While the United States has more serial killers than any other nation, some of the most brutal murderers the world has ever seen came from the Southern Hemisphere. They've left hundreds of bodies of children, women and men in their wake, along the way earning grim nicknames like "monster," "beast," and "sadist" as the public grappled with their repulsive crimes. Some of these killers targeted poor, indigenous women and children who lived on the margins of society, police making a horrifying situation even worse by failing to properly investigate the deaths of the victims. While citizens were outraged by the grisly crimes, many of the country's judicial systems were not structured in a way to handle such gruesome acts, with maximum sentences that did not come close to letting the punishment fit the crime – like a child murderer who went free after just 14 years. Here, eight of the most terrifying serial killers from South America.
Known as "The Monster of the Andes," Pedro López was convicted of raping and killing 110 women, but that horrifying body count is just the beginning of his gruesome crimes. López is suspected in the deaths of more than 300 women and girls, sometimes killing two or three a week, as he traveled across South America from Peru to Ecuador to his native Colombia. López showed his predilections earlier in life and was kicked out of his home for molesting his sister. Out on the streets, things did not improve for López who was assaulted, raped and molested by foster parents, teachers and, after landing in jail, other cellmates. Once free from his assailants – many of whom he killed – he turned his sights on the young and hapless. According to the Sword and Scale podcast, López was almost put to death by tribal leaders in Peru in 1978, but a missionary saved his life and he headed to Colombia where his crime spree continued. He was eventually captured in Ecuador when the bodies of four young girls were discovered. He admitted to raping and killing 110 victims in Ecuador alone, most of whom were girls between the ages of seven and 12. He also confessed to 240 deaths of young girls in Peru and Colombia. He was sent to jail for the maximum allowed by Ecuadorian law at the time – just 16 years – but he was freed after 14 for good behavior. He was then deported to Colombia, where he was sentenced to a psychiatric hospital and after just four years, he was determined to be sane and freed on $50 bail. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
God spoke to Pedro Pablo Nakada Ludeña and told him to rid the earth of prostitutes, drug addicts, homosexuals and the homeless – or that's the justification he used to murder at least 17 people in Peru. Known as "The Apostle of Death," Ludeña walked the streets of Lima with a 9 mm gun equipped with a homemade silencer and killed those he felt deserved it, like a 50-year-old woman smoking pot that he passed on the street or a 42-year-old cosmetologist who may have been gay. Police eventually tracked down the "apostle" in 2006, engaging in a shoot-out with him before he was finally captured. Though Ludeña confessed to killing 25 people, he was convicted of murdering 17. He was sentenced to 35 years in a psychiatric ward in a prison. In a strange turn of events, Ludeña's brother was arrested in 2015 for killing six people in a stabbing spree in Japan.
One of Brazil's most infamous – and prolific – serial killers was responsible for at least 70 murders, slaying his first victim at at the age of 14. Pedro Rodrigues Filho, also known as "Pedrinho Matador" or Killer Petey. Even before he was born, Filho's life was not easy – his father beat his pregnant mother so badly, Filho was born with a deformed skull. He is believed to have killed 10 people by his 18th birthday, including the vice-mayor of his town after he fired his father. When Filho's father murdered his mother, Filho exacted his revenge, killing the man, cutting out his heart and eating it. Filho was finally captured in 2003. He was convicted of murdering at least 70 people, but going to jail did not stop his crime spree – he murdered at least 40 inmates while he was in prison.
Luis Garavito definitely earned his nickname "the Beast," although few beasts would be capable of his atrocities. Garavito admitted to the murder and rape of 140 young boys, but his toll may be closer to 300 victims. Over a brutal five-year period, from 1994 to 1999, Garavito used food, gifts and cash to lure his young victims, most between the ages of eight and 16. He would occasionally dress as a monk or street vendor to make the children feel safe as he lured them away from their homes and parents. Once he had them in a secluded spot, he would sexually assault them, often torturing them before slitting their throats and dismembering their small bodies. The skeletons of 114 of his victims have been found, while the bones of many others are still missing. He was eventually caught and convicted, putting an end to his reign as Colombia's worst serial killer.
Young women started disappearing from Alto Hospicio, a small mining town 1,100-miles from Santiago, Chile, in 1998. The missing women were from poor families and the police didn't bother to investigate the disappearances, claiming the teenagers had run away. Only in 2001, when a 13-year-old girl narrowly escaped after being kidnapped, assaulted and left for dead did police track down and arrest Julio Silva. Silva confessed to police that he had been kidnapping, raping and murdering teen girls for two years before they caught him. His brutality eventually earned him the title of the "Psychopath from Alto Hospicio." Only when he led police to the bodies of his victims, seven young women between the ages of 14 and 17 whose bodies had buried in an abandoned mine shaft, did the police realize that a serial killer had been on the loose in their community for years. Silva had killed 14 girls before the police knew he existed, becoming the most prolific serial killer of minors in Chilean history. Silva was sentenced to life in prison and the victims' families were given the cold comfort of an apology from the Chilean government for failing to act more quickly.
In a stretch of just 11 months starting in March, 1971, Carlos Eduardo Robledo Puch committed a string of armed robberies, raped two women, assaulted several women and killed 11 people, becoming Argentina's most prolific serial killer. While he occasionally worked with an accomplice, at least one of whom died under suspicious circumstances, Robledo Puch never fit the profile of a killer. He was young, attractive, intelligent and from a wealthy family, but he turned his back on his privileged life. He never gave a motive for his crimes, seemingly killing indiscriminately, as two of his victims were asleep at the time of their deaths. These nighttime visitations helped earn him the nickname of the "Angel of Death." A judge eventually deemed him a psychopath, to which he replied, "Someday I'm going to get out and kill you all." He was sentenced to life in prison in 1980 and has never been granted parole.
It is believed that between 1970s and 1980s, Daniel Camargo Barbosa raped, murdered and dismembered over 150 young girls in Colombia and Ecuador. He earned the name of "The Sadist of El Charquito" for the brutal treatment of his victims, hacking them to pieces with a machete. While Camargo was suspected in the deaths of 80 women and girls, he was eventually arrested in Colombia for the rape and murder of a nine-year old girl. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in jail. He managed to escape from the island prison where he was held, though, making his way through shark-infested water to Ecuador, where he continued his gruesome crimes, raping and killing at least 70 more victims. He was captured again and charged with more deaths – and was suspected in the deaths of up to 50 more women. He was sentenced to a mere 16 years in prison in 1989 for his crimes, then the maximum penalty in Ecuador. Carmago never made it out of prison, though, as he was killed by another prisoner in 1994.
Over the course of four years, Tiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha killed 39 people. Gomes da Rocha worked as a security guard in Goiania, a small city in central Brazil. In his off hours he rode the streets of the city on his motorbike robbing shops, pharmacies and lottery outlets. He would pretend to mug people, shouting "robbery" at them before simply shooting them dead instead. Gomes da Rocha targeted women and sex workers – his victims included a 14-year old girl, young women, homeless people, prostitutes, and transvestites. As police were investigating the string of ghastly deaths, Gomes da Rocha swiped a license plate off a motorbike in a supermarket parking lot and put it on his own bike. That small crime put Gomes da Rocha on the police radar and they soon realized he was a suspect in the murders. He was taken into custody a few days later in October, 2014, and confessed to the murders, telling police that he killed to release the "fury" inside of him. Police found the .38 revolver he used in the crimes in his grandmother's house where he lived. They also found knives, handcuffs, a hammer and more stolen license plates. After his capture, he attempted suicide by smashing a light bulb in his cell and slitting his wrists. He did not succeed and is still behind bars.