Like any country, Argentina has had its fair share of notorious murderers over the years but this week’s (rather morbid) Top 5 examines the worst of the worst, including homicidal midgets, explosive anarchists, and shotgun-wielding dentists. Many of the following stories are hard to believe, as though they have been conjured from horrendously warped imaginations, but they are all very true and very disturbing.
Cayetano Godino, aka “The Big-Eared Midget” (1896-1944)
As a serial killer, it is perhaps best to remain inconspicuous so that in the event of suspicion you at least have a chance of evading capture. However, Cayetano Santos Godino, whose nickname was “Petiso Orejudo” (“Big Eared Midget”), struggled with anonymity. Born in 1896, he set his sights on two career paths at a young age: arson and killing. By the time of his death in 1944 he had racked up quite a list of crimes, including the murder of four children, attempted murder of seven others, and the arson of several buildings.
One of eight brothers, Godino experienced abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father throughout his childhood. His formative years were spent killing birds and cats, playing with fire, avoiding school, and generally making a nuisance of himself. His first recorded crime came at the age of seven, when he brutally beat up a two-year-old boy before tossing him into a ditch. A police officer saw this happen and promptly marched him to the nearest station.
A few years down the line, and perhaps a little harshly, the curious Godino received a two-year jail sentence for compulsive masturbation, an illegal activity at the time, after his mother reported his antics to the police. Soon after this embarrassment, the killings began. First was the murder of 13-year-old Arturo Laurona, shortly followed by that of Reyna Vainicoff, aged five, who failed to recover after he set her dress on fire.
In 1912, Godino enticed another victim, Jesualdo Giordano, into an abandoned house with some sweets before beating him and hammering a nail into the side of his head. He was arrested in 1913 and spent the rest of his years behind bars where he was severely beaten by a group of inmates for killing their cats. From 1935 onwards, he received no visitors and died in prison under unexplained circumstances.
Yiya Murano, aka “The Monserrat Poisoner” (1930 – present)
Her full name was Maria de las Mercedes Bernardino Bolla Murano, quite a mouthful and certainly hard to swallow, not unlike the cyanide she used to poison her three innocent victims. Better known as Yiya Murano or the poisoner of Montserrat, she had a penchant for expensive clothes and jewelry, although her bank account was often dry. She struggled to afford the materialistic fashion items that she hoped would propel her image from run-of-the-mill porteña teacher to educated madame.
Not only this, but Yiya was also in debt to her cousin, Zulema “Mema” de el Giorgio Venturini, who conveniently died of ‘heart failure’ before Yiya had a chance to reimburse her. Zulema’s daughter, Diana, also noticed that a $20 million (pesos ley) IOU was missing from her mother’s belongings after a visit from Yiya.
After an unsuccessful search of her deceased mother’s house for the note, Diana learned from the doorman that Yiya had come to visit on the day of Diana’s death and had brought some home baked petit fours– which turned out to be hiding a cyanide filling. She was apparently carrying a note in her hand when she left. Alarm bells rang and Diana informed the authorities who carried out a post-mortem on her mother which revealed death by poison.
However, before these results came to light, Yiya was able to bestow her culinary magic on two further victims, both of whom she owed money to. Nilda Gamba, Yiya’s neighbour, and ‘friend’ Lelia Formisano, were both found dead as a result of ingesting cyanide. On 27th April, 1979, police arrested Yiya at her home and charged her with triple homicide. Even after being locked up she never confessed and, bizarrely, after only three years in prison she was acquitted due to a lack of witnesses.
However, after an appeal the authorities soon locked her up once again, and this time she was given 16 years to mull over her crimes. During this time her husband passed away and her son wrote a book in 1994 about his mother’s crimes. He wasn’t shy in telling the world what he thought about his murdering mum (manipulative, cold, theatrical, and egoistical, to name some of the adjectives he used).
Yiya was released in 1995 under the controversial ’2×1′ rule, which effectively halved her sentence. Rumour has it she thanked the judges that intervened in her case by sending them a box of sweets. She is still alive today, seeing out the rest of her days in a old people’s home, and occasionally rolling back the years to give frank television interviews about her past exploits.
Simón Radowitzky (1891-1956)
Simón Radowitzky, a Ukranian immigrant and anarchist activist, made history as an 18-year-old when he killed Colonel Ramón Falcón, the chief of police who on 1st May 1909 had ordered the brutal repression of a popular demonstration in the streets of Buenos Aires. Radowitzky would spend the next 21 years of his life in prison, in almost complete isolation. Although many refused to justify his crime, his idealism and boldness earned him the admiration of leftist groups, and he became a cult legend in the eyes of some activists and workers.
Falcón was a fearsome character. He was a military man of the old school, a priest of law and order: severe, intrepid, incorruptible. He was also a widower with no children and, as it was once said, “he has neither vices nor luxuries, Falcón does not sleep.”
Radowitzky decided it would be a good idea to eliminate him, and when he learned that Falcón was going to be returning from a funeral in a horse driven carriage, he devised a home-made bomb. José Fornes, who was driving a car behind Falcón, spotted a young man sprinting after the coach carrying the chief of police and 20-year-old Alberto Lastigua, his private secretary. Before anyone was fast enough to react, Radowitzky ran up to the coach, threw a package into the compartment and fled before a terrible explosion shook the scene. A chase ensued, and the Ukranian was pursued by a number of Falcón’s entourage.
It is reported that Falcón did not loose consciousness as a result of the explosion, and that he insisted his secretary be helped before him. Both were tended to with makeshift bandages, but neither was in a good way. The bomb had ripped through their legs, and the bleeding was severe. They later died in hospital.
Radowitzky was caught after falling in the street and was described as “disagreeably pale with a small, rather wispy, reddish moustache, bony features, the jaw of a boxer, watery eyes, and large lampshade ears. Undoubtedly Russian.”
He was taken to the nearest police station where confusion ensued about his real identity and age. He claimed to be 18 and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. Regardless of the fact that the government wanted him to suffer for his crime, the most they could do was put a life sentence on his head, which they did. In 1930 President Yrigoyen pardoned Radowitzky with the condition of permanent exile, outraging the establishment.
Ricardo Barreda, aka “Conchita” (1936 – present)
Some people hate going to the dentist, but probably not as much as the wife, daughters, and mother-in-law of Ricardo Alberto Barreda. The day of 15th November 1992 witnessed the brutal killing of the women in question in La Plata, who had apparently collectively driven Barreda to commit the crimes by continuously hounding, abusing, mocking, and generally bullying him.
Unlike the ‘Angel of Death’ or the ‘Montserrat Poisoner’, whose nicknames carry menace and threat, Barreda was labeled ‘Conchita’ or ‘pussy’. It is reported that the female influence in the house dominated the poor dentist and he was often ordered to carry out housework and other domestic tasks. Some men who have been unlucky enough to live with their mother-in-law might have some sympathy for Barreda, but not the pre-meditated murder of 82-year-old Elen Arrecheusing with a shotgun. The same shotgun was used to kill his two daughters, Cecilia (26) and Adriana (24) and his wife.
However, Barreda was still compos mentis enough to attempt a cover-up and after unloading a suitable amount of hot lead he proceeded to ruff up the house hoping that the authorities would think a simple robbery/multiple murder had taken place. He then took the gun, spent cartridges, and drove to a local canal in an ever-dependable Ford Falcon to dump the evidence. Then, as one does after shooting family members, Barreda spent the afternoon at the zoo, followed by a trip to the cemetery, and, to round the day off, a quickie with his lover, Hilda Bono, in a hotel.
Upon returning to his house and finding an ambulance and police services, Barreda feigned despair. The authorities did not fall for his trickery though and he was promptly read his rights and marched off to court. He was handed a hefty sentence but was released in 2008 and kept under house arrest.
The case received a huge amount of media interest, and Barreda’s life after the crime was the subject of a book called ‘Conchita: Ricardo Barrera, el hombre que no amaba a las mujeres’ (The man who didn’t love women), released 20 years after the crime, in 2012.
Carlos Robledo Puch, aka “The Angel of Death” (1952 – present)
The last words of Carlos Eduardo Robledo Puch, aka “The Angel of Death,” uttered to the court after being found guilty of multiple homicide in 1980 were: “Someday I’m going to get out and kill you all.”
Many in the room would have probably taken stock of this statement considering that Robledo Puch committed 11 murders, one rape, one count of sexual abuse, two kidnappings and two thefts. Not only this, but two of his murders were committed while the victims were asleep.
Robledo Puch did not always act alone: he had a sidekick who went by the name of Jorge Ibáñez. Together they robbed, pillaged, raped, and generally caused havoc around Buenos Aires. During one particular getaway, Robledo Puch was driving when he crashed, killing his partner in crime. Rumours suggest that this was no accident and that Robledo Puch wanted rid of Ibáñez due to an unsettled score years earlier.
After this incident there was a short break in criminal activity associated with the Death Angel, but things soon heated up in 1971 after a new impressionable accomplice joined the fold. Héctor Somoza breathed fresh life into Robledo Puch as they went on a rampage involving stealing cars from garages and shooting the salesmen point blank in the head. Unfortunately for Somoza, things didn’t work out, and during a bodged robbery he was murdered by Robledo Puch after apparently startling him.
As if this wasn’t enough, the Death Angel then proceeded to burn the face of the corpse in the hope that he would not be identified by the police. Not long after this, in 1972, Robledo Puch was arrested at the tender age of 20, and eventually sentenced to life in prison eight years later. He remains there today, having been recently denied parole.