Italian tourist killed in Ceará; victim’s friend from Rio apprehended. But is this Ph.D student really a suspect, or is she being held because she’s….black?


Note from BW of Brazil: Sad but bizarre story here. Short story. An Italian woman vacationing in northeastern Brazil was found bloodied and dead on Christmas Eve. A friend of her’s was picked up and is being detained as a prime suspect. In some ways, there’s nothing strange about this as crimes and murders, unfortunately, happen everyday. But there is much more to this story than the police or the press is reporting. If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know that persons of visible African ancestry are ALWAYS considered “suspect” regardless of their credentials.

Brazil’s mythology would have you believe that if Afro-Brazilians are educated, middle-class citizens, they are would be immune to discrimination, the same type of discrimination based on race that Brazilians as a whole still have trouble admitting as part of their character. This is not to say that some black Brazilians don’t commit crimes (as in a another case involving an American tourist in Rio, or a recent serial killer, also in Rio), but the issue is that of black skin automatically provoking suspicion. As such, whether one is a Military Police sergeant, an actor, actress, dentist or just the owner of your own car, the unwritten rule says you are guilty until proven innocent. Of course, we’ll have to sit back and wait for more details about this case to come out, but right now, I’m not convinced. As the ladies over at Blogueiras Negras correctly ask, “If Mirian was a white woman would she be imprisoned?”

From Blogueiras Negras: "If Mirian was a white woman would she be imprisoned?"
From Blogueiras Negras: “If Mirian was a white woman would she be imprisoned?”

Read the story below and come to your own conclusion!

Italian tourist found dead


Italian tourist Gaia Molinari was found dead in Ceará on December 24th
Italian tourist Gaia Molinari was found dead in Ceará on December 24th

An Italian tourist was found dead yesterday afternoon on the beach of Jericoacoara, city of Jijoca, on the west coast of the state of Ceará. Gaia Molinari, 29, had head injuries and scratches on her body. The corpse was in Serrote area and was seen by a tourist couple. The police already have a suspect.

Around 1pm yesterday, a tourist couple was walking to Pedra Furada when they saw the body of the Italian woman amid a scrub in the Serrote region, an Environmental Preservation Area (APA), where vehicle traffic is prohibited.

Northeastern state of Ceará, in Brazil's northeast
Northeastern state of Ceará (in red), in Brazil’s northeast

“When we got there, we found the Italian woman dead. She had her face perforated, perhaps by a stone, and had a lot of blood,” said sub-lieutenant Marcos Rodrigues, commander of the Community Police in the Vila of Jericoacoara.

Initial reports realize reveal that Gaia Molinari was living in Fortaleza, and visited Jericoacoara for the first time. She She arrived with a friend from Ceará on December 21st. She would be there only until the 24th, but chose to stay another day. According to the police, Gaia’s body also had scratches, reinforcing evidence that there was a tussle. The sub-lieutenant Rodrigues said there is already a “strong suspect”, who is wanted. The case will be investigated by the Homicide Division.

Rio native who was a friend of Italian woman in Jericoacoara arrested after contradiction in testimony

Molinari's body showed evidence of a struggle
Molinari’s body showed evidence of a struggle

The two traveled together and left the city of Jijoca – a tourist paradise 287 km from Fortaleza – on Wednesday (24), but the Italian woman didn’t return from the trip.

A friend of Gaia Molinari, who accompanied her during a trip to Jericoacoara, is the prime suspect in the crime of the foreigners death. After presenting contradict ions in her statements to assistant police commissioner Patrícia Bezerra, in the Delegacia de Proteção ao Turista (Deprotur or Precinct for Tourist Protection), the Carioca (Rio native) Mirian  França de Melo was sent to the Delegacia de Capturas (Police Station of Apprehended Persons) in Fortaleza. The details of her statements were not disclosed.

She could be jailed for 30 days for questioning. “Mirian was heard under condition of witness and passed on some information, but she was ordered to prison,” said a spokesperson of Civil Police.

Rio native Mirian França de Melo is being held by authorities
Rio native Mirian França de Melo is being held by authorities

There is a suspicion that another person also participated in the crime. Gaia and Miriam met in the hostel where they were staying in downtown Fortaleza.

The two traveled together and are thought to have left the city of Jijoca – a tourist paradise 287 km from Fortaleza – on Wednesday (24), but the Italian woman did not return on Christmas Eve. They traveled to Jericoacoara on December 21.

Gaia was killed by suffocation by strangulation, according to the autopsy report conducted at the Instituto Médico-Legal of Sobral and released on Friday. Furthermore, the tourist showed lesions on her head and body scratches. When found in Região do Serrote, near the tourist point of Pedra Furada, she was wearing a bikini and had a backpack on her back. The report was not conclusive regarding the crime of rape.

Suspect arrested

A man initially indicated as a suspect in the death of the tourist, 29, was detained by police and then released. After investigation and testimony, he was ruled out of the robbery thesis (robbery with death) in the line of the case’s investigation.

Note from BW of Brazil: In regards to this case, an open letter written by Bajonas Teixeira de Brito Junior has been circulating through social media in which the details of the official police report as well as subsequent treatment of de Melo by the police and the press is disputed and questioned. The version of the dispute is a shorter version. Brito Junior wrote a much longer article featuring eleven points of which he believes the police case is flimsy at the Congresso em Foco website. Here is his short summary. 

Dear friends,

A young black woman, Mirian França, who is working on her doctorate in pharmacy at UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), who vacationed in Ceará, was arrested as a suspect in the murder of an Italian tourist. Everything indicates that she is being used as a scapegoat to save the profits of Ceará tourist industry, since the crime got international attention and could reduce the tourist flow from outside the country. They want to show that there is competent and quick police. But the facts indicate otherwise. The commissioner responsible for the arrest warrant didn’t give any plausible justification for this measure. Above all, Mirian left the location, Jericoacoara beach, on December 24th, because she had purchased a ticket in advance to return to Fortaleza, from where she would go to another beach, Canoa Quebrada. It is believed that the crime occurred on the 25th. The O Globo newspaper, in an article by its team in Ceará, even states: “The crime occurred on the last 25th, on Jericoacoara beach, a distance of 300 km from Fortaleza.” Now, as on this date Mirian was in Fortaleza, she could not have been incriminated. What’s more, the crime required a lot of physical strength, there was a struggle and resistance on the part of the victim. Mirian, of a slight build, could not have done this. And if she did, she would have many marks on her body.

Case has been featured in the Italian press
Case has been featured in the Italian press

The commissioner solves the contradiction in a simple way: she says at least two people participated in the crime. That is, Mirian had an accomplice. It happens that Mírian, besides having an incompatible biography, didn’t know anyone nor contacts in the region. Nothing leaves a glimpse that the young woman has received legal support of public advocacy in Ceará, no lawyer to speak for her. Apparently she was conducted by the Military Police to testify at the hands of a colonel who has issued several prejudiced statements against the young woman (saying, for example, he called the young woman directly on the 26th, and realized that she was in a “party atmosphere.” Certainly, she was on Canoa Quebra beach of Canoa, on holiday break and in the period of high season. At that time, as the colonel should know, she works in her state in a very festive tourist industry). The girl’s family has received no information, and her cell phone was disconnected and hasn’t managed to get in touch with her. Arrested illegally, slandered, held without communication and, probably not in special prison, as she would have been entitled by her academic qualifications. She is a high-level researcher in pharmacy and chemistry, but the press, first in Ceará and then the rest of the country, denominated her as only as a “carioca”. At no time was she presented as a researcher, academic, author of several scientific articles. Was this, perhaps, incompatible with being black? It’s important to stress that “carioca” is a derogatory and very negative term in areas of tourism in the Northeast.

We sent the article published today in Congresso em Foco and we call on them to question the arbitrariness of such acts as another crime against blacks, particularly black women. The article details the questions involved in the case. Below is a photo of Mirian.

Mirian França de Melo is a Ph.D candidate in the area of Pharmacy
Mirian França de Melo is a Ph.D candidate in the area of Pharmacy

Note: This message follows with a copy to the General Public Defender of the State of Ceará. We remain in anticipation of it actions to settle all matters relating to the case.


Bajonas Teixeira de Brito Junior

Source: Diário do NordesteTribuna do Ceará, Congresso em Foco

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Seems more likely that she was killed by one of the other European tourists in Jeri…probably after a night of hard partying! Seems unlikely that a girl she met in a hostel would kill her – especially since there do not seem to be any reports of money stolen. Seems a bit random to just take that one woman in without retracing all the woman’s steps during their visit to Jeri. Strange indeed…

  2. Are they holding the accused Woman as an accomplice/conspirator to the murder? Thinking she might have information on who actually committed the act? Or are they actually placing the act of murder on her?

    Im confused as to why they would jail her as a suspect if they’ve already established that the victim died on the 25th and the accused Woman has valid evidence of leaving the day before? Im ignorant to the legal and criminal procedures of Brazil.

    • What I’m seeing here is that they didn’t have any legitimate suspects and as Mirian was the closest person they could connect they grabbed her and claimed she was suspect due to apparently contradictory declarations in her statements. We don’t know what they were, but as the response suggests, the wanted to apprehend someone quickly to give the idea that their police are capable and that things are under control. Protection of their reputation and tourist industry seems to be all that matters, regardless of whether Mirian is a serious suspect or not…

      • I see. I also wonder what she said that they considered to be contradictory in her statements…I sense she may have been making her statements under coercion or duress while in custody. I mean the only way I see that the murder could be pinned to this Woman is if they threatened her and deprived her of some legal remedy that would clear her. Where’s the evidence??? The motive??? Any Witnesses??? Nothing…

        In my opinion, she’s in for a serious battle. They’re not gonna let her go without a fight unless someone comes forward with the truth.

      • There is prejudice written all over this case not just for the obvious reasons.
        The obvious is Mirian is black, she’s from Rio, she was the last person to talk to the victim by phone. The not so obvious prejudice is Italians have a huge influence on Brazil tourism. Many Italians have claimed Brazil as their personal playground for work and play. Especially in the North East of Brazil. The Italian & Portuguese languages are closely related.The victim is a white women. Hence, there is a major incentive by Brazilian Authorities to identify a suspect quickly. Life is cheap in South America. Authorities will not hesitate to use this woman as a pawn to calm matters while they wait for a new development. She speaks Portuguese I presume this is the reason they will not make her statements public. She’s intelligent and would shed light on how she is being handled. Eventually she will be let go with an apology after the story leaves the headlines.

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