Brazilian convicted of British girl's murder

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The Independent US

A young Brazilian man who acknowledged stabbing to death and dismembering a British teen while high on crack cocaine last year was found guilty of first-degree murder last night and sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Jurors rejected a defence plea for a lighter sentence on the grounds that psychological tests showed Mohamed D'Ali Carvalho Santos' mental capacity was diminished at the time of the killing, in part by drug use.

Santos, 21, calmly testified in court earlier that he had been smoking crack for four days when he and 17-year-old Cara Marie Burke argued at his apartment on July 25, 2008. He said Burke threatened to tell his mother he was spending all his money on drugs if he did not give her money, and to have her police officer boyfriend confiscate the drugs and sell them.

As she went into the living room toward a telephone to call the officer, Santos cranked up the volume on his stereo, he testified.

He put one hand over her mouth and started stabbing her with a knife that he had been using to cut up cocaine, Santos testified. She grabbed at the knife, and he bit her arm so she would let go.

"I don't remember where I stabbed," Santos said. "I kept on stabbing away, not knowing where, and when I saw what I had done, she was dead."

Santos said he then took a bath and went to an all-night party. On the way home, Santos testified, he stopped at a supermarket and bought a larger knife so he could cut up her body.

After arriving home, he put her body in a bathtub and severed her limbs and head, putting them in one suitcase and her torso in another, according to his testimony. He disposed of the remains near two rivers in Goiania, a central Brazilian city of about 2 million.

Police found a text message in Santos' cell phone saying "the bitch is in the bag." The message was written in English, accompanied by a smiley face, police said. The cell phone also contained photos of Burke's severed head and torso.

Dressed in a white shirt and jeans, Santos bowed his head as Judge Jessair Coelho de Alcantara sentenced him to 19 years for the killing and two more for hiding the body — less than the maximum possible, 30 years.

Defense lawyer Carlos Trajano called the sentence "more or less fair," but left open the possibility of appeal. He told The Associated Press that the sentence means Santos could spend eight years in prison and then be eligible for part-time custody.

"He'll spend 21 years under the guidance of the justice system, but depending on his conduct, he could begin to leave (prison) to sleep at home, leave for work and later be on parole," Trajano said.

During testimony, Santos spoke without emotion in response to questions by a prosecutor. And he laughed when the judge asked him to describe in English the verbal exchange he and Burke had just before her killing.

"She said, 'I'm going to call your mother and tell her you spend your money on drugs,"' Santos testified in English. "I said, 'I don't give a (expletive)."'

Santos also confirmed sending text messages complaining that Burke had backed off plans to marry him so he could apply for British citizenship — the main motive cited by the prosecution for the killing.

In response to a question from his lawyer, Santos said he liked Burke and was sorry he killed her.

Burke came to Brazil last year after she met Santos in London and he invited her for an extended stay in Goiania. The two were not a couple, according to testimony.

Santos' aunt, Jeane Lucia de Sousa, testified that her nephew is normal when not using drugs but is addicted to cocaine and resorted to sniffing cooking gas to get high when he had no money to buy drugs.

"He's a calm person when he's not on drugs, but when he uses drugs he turns aggressive," she said.

Santos' girlfriend, Hellen de Matos, said he regrets killing Burke and hoped to enter drug treatment and reduce his sentence so he can spend time with his son before the boy becomes an adult.

Born in March, the child was conceived during a conjugal visit after Santos' arrest last year.

Santos' brother Bruce Lee Santos testified that the defendant stabbed him twice during arguments and used to take a handgun to school.

Bruce Lee Santos also said his brother was deeply affected as a child by the killing of his father, a police officer. The aunt testified the father's body was found with his genitals and legs cut off and his eyes gouged out.

The father named his sons after two of his heroes: boxer Muhammad Ali and martial arts star Bruce Lee.