BRAZILIAN POLICE SAY EX-WADSWORTH MAN, DEFENDANTS FORMED LOOSE-KNIT ROBBERY GANG
RIFT OVER MISSING GUN LED TO SHOOTING
Kevin G. Hall
Akron Beacon Journal (OH)
Police in the Brazilian city of Campinas announced Wednesday the arrest of two men and a youth in the slaying of Joao Herbert, the former Wadsworth resident who was deported back to his home country in 2000.
Hamilton Caviolla Filho, a senior investigator, said the three people arrested had formed a loose-knit gang of robbers with Herbert. They shot Herbert, police said, after learning that he had tricked them out of a handgun by telling them that police had confiscated it.
Charged in Herbert's death are Elias de Araujo, 24, who allegedly owned the missing gun, and Lucas Willian Borges Seixas, 18. Police say Seixas confessed to killing Herbert in self-defense after Herbert became physical in an argument. Also charged was 16-year-old Ronilson Eufrazio.
Herbert was 8 when adopted from a Brazilian orphanage by a Wadsworth couple. Botched completion of his naturalization paperwork and his arrest two months after graduating from Wadsworth High School set in motion a chain of hard-luck events that got international news coverage when he was deported to Brazil, where he had no friends or relatives.
The police version of events leading to Herbert's slaying conflicts with what Herbert, 26, told his adoptive father in a frantic phone call weeks before he died, and with what witnesses who were with Herbert at the time of his death on May 25 told Knight Ridder -- although there seems to be no dispute over who killed Herbert.
Herbert was stopped by police in Campinas on May 10, and his car was confiscated because of past-due registration fees and unpaid speeding tickets.
The next day, Herbert called his adoptive father, Jim Herbert of Orrville, asking him to wire money because, he said, police had threatened to kill him if he didn't come up with $3,000 within 24 hours.
"He was frantic when he called, in hysterics. I know his panic voice, and I know his lying voice, his hustling voice," Jim Herbert said Wednesday. The father added that Joao had admitted to having had a handgun that was seized by police and to having a second one hidden in the car that he had given to police to reduce the bribe they were demanding.
Jim Herbert wired $950 on May 11, and on May 13, bills were paid. The car was released from impound a day later.
Joao Herbert, known locally as the "American professor," told his father he had money coming in from teaching English that he would use to pay some of the alleged bribe.
Police on Wednesday confirmed to Knight Ridder that they did not try to find out about the alleged police seizure of guns by interviewing the officers who had taken Herbert into custody May 10. They said such interviews were not necessary because a witness, whom they are not identifying, told them he was present during Joao Herbert's phone call to his father and that the call was a trick to get quick cash.
Witnesses who were present when Herbert's killers came to his house told Knight Ridder the two men and the youth demanded to be repaid for a gun seized by police.
Those who were with Herbert when he died said he had planned to buy Tech 9 submachine guns in neighboring Paraguay -- the source of much of the weaponry used by Brazil's drug factions -- and smuggle them into Brazil for resale. The friends said Herbert -- who never had street smarts and never caught on to the ways of Brazil -- planned to use the proceeds of such a sale of guns to finance his return to the country that had rejected him.
Herbert's ordeal began in January 1996 when his parents tried to naturalize him before his 18th birthday. The paperwork was returned because Herbert would have turned 18 before the process could be completed. He resubmitted the paperwork as an adult but was arrested for selling a small quantity of marijuana to an undercover officer.
Herbert was sentenced to probation, but under tough new immigration laws, the federal agency then known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service sought his deportation based on the conviction.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft ignored a unanimous request by the state's parole board for a pardon for Herbert and allowed his deportation.