Szczepanik Murder Suspect Arrested, Not Extradited
Elias Lourenco-Batista is still at large in Brazil.Photo: Video by kmtv.com
Omaha, NE -- The third man wanted in the murders of the Szczepanik family was arrested this year in Brazil, but he was never brought back to America.
Elias Lourenco-Batista is the only suspect who hasn't had a trial in the deaths of Vanderlei, Jaqueline, and Christopher Szczepanik. The family was in Omaha to renovate an old school building on 16th & Center St. to create a missionary training center for their Florida based church. The family was last seen in December 2009. Prosecutors say Jose Carlos Oliveira-Coutinho was upset about how much money they were getting paid to work. They say he and the other two beat Vanderlei Szczepanik to death, and hanged Jaqueline and Christopher because they were witnesses. Valdeir Goncalves-Santos was later charged with murder, while Lourenco-Batista was returned to Brazil. Goncalves-Santos confessed to his role in the killings during his murder trial, and showed police where they dumped the bodies of the family. 7-year-old Christopher Szczepanik’s remains were found in the Missouri River in October 2011. That led to prosecutors charging Oliveira-Coutinho with murder, and he was convicted in October 2012. Lourenco-Batista has been in Brazil since his initial case was dismissed.
A Brazilian news organization, translated to “The Steel Valley Journal", says Lourenco-Batista was arrested in January in Ipaba, Brazil, which is about 300 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, because he was wanted by Interpol. Lourenco-Batista apparently denied any involvement in the Szczepanik murders and won't surrender. Brazilian law forbids any citizen from being extradited no matter the crime.
"It's very frustrating. From our standpoint we have an active 1st Degree Murder warrant, several counts of that, for him,” explained Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine. "We believe we have very strong evidence that he's a participant in this horrific crime that took place."
Pastor Humberto Costa was the man who reported the Szczepanik family missing to the Omaha Police Department. He met with all 3 of the suspects, who worked for Vanderlei; just days after the family went missing. He would like to see Brazilian law changed, so Lourenco-Batista could face his crimes.
"If they knew where he was how come they couldn't get a hold of him and just bring him to the United States,” Pastor Costa described. "We were wondering if the fact that the deceased family was Brazilian could do anything to change that law or set up a new agreement."
Valdeir Goncalves-Santos is serving a 20 year sentence at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. The convicted mastermind, Jose Carlos Oliveira-Coutinho, is still waiting to find out if he'll get the death penalty.