It’s still not over. The confession of one of Marielle Franco’s killers and the arrest of an accomplice marked a major breakthrough in the case of the murder of the PSoL councilwoman and her driver Anderson Gomes on March 14, 2018. However, a full five years later, two key questions remain unanswered: who ordered the assassination of Marielle and why.
These are the questions that the new phase of federal investigations that is expected to begin will aim to unravel, as Justice Minister Flávio Dino assured at a press conference, announcing “new operations” for the coming weeks.
At least, those who perpetrated the crime have been brought to light. Former military policeman Élcio Queiroz, in prison since 2019 awaiting trial, signed a delação premiada agreement (agreeing to cooperate with the authorities in exchange for a reduced sentence) and recounted in full detail how it all happened, admitting that he drove the Chevrolet Cobalt from which another former policeman, Ronnie Lessa (who has been held in a maximum security prison for over three years), allegedly fired a machine gun at Marielle and Anderson, who were returning from an event in the Lapa neighborhood, killing them in their car.
Queiroz wrote in his statement that Lessa had been tasked with killing Marielle some time before. As the killers waited for the right opportunity, she was being stalked by, among others, former firefighter Maxwell Simões Corrêa, known as Suel, who had the task of providing logistical support and helping plan the crime. The latter, who had been convicted of obstruction of justice but was serving his sentence in a semi-detention regime, was arrested on Monday as part of the new Operation Élpis, named after the Greek goddess of hope – the first phase of the new investigation being conducted by the Federal Police, which received the case file in February.
But there were also others who played a part in the crime, starting with military police sergeant Edimilson Oliveira da Silva, known as Macalé, whom Queiroz pointed out as the one who allegedly gave Lessa the assignment to kill Marielle – it remains unknown on whose behalf. And, according to Queiroz, the one who got rid of the car used for the murder was Sergeant Luiz Carlos Felipe Martins, known as Orelha, who was very close to Adriano Nóbrega, the commander of one of Rio’s most violent militias, Escritório do Crime.
This is the same Nóbrega who received the Tiradentes Medal, the highest award of Rio de Janeiro’s Legislative Assembly, from former President Bolsonaro’s eldest son, Flávio, who also hired Nóbrega’s mother and ex-wife among his staff as a state deputy.
It’s hard to dismiss as a mere coincidence the fact that all three men, Macalé, Orelha, and Nóbrega, have been themselves assassinated in the meantime: the first two in Rio in 2021, and the third, under decidedly suspicious circumstances, in February 2020.
However, one question lingers in the background and has resurfaced again and again over the past five years: what role did Jair Bolsonaro and his clan play in this whole affair?
Tying Bolsonaro to the circumstances of the murder was the testimony of the concierge of the Vivendas da Barra apartment complex in Rio de Janeiro where both Bolsonaro and Ronnie Lessa lived, the latter in Apartment 66; Élcio Queiroz paid him a visit on March 14, the day of the murder. In his first deposition, the concierge, Alberto Jorge Mateus, had reported that a few hours before Marielle’s murder, Queiroz had told him that he was going up to Bolsonaro’s apartment (who was a member of the Chamber of Deputies at the time), at No. 58, as was also recorded in the visitors’ log.
Over the intercom, a man from the apartment who identified himself as “Mr. Jair” had authorized Queiroz’s entry into the apartment building: his voice, the concierge said in his statement, had sounded to him like Bolsonaro’s. The former president has rejected the allegations, claiming that he was in Brasilia that day for a session in the Chamber.
Some have speculated that the voice may have been that of his son Jair Renan, who was rumored to be romantically involved with Ronnie Lessa’s daughter, although she was living in the United States at the time. That relationship would be exquisitely well-timed, as it could offer a plausible explanation for the back-and-forth phone calls between Bolsonaro’s home and Lessa’s, a fact that emerged from the investigation.
However, furious over being questioned about the matter, Bolsonaro turned to then-Justice Minister Sergio Moro for help, who immediately snapped to attention and urged the Attorney General’s office to open an investigation to verify the details of the concierge’s statement, deemed “suspicious.” And, for one reason or another, Mateus went on to retract his statement.