On March 9, 1980, Pedro Alonzo Lopez, the Colombian serial killer who was nicknamed the “Monster of the Andes,” was arrested, according to local reports.
Police say Lopez killed more than 300 victims in the region, with the majority of his victims aged between nine and 12 years old. Lopez’s case caused national outrage because — even after being convicted of an insane amount of murders — he was released from prison to kill again.
Lopez was born on October 8, 1948, in Santa Isabel, Colombia. By all accounts, his childhood was traumatic, and he endured homelessness, violence, and sexual abuse. Lopez’s father was killed before while his mother was still pregnant with him.
Lopez has said that his mother was a sex worker, and that he saw her being abused by clients. She reportedly kicked him out of the home at age 12 after she saw him abuse his younger sister. He then traveled to Bogota, reportedly joined a gang, and became one of the homeless children known as “gamines.”
Lopez claimed that he was molested multiple times as a young boy — including by a pedophile who said he would offer him shelter, and a teacher — and later spoke about wanting vengeance for the abuse he endured. He felt entitled to sexually abuse children, because it had been done to him.
Lopez was arrested for stealing a car, and while in prison he was raped by three men — whom he killed with a shank, slitting their throats. After he was released from prison, his real killing spree began.
He started in Peru, where he would lure his victims to remote areas before raping and murdering them. Lopez was caught by a member of the indigenous community attempting to kidnap a nine-year-old girl. The community at first wanted to bury Lopez alive, according to their tribal law, but a Western missionary convinced local tribe members to turn Lopez over to the Colombian police.By the late 1970s, Lopez had traveled to Ecuador, where poor young women were beginning to go missing. Eventually, in 1980, a vendor and a group of her peers caught him when he attempted to lure her daughter away from a busy market. He was arrested and ultimately charged with 110 murders.
Local accounts of Lopez’s crimes were sketchy, but the case received international attention in 1980 when freelance photojournalist Ron Laytner interviewed Lopez in his Ambato prison cell. He spoke openly of his love of killing, explaining, “The moment of death is enthralling and exciting. Only those who actually kill know what I mean.” Lopez told Laytner that as soon as he was out of prison, he would return with happiness to killing little girls. He also bragged, “I am the man of the century. No one will ever forget me.”
Lopez admitted to Laytner that he aspired to kill “blonde-haired” children of tourists as well as the many local girls whose lives he took, but saying regretfully, “I never got the chance. Their parents were too watchful.”
Lopez is said to have brought some of his young victims to graves filled with the corpses of their predecessors. He would prop up the bodies of the dead little girls and speak to them and have tea parties with them. He revealed to Laytner that he only killed during the day, and explained why: “It was only good if I could see her eyes. I never killed anyone at night. It would have been wasted in the dark. I had to watch them by daylight.”
Police ultimately unearthed between 53 and 57 bodies — and Lopez shockingly claimed responsibility for 240 more deaths in both Peru and Colombia.
On July 31, 1981, Lopez pleaded guilty to the murders of 57 girls. He was sent to prison, but served only 14 years of a maximum 16-year sentence, having two years cut off for good behavior. After being released, he was deported to Colombia, where he was declared insane and institutionalized. He was, however, declared sane three years later, and set free after paying $50 bail. The outrageously low maximum prison sentence of 16 years resulted in public outrage, and Ecuador later changed its maximum sentence to 25 years.Lopez had been aware of the lenient punishment of the Ecuador prisons in advance, and he knew that his punishment wouldn’t be longer despite the vast number of his victims. He stated, “Even if you kill one, or one thousand, it’s 16 years!”
When Lopez was released, Victor Lascano, the governor of the Ambato jail, where Lopez was first imprisoned, said, “God save the children. He is unreformed and totally remorseless. This whole nightmare may start again.”
Today, the location of Lopez, a free man, is unknown.
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Main photo: Pedro Lopez [Cárcel de Ambato mug shot]