Nearly four years after a crime that made worldwide headlines
only one thing is certain: Daniella Perez, the pretty ballerina turned
actress who was murdered by her leading man in a novela is dead.
The murder weapon, either a pair of scissors or a dagger, was never found,
and still no one knows the real motives behind the murder.
Daniela Lace Lopes
The plot to this story is nothing short of complicated, a potentially
successful tale gone bad. The major players consist of the victim and the
two suspects. Daniella was a professional ballerina, 22 years of age, of
gracious gestures and pleasing semblance, initiating her career as an actress.
She was interpreting Yasmin, one of the major characters of the then current
prime-time TV entertainment, the Corpo e Alma (Body & Soul)
novela (soap opera) created by her mother, Gloria Perez, renowned
script novelist in Brazil. She was also married, apparently happily, to
actor Raul Gazolla.
Guilherme de Pádua — model, actor, murderer. He enters
the scene with not-so-good an image. After admitting to the crime, the
actor, who then was working with the victim as her antagonist character
in the novela, began altering his version of the occurrence until
he framed Paula, his wife at the time, as the person responsible for the
strikes which killed Daniella. In prison he wrote A História
que o Brasil Desconhece (The Story Which Brazil Does Not Know) which
has had its publication prohibited by the Judicial system until the case
Paula de Almeida Thomaz had been married to Guilherme for a short
seven months. The only child of a well-to-do upper middle-class family
in Rio de Janeiro she was only 19 years of age at the time of the murder.
She became a suspect the very next day the crime was committed. At the
time she was three months pregnant, has since then had their baby boy Felipe
in prison, and now awaits the resolution of the trial hoping to reunite
with her family and child. She denies having confessed to the crime in
an informal setting to the police, and swears her innocence in the case.
Guilherme and Paula got divorced in November of 1994, and both await the
At the closing of the night on the 28 of December 1992, the body of
actress Daniella Perez was found at a thicket in Barra da Tijuca (a neighborhood
in the South Zone of Rio) with 18 blows in the heart and throat. Hours
prior to being arrested as prime suspects the actor, Guilherme de Pádua,
and his wife, Paula Thomaz, were at the police-headquarters consoling the
victim’s family. Imprisoned for three years and seven months the two contingents
The jury will have to decide among three options for the most likely
to have occurred on the day of the murder.
The prosecutor, José Munhoz Pinheiro Filho, alleges that Guilherme
and Paula, moved by a fidelity-pact, deliberately planned and executed
the crime against Daniella Perez. As a premeditated homicide he will claim
Guilherme went to pick-up his wife Paula at their apartment in Copacabana
(a neighborhood in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro city, about 20 miles
from Barra da Tijuca) to execute the murder. The sentence under such circumstance
may represent 30 years in prison without parole.
1. That it was a premeditated homicide:
* photograph of the body with clear sign of a contusion on the face,
possibly a result of a punch by Guilherme, which may have been the cause
for the victim’s passing-out, facilitating her abduction and transportation
to the secluded area where she was murdered;
* the counterfeited license-plate. Hugo da Silveira, witness from Porto
Seguro, state of Bahia, was visiting his daughter who resides in the area,
wrote down the plate number (OM 1115), originally (LM 1115) which had been
altered with masking tape.
2- Involvement of Paula in the murder:
* Silveira also testified he saw a female at the location which later
he identified as being Paula.
3- Motive of murder laying in fidelity-pact:
* argument will be made that, to sustain the pact, Guilherme had his
wife’s name [Paula] tattooed on his genitalia, and she had his name tattooed
on her groin.
Guilherme’s defense attorney, Paulo Ramalho, will make a case alleging
that Paula was the one responsible for the fatal strikes against Daniella,
and that his client had no plausible reason for killing the victim.
1- Paula’s responsibility:
* based on the testimony of four police officers who claim Paula made
an informal confession to the crime and that no further attempt was made
to make it official because Paula contended to be feeling sick. From the
very next day on, she denied any involvement in the murder.
2- Guilherme’s innocence:
* argument will be made attempting to show Guilherme did not even witness
Paula fatally striking the victim who was unconscious due to the punch
he had given her in an attempt to defend his pregnant wife from a jealousy
fight between the two women, and that he was “encompassed” in
3- It was not a premeditated homicide:
* Ramalho will claim Daniella Perez had a romance with his client, and
then argue that she was not abducted, but rather conducted her own self
to the location.
Paula’s defense: Paula’s defense attorney, Carlos Eduardo Machado,
will claim his client’s innocence and plans to support his contention by
refuting the arguments of the prosecutor.
1- Paula’s innocence:
* Paula continues to claim she spent seven hours walking about Barra
Shopping (a good-sized shopping mall in the area) after being dropped-off
at that location by her husband Guilherme. She argues that the people who
could probably testify on her behalf are not doing so due to the high-profiles
of the people involved in the case, thus she is left with no supporting
evidence for that contention.
* Machado plans to disprove the claims made by the prosecutor: that
Hugo da Silveira’s first testimony was very general and dubious (not certain
of the type of car, or whether the license plate read UM, LM, or OM, and
minimal description of the woman he claims to have seem with Guilherme);
against the testimony given by the four police officers about Paula’s informal
confession he plans to present the testimony of a friend of his client
present on the day the confession is said to have been made, affirming
that it did not.
The hearing, originally scheduled for the 28 of August, was postponed
per request of the defense attorneys. No dates were determined, and it
could be delayed until December or January of 1997. Claims have been made
that the adjournment of the trial was caused by the annexation of documentation
by the prosecutor which the defense knew nothing about.
Outside the courtroom:
The murder of a promising young actress has become the symbol for the
fight against impunity. Manifestations organized by representatives of
different and sometimes antagonistic groups have all the same goal: get
justice. The merit of uniting under the same banner groups as diverse as
Mães de Acari (Mothers from Acari) whose children have disappeared
and the emerging society of Barra da Tijuca befits the novelist Gloria
Perez, mother of the murder victim.
And in the battle for a just trial for her daughter’s murder, Gloria
Perez has certainly counted with the solidarity of public opinion. But
it is with other mothers of victims of violence that the writer identifies
the most. By taking to prime-time TV the battles being fought for the disappeared
children she became one-on-one with the Mães da Cinelândia
and Mães de Acari, placing under the spotlight issues which are
related, but rarely fought for in great, significant numbers.
Her efforts go beyond revenge against those who killed her daughter.
Gloria Perez has led, thus far, a national campaign which has gathered
over one million signatures in order to alter the Brazilian Código
Penal (Penal Code) by which even the worst criminals don’t get more than
30 years of prison.