in that case on self-defense, investigators said, but Brazilian authorities turned over a set of his 1996 investigation fingerprints that matched those found at crime scenes in Florida.

Detectives flew to Brazil to collect DNA evidence from Mr Fernandes, only to learn that he had died in a plane crash while traveling to Paraguay from Brazil in 2005.

Investigators were suspicious. Detective Scott told a press conference on Tuesday that “there were a lot of circumstantial things discovered in Brazil” which led authorities there “to believe he may have faked his own death” .

In addition, Mr. Fernandes “had amassed a number of enemies” in Brazil, Detective Scott said. The family of his late wife “apparently held a grudge against him,” Detective Scott said, “and was believed to have paid others to try to kill him,” prompting him to flee the country.

The detectives therefore continued their investigation, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Brazilian National Police.

A Brazilian judge was recently persuaded to order the exhumation of Mr. Fernandes’ body, investigators said, and his grave was opened in October. Mr Fernandes’ remains were found and his DNA profile matched the suspicious profile created from the Florida murders, investigators said.

Based on Mr Fernandes’ violent behavior, authorities said in their statement that “unfortunately part of this tragic story has not yet been written”. It is possible, they said, that he was responsible for other killings in the United States. Anyone with information is urged to contact Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477 or submit a tip to

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said detectives – some retired, others now deceased – never stopped trying to solve the murders so the families of the victims would know what happened to their loved ones.

“These types of atrocities, as you can imagine, devastate the community and devastate families because they don’t have closures,” Sheriff Tony said.

He added: “Justice never expires.”

The fact that Mr. Fernandes was never brought to justice for his crimes still concerns investigators.

“I wish we were here to show you his photo ID,” Detective Scott said at the press conference. “Unfortunately, we were deprived of this pleasure. Knowing that her last few minutes on Earth were probably filled with terror makes me feel a little better. “

nytimes Gt

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