On November 27, 1998, Brazilian police announced that six members of the United Pentecostal Church of Brazil, a tiny religious cult deep in the Amazon, beat and kicked to death six people, including three children, purportedly to be taken to heaven "after wiping out the enemies of God."
Six members of cult the were arrested at a remote rubber plantation where men, women and children were subjected to vicious ritual beatings. Among those arrested was Francisco Bezerra de Moraes, known as Toto, who is believed to be the pastor and leader of the 30-member sect.
The killings began two weeks before their arrest when the pastor announced during a sermon that he could hear "voices from Jesus Christ" ordering a former leader of the group and all his followers to be punished. The pastor, helped by his wife and two other men, began beating, whipping and stamping on the worshipers. For the next several days the "disciplinary" torture continued in a nearby shacks. "Every day they held a ceremony that began with the veneration of Toto's wife. Then came the torture." The sessions were accompanied by prayers and chants of "Out, Satan!" he added.
Among the dead were two boys ages three and four, who police said were killed by their father, and another 13-year-old boy. The mother of the dead brothers was also murdered. The former leader of the group escaped and raised the alarm with police who stopped the killings when they reached the remote plantation. When police arrived, they discovered the bodies of the dead out in the open, decomposing, torn appart and being eaten by animals.
"They said the only thing that made them do it were voices from the beyond," a police officer said.
Rituals involving death are not common in Brazil. However, police in Para state, also in the Amazon, are investigating a suspected group of satanic worshipers believed to have murdered at least eight young boys in recent years. And in a town in neighboring Maranhao state, 14 boys have been murdered or vanished over the last seven years. Investigators say black magic could be behind that case but an illegal trade in human organs might also be to blame.