Strange circumstances surround drowning death of black university student; family suspects racial crime or foul play

The body of Raimundo Matias Dantas Neto, “Samambaia”, was found last Friday


by Camila Souza, Bruna Machado Simões, ANECS Nordeste, Pedro Luna and Marcílio Albuquerque

The body of college student Raimundo Matias Dantas Neto, known as Samambaia, 25, was found on Friday, January 4th, on a beach in Jaboatão, a city in the greater metropolitan area of Recife, the capital city of Pernambuco (northeastern Brazil). The findings of the IML (Instituto Médico Legal or Institute of Forensic Medicine) said the death was a drowning, but the family disagrees, saying that he could not swim and that the young man’s body showed signs of violence.

State of Pernambuco (red) in northeastern Brazil
Samambaia, who was a student of Social Sciences at UFPE (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco-Federal University of Pernambuco), had left home on Wednesday (2), to buy a notebook. His sister said he was a quiet guy and didn’t sleep away from home. 
 
The student’s family said he didn’t like the beach and that he couldn’t swim. The body was found two days after the disappearance, on the Boa Viagem beach. The photos that relatives accessed show alleged marks of violence on his neck, which led them to believe in the possibility of a murder.
 
Family and friends protest at Praça do Derby in Recife
On Sunday (5), around 50 of the young man’s friends and family staged a protest to demand action from the authorities. Secretary of Social Defesne Wilson Damázio, said that the report would be delivered to the homicide department and will show everything that was found on the body.
 
Understand the case
 
Samambaia left home on Wednesday (2) to compare prices of a notebook he wanted to buy. At 6:40 pm, a friend from his Geography course called asking if he was coming to the pick-up game (soccer) the next day (3), and he confirmed that he was. From there, the young college student never returned home. On Thursday (3), his family began to look for news in hospitals and police stations, but found nothing.
 
The family saw on TV the report of the disappearance of the man. On Thursday going into Friday morning (4), the body was found on the beach of Bom Viagem.
 
Secretary of Social Defesne Wilson Damázio
The family attended the IML on Friday (4) in the morning. In death certificate presented to the family, the examiner of the IML, Ana Dolores Nascimento described the cause of death as “asphyxia by drowning.”
 
The family wanted to see the body, but was forbidden by the IML that justified its actions by saying that “the body was identified as they found the boy’s wallet in his pocket.”
 
Samambaia’s friends questioned this procedure and the victim’s brother went to the morgue to try to see the body again. There, the IML again denied the right of the family to see him.
 
The examiner, Ana Dolores Nascimento, spoke with family and reported that the body was “clean”, ie, without any injury or bruises, and was clothed. The family soon found that statement odd, because if he was choked (by someone), the marks would be on the body. The family again went to IML and lobbied for the right to see the body. They noted that employees of the IML were “useless” to talk to about this case. After much struggle, the IML released a document with pictures of the body of Samambaia as soon as he arrived at the Institute.
 
Contradiction of the IML
 
1) In the photos it was apparent that Samambaia was topless, but the examiner had said that he was found clothes.
2) In the photos, relatives saw that part of his dreadlocked hair had been pulled out, but the examiner had said that the body was “clean” without anything wrongdoing.
3) His bermuda shorts were completely torn.
4) The neck was apparently dislocated.
 
Samambaia was well-liked at UFPE
From there, the family began to suspect that something was wrong and sought a lawyer, while the IML wanted to release of the body, without clarifying the death. At the police station responsible for the case, it was stated “death to clarify,” as the IML labeed the death as “asphyxia by drowning.” For the family, it is a homicide.
 
Relatives again went to IML again on Saturday the 5th to talk with the director, but he didn’t  work on weekends. A lawyer for the family, along with friends and relatives went to the DHPP (delegacia de homicídios or police homicide). Once there, after much discussion with the chief, Beatriz Cristina Leite Fakih, they were instructed not to let the body be taken from the IML, for, as the case had not been registered as a homicide, the DHPP could not initiate the investigation. Based on this presuposto, the chief wrote an official letter with an urgent request, for toxicology exam to done on the body.
 
Everyone returned to the IML with the official letter, and once again, they were totally disregarded. First, they didn’t want to accept the letter sent by the DHPP therefore argued that it was necessary to wait for the examiner who did the previous exam. It was 11am and they were informed that the examiner would arrive at 1pm. The family was waiting, but the examiner didn’t show up. Then, another examiner who was on duty accepted the letter and requested that the examination required by DHPP was done.
 
black Brazilian women
Samambaia’s sister Marta Matias Dantas
Samambaia’s sister said that she thought the case was being treated as just another statistic. Relatives and friends suspect that it is a racial crime and will seek support from UFPE (Federal University of Pernambuco) to pressure the Secretary of Social Defense.
 
Marta Matias Dantas (sister) said the young man was a tranquil person and usually didn’t sleep away from home. “My brother didn’t like the beach and didn’t even know how to swim. So he would have had nothing to do with the Boa Viagem. Besides this, he lived going from home to school and vice versa,” she said. Marta also revealed that she he had received a phone call stating that her brother was seen in a lottery line on Wednesday (2) and calls attention to the fact that Samambaia’s body was found without belongings such as his cell phone, sunglasses and credit cards.
 
“They would not let me see my brother. They said he had his documents in his pocket and that I didn’t need to do anything else,” she continued. According to Maria Jose do Amaral, the family’s lawyer, because he was young, black and from a poor family, the case could be linked with a racial crime or a robbery, since he had money to buy a notebook or was already in possession of the device. “Our goal is to schedule a hearing with the Secretary of Social Defense, Wilson Damázio, so he can appoint a specific delegate to the case, covering new lines of investigation,” she said.
 
Sought for a report, no member of the board of IML wanted to comment on the allegations. The manager of the institution, Joyse Breenzinckr Ferreira, was not found. Officials, who declined to be named, said the examiner and consequent release of the body met the normal procedures.
 
Note from BW of Brazil:
 
Although the details and facts about the motives of Samambaia’s death remain uncertain, it IS true that another young, poor, black male was murdered, adding to Brazil’s already alarming rates of homicide of this demographic of the population (and in Pernambuco, black women as well). And other organizations and voices from the blogosphere have also clearly made a note of this. 
 
The Articulação Nacional dos Estudantes de Ciências Sociais – ANECS (National Articulation of Social Science Students) posted the following message of their blog:  
 
“It’s worth emphasizing that we are talking about a BLACK student. According to findings, his body was found with clear signs of torture, part of his dreads were pulled out. Samambaia’s case cannot represent just another case among so many heinous and racist crimes!
 
Considering the inhumane manner in which the death of this student was treated at IML, the ANECS (Articulação Nacional dos Estudantes de Ciências Sociais – National Articulation of Social Sciences Students)through this note pledge our stand of solidarity with the family of Samambaia and repudiate the impunity in the case of this student’s death and any form of oppression and racist violence.”
 
And the site Racismo Ambiental posted this denouncement online
 
“They are treating the case as another murdered black and poor (man). There, they call it ‘ZÉMICIDIO’, just another statistic. We want everyone’s support. Anyone who has contact with the media, be it television or newspaper, please, get in contact. We will try to get support from the dean of UFPE and so that there is a position from the Secretary of Social Defense, we cannot  stop considering the possibility of a racial crime. We want justice!”
Source: TV Replay, Folha PEDiário de Pernambuco, ANECS, Racismo Ambiental
About Marques Travae 3622 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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