When Suzane von Richthofen engineered the murder of her own parents with the help of the Cravinhos brothers, the São Paulo writer and criminologist Ilana Casoy, 63, was doing an internship at the São Paulo scientific police, in the area of homicide forensics, which was, in her words, “a coincidence of life”. Afterwards, Ilana was authorized, for literary purposes, by judge Ivana David to follow the simulated reproduction of the couple’s murder. She kept a yellow notebook that became an article in the Fantastic.
This is how his in-depth research into the crime that occurred 21 years ago began. There are already three films about this homicide that occurred in that high-income family. Ilana is one of the writers of the latest feature The Girl Who Killed Her Parents – The Confessionshowing on Prime Video, focused on investigations.
Furthermore, she is an expert on serial killers. “I’m more afraid of people who see themselves as incarnations of good than those who see themselves as incarnations of evil,” she says. Check out the interview given to reporter Paula Bonelli via video conference.
Why does the Richthofen case provoke so much interest?
Unfortunately, the figure of the criminal is generally caricatured as someone miserable, with a history of suffering, from the periphery. And the description does not apply to the Richthofen case. Suzane is white, blonde and studied Law at PUC. Her family was structured, the Cravinhos family was middle class. This contrast causes discomfort and arouses curiosity about what motivated this crime.
Does the film portray true facts or create elements?
Everything in the film actually happened. Sometimes you need to bring together elements that occurred separately in a scene to become a good film. There is a fictional freedom in these cases. For example, there was a barbecue on the property and a police visit to the swimming pool. In the film, these two events were combined to show the police’s discomfort upon finding Suzane and the others in the pool just days after the murder.
How did you become a criminologist?
It was a gradual process, not something planned. Initially, I wanted to understand the origin of violence, whether it was biological, psychological and how the social environment influences it. I was knocking on doors, and one thing led to another. At a certain point, I was already part, as a listener, of the forensic nucleus at Hospital das Clínicas. So I did a postgraduate degree in criminology at the Brazilian Institute of Criminal Sciences (IBCCRIM). At that time, I didn’t even know about forensics in Brazil, and no one knew because there wasn’t much information available. The main reference was the investigative journalist Percival de Souza. When young people ask me how to write about true crime, I say: have you ever been to the Barra Funda Criminal Forum? There is a jury there every day. It’s not enough to just read books.
Do you consider yourself an expert on serial killers?
Yes, I was a precursor and never stopped studying. Currently, when the police need it, they call me and I interrupt my activities to help with cases. Although they are rare in frequency, crimes committed by serial killers have an immense social impact, due to the high number of victims.
What cases did you work on?
One of the cases was that of Francisco das Chagas, in Pará and Maranhão. I participated in a task force with the civil and federal police. I worked discreetly because it seemed absurd to have a writer involved. I was called to assist in the investigations. There were 42 murders and three surviving victims, totaling 45 children affected. I also worked on the case of the “Ceasa monster”, André Barbosa, in Pará. The investigation of serial crimes is completely different, as the motive is usually psychological. It is not possible to use the same questions we ask in a regular homicide case. It is necessary to formulate others. I helped to develop a questionnaire for the victims of the Gama rapist, in Brasília, and for the attacker, in order to analyze evidence and the profile of this individual.
Are human beings evil by nature?
Evil is part of the world. Since the Bible, with Cain killing Abel, we see a family crime. The seven deadly sins are reasons for crime in society to this day. I am more afraid of people who see themselves as incarnations of good than those who see themselves as incarnations of evil. When I interview a serial killer, he knows who he is, everything is fine. Now, a person who thinks they are completely good and free from any evil, that scares me more because they live in denial.