The Monster of the Andes
"Sometimes I had to kill them all over again"
In 1978, he was captured by Ayachucos Indians when he attempted to abduct a 9-year-old girl from their North Peruvian community. The Ayachucos tribal laws dictated that anyone caught for such a crime would be sentenced to death, a punishment which involved being buried alive. He was beaten and stripped of his clothing by the Indians and López later recounted how, “they had placed syrup on me and were going to let me be eaten by ants”. He was buried up to his neck but was saved by an American Christian Missionary who came to the tribe and convinced them to hand him over to the Peruvian Police. They begrudgingly accepted and he was placed, tied up, in the back of her jeep.
She then drove him to the Colombian border and inexplicably let him go. He would later comment, “I didn’t hurt her because she was too old to attract me”. He was now free to continue his murderous spree and moved between his native Columbia and Ecuador. In 1979, a river overflowed near the town of Ambato in Ecuador and the bodies of four girls were washed up on the riverbank. The police investigation found the young girls had been strangled with such force that with three of them their eyes had popped out of their sockets.
The fourth girl was found with her eyes frozen open with a look of terror on her face. On March 9, 1980 López was arrested by police in Ecuador for the attempted abduction of a 12-year-old girl. The mother of the girl, Carvina Poveda observed Lopez leaving the Plaza Rosa marketplace with her 12-year-old daughter, Maria. She summoned help from other townspeople who followed López and eventually apprehended him. When police arrived to take him into custody they found him being held by a large group of people.
When he was put in jail, López refused to speak with police and detectives decided to trick him into confessing. To discover if he was responsible for the murder of the girls found on the riverbank, they placed a priest, Pastor Gonzalez within his cell in prison clothes as an undercover inmate. Gonzalez told him he was jailed for rape in an attempt to gain his trust. At first López did not reveal anything, but slowly he began to open up to his new cell mate and began to tell him details of his crimes. For a month Gonzalez was undercover and would later reveal, “for 27 days I hardly slept, afraid I’d be strangled in my bed, but I tricked López into confessing”. By April 1980 he was boasting of committing murders in Ecuador, Columbia and Peru, and Gonzalez said, “It was beyond my wildest nightmares. He told me everything.”
He initially confessed to the murders of 110 girls but later admitted to a further 240 murders and eventually agreed to take police to some of the graves of his victims. Sceptical officers were soon under no doubt he was telling the truth when he led them to the bodies of 53 girls buried within the region of Ambato. Shackled in irons, he told police there were more graves and he offered to take them to locate more bodies. Over the next three months they conducted a thorough search of another 28 more sites but nothing more was found, which they attributed to the result of scavenging by predatory animals. But they now believed López claims and Major Victor Lascaño, director of the Ambato prison, explained “If someone confesses to 53 you find and hundreds more you don’t, you tend to believe what he says.” Director Lascaño also spoke with reporters telling them, “I think his estimate of 300 is very low, because in the beginning he cooperated with us and took us each day to three or four hidden corpses. But then he tired, changed his mind, and stopped helping.”
Newspapers reported in July 1980 that López had led police to the shallow graves of his 53 victims in the Andean provinces of Tungurahua, Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Pinchincha and Imbatura. The Quito newspapers were now calling him “the Monster of the Andes” and reported he was being kept in the jail at Ambato, capital of Tungurahua province about 75 miles south of Quito, since the first week of March. A police spokesman said he was being held in Ambato until a court determines what charges are to be brought against him. Although he was originally charged with 53 murders on January 25, 1981, authorities decided to admit his detailed confession of another 110 committed in Ecuador into account and in 1983 he was sentenced life imprisonment, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years under Ecuadorian law. He would spend most of his time in prison in solitary confinement, rarely interacting with other prisoners or guards because of a £25,000 bounty placed on his head by the relatives of his victims.
In 1992, Pedro López was interviewed in Ambato by Ron Laytner a correspondent with the National Examiner. Laytner was allowed access to López in his cell to question him about the crimes he was accused of committing. However before he would consent to be interviewed he told the warden he had not touched a woman for almost 12 years and would only continue if he could touch the hands of the his daughter. The warden accepted and with the guards keeping their guns on López through the bars he was permitted his request. The young woman held out her hands and the Monster carefully touched her wrists with the tips of his fingers and Laynter noticed how big and strong his hands were, abnormally so. He then released her and agreed to talk to Laytner, telling him at 26 the warden’s daughter was too old to interest him.
He began talking about his childhood, and admitted that witnessing acts of prostitution while growing up had a disturbing effect on his mental psyche. He details the instances of rape he was subjected to and and that after his jail term he began murdering young girls in Peru. “I lost my innocence at age eight,” he said, “so I decided to do the same to as many young girls as I could.” He said that by 1978 he had killed over 100 in Peru alone when he was captured by the Ayachucos tribe and almost buried alive. He said he then moved back to Columbia and later Ecuador where he began killing about three girls a week. He told Laytner, “I like the girls in Ecuador, they are more gentle and trusting, more innocent. They are not as suspicious of strangers as Colombian girls.” By his best estimates he had killed 110 girls in Peru, 110 in Columbia and over 100 more in Ecuador and would go into detail about his crimes, explaining how he would capture and kill his young victims.
He said he would walk amongst the markets and search for a girl with a certain look on her face, a look of innocence and beauty. He would often choose girls who would be working alongside her mother. “I followed them, sometimes for two or three days, waiting for the moment when she was left alone. I would give her a pretty, shining trinket, then get her to leave with me for the edge of town where I had promised to give her another trinket for her mother”. He gained the trust of his victims and once he had them alone he would hold them in his arms, like a loving parent. He explained, “At the first sign of light I would get excited. I forced the girl into sex and put my hands around her throat, when the sun rose I would strangle her, it was only good if I could see her eyes.”
He also said he never killed any of his victims at night because he wanted to watch their last moments during daylight. “It would have been wasted in the dark, I had to watch them by daylight.”, he explained. He said it would take five to fifteen minutes for the girls to die, and claimed, “I was very considerate. I would spend a long time with them making sure they were dead.” López said he would use a mirror to check if they were still breathing, or slit their wrists or throats to see if their blood was still pumping. If they somehow survived, he would strangle them again. “Sometimes I had to kill them all over again”, he admitted. “They never screamed because they didn’t expect anything would happen. They were so innocent”.
He also propped some of his victims up in their graves and spoke to them during bizarre and gruesome gatherings he liked to call tea parties. “My little friends liked to have company. I often put three or four girls in a single hole and talked to them. It was like having a party. But after a while because they couldn’t move, I got bored and went out looking for new girls.” He explained why he only chose very young girls, saying “It’s like eating chicken. Why eat old chicken when you can have young chicken?”. López revealed he had wanted to rape and kill the young daughters of foreign tourists, “I often followed tourist families, wanting to take their beautiful blonde daughters. But I never got the chance. Their parents were too watchful.”
Minister of Prisons Pablo Faguero was questioned by reporters about López release and admitted, “Yes it does sound strange, but that is our law. The law of no executions or sentences longer than 20 years was passed over 100 years ago to protect presidents of Ecuador from being killed following revolutions and military coups. In the past they had been executed in horrific ways like being pulled apart by four horses. The law seemed humane.” The whereabouts of Pedro López after his release are unknown, and there are reports he is currently imprisoned whilst others that he is free.