Sr Dorothy Stang

Missionary Dorothy Stang belonged to the Order of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur and was murdered at the behest of farmers, grileiros (those who illegally take over a land with fraudulent documentation) and loggers of the region who had threatened her since 1999. Dorothy was a member of the Land Pastoral Commission (CPT) in Anapu, Pará State. According to her, her name was blacklisted by farmers and loggers, “(…) I do not want to run away or abandon the struggle of the peasants who live without protection in a complete jungle”, “I have the right to aspire for a better life, a place where I can live and produce with dignity while respecting the environment.”

Since 1972, with Sucupira women, Dorothy has developed sustainable projects to generate employment and income with reforestation in degraded areas. Acting to reduce land conflicts, she was accused in 2001 of instigating violence: she used to say, “(…) when you work with human rights and for the poor, it is usual that some people accuse you”.

About four years before she was murdered, Dorothy had already reported some threats she had been facing and instead of receiving protection, she was indicted by police and accused of supplying weapons and food to a group of peasants involved in the death of a farmer’s security in Anapu.


The civil police sent the request for pre-trial detention of four suspects after the crime to the judge of Anapu. Of those, two were gunmen, one was hired as an intermediary and the other two were the masterminds. It is said that the killers infiltrated among the workers, and walked beside her, even speaking a few words, and then took out the weapon.

Two local workers were with the missionary at the time of the murder and, according to them, in the morning, when leaving the house where they were, they were surrounded by two gunmen who provoked them. Dorothy did not answer and took the first shot. The worker says he ran away and hid in the woods when he heard other shots.

The case had wide national repercussions and was compared to the murder of Chico Mendes, known worldwide for his struggle in defense of the Amazon forest. Federal agencies, such as the Special Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic, monitored the development of the investigations. Two federal police teams were deployed to investigate the crime.

The general attorney of the Republic, Claudio Fontelles, has filed an administrative procedure to federalize the investigations of Sister Dorothy’s murder, a measure, at the time, recently implemented into Brazilian legislation for investigations related to human rights violations.

The Pará Court decided that the six accused of involvement in the murder of Dorothy Stang would be brought in front of the jury. The defendants: Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, Regivaldo Pererira Galvão, Amair Feijoli, Rayfran Sales and Clodoaldo Batista.

The first trial held was of those accused of executing the crime; Rayfran Sales and Clodoaldo Batista. The trial was attended by hundreds of people in court, including the UN Special Rappourteur for Human Rights Defenders at the time, Hina Jilani. Thousands of people also camped outside the Pará Court demanding the conviction of the defendants. The approximately 2,000 demonstrators that were camping outside the Court held an ecumenical event, celebrated by new protestants, catholics, lutheranes, anglicanes and buddhist leaders.

On 10 December 2005, the judge Cláudio Montalvão announced the jury’s sentence; Rayfran was sentenced to serve 27 years in prison, while Clodoaldo would serve 17 years. As both were first offenders, they did not receive the maximum prison sentence. Rayfran’s lawyer appealed the decision but the jury rejected all of the propositions made by the defense, including the fact there was no financial reward for the execution. Coincidentally, the sentence was announced on the same date the world celebrates the International Human Rights Day, December 10.

The State Prosecutor’s Office requested that the trial of the defendants not be in Anapu, because the farmers accused as the masterminds of Dorothy’s killing, Vitalmiro Bastos and Regivaldo Pereira, had money and influence in the region and therefore could coerce the jury and witnesses.

In April 2006, the trial of Amair Feijoli da Cunha, defendant accused of being the intermediary between the masterminds and the executors, started in Belém. Dorothy’s family and several human rights organizations attended the trial. About 600 hundred people, belonging to social movements and catholics organizations and pastorals were also following the trial in front of the Court’s building.

Amair Feijoli confessed he was the intermediary that hired Dorothy’s murder and that he was hired by Regivaldo Pereira and Vitalmiro Bastos, who were the masterminds behind the crime. According to Amair, the two ordered the death of Dorothy because she had denounced both of them for deforestation. Following his confession, Amair was sentenced to serve 27 years in prison for qualified homicide with the aggravation for killing a victim without defense and who was over 60 years-old. However, for collaborating with Justice and the agreement to turn state’s evidence, his final sentence was reduced to 18 years in prison.

Finally, the accused masterminds of the crime; Vitalmiro and Regivaldo, were both sent to trial. The process ended up being slower due to some moves made by the lawyers of both which resulted in the trial being postponed once. After that, defense lawyers also requested through a habeas corpus that the accused answered for the crime in liberty. The request was granted to the farmer Regilvado Galvão, who waited for his trial outside of prison. In addition, one of the perpetrators went to trial again and his sentence impacted Vitalmito and Regivaldo’s sentences.

In May 2007, the farmer Vitalmiro Bastos was found guilty for Dorothy’s death and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The popular jury refused the defense’s lawyer theses that the accused did not have a motive to kill the victim.

In 2008, there was a new trial for the gunman Rayfran and the farmer Vitalmiro. In this occasion, Rayfran assumed the entire responsibility for the crime and the farmer was acquitted. Rayfan was again sentenced to 28 years in prison.

In 2009, the Pará Court annuled the second trial of Vitalmiro and ordered his detention. The Justice Court established that a new trial should happen for Rayfran Sales. Since the beginning of the investigations, Rayfran was heard more than 13 times and presented different versions of the events in some of the testimonials.

On September 19th 2013, there was a fourth trial of Valtamiro. The accused was put on trial tree times, being convicted in two of them and acquitted in one.

Civil and Federal Police indicted Rayfran Sales and Clodoaldo Batista as the perpetrators for Dorothy’s killing. Rayfran was sentenced to 27 years in prison for being a self-confessed murderer. He left close system in July 2013 to serve the sentence under house-arrest. Clodoaldo was sentenced to 17 years and remains a fugitive today.

Amair Cunha was hired as the intermediary by the masterminds Valtamiro Moura and the farmer Regivaldo, known as Taradão, and were suspected of paying fifty thousand Reais for the murder. Amair, the intermediary was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

According to the Pará Court, the five involved in the crime were convicted and are now serving their sentence, with the expection of Regivaldo Galvão appealing his sentence of 30 years. Vitalmiro, the other mastermind, is serving 30 years, Amair, the intermediary, is serving 18 years and the gunmen, Rayfran and Clodoaldo, were sentenced to 28 and 17 years, respectively.


Cedoc Dom Tomás Balduino – CPT
Comissão Pastoral da Terra – CPT
Conselho Indigenista Missionário (CIMI)

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Date of Killing:02/12/2005

Previous Threats:Yes

Type of Work:Cleric

Organisation:Order of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur

Sector or Type of Rights the HRD Worked On:ESC Rights

Sector Detail:Environmental Rights, Land Rights

More information:Front Line Defenders

1This database records an individual's chosen gender identity. If they do not self-identify as male or female they can use the option of recording other/neither or use the term NBGI (non binary gender identity).

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