Brazilian police on Friday detained a rancher suspected in the slaying of rain forest activist Dorothy Stang for allegedly illegally acquiring titles to land the US nun died trying to defend.
The detention of Regivaldo Galvao at his home in the Amazon state of Para could lead to the reopening of the case in the death of Stang, who was shot in 2005 amid a dispute with ranchers over land she wanted brought under federal protection.
A police report said Galvao was detained on Friday in Altamira after a judge ordered his capture in an investigation into whether he forged titles to land where the 73-year-old nun was killed.
Prosecutors contended that Galvao and another rancher hired men to kill Stang over the disputed Amazon land. Galvao was arrested in 2005, but he was freed on bail by Brazil’s Supreme Court in 2006 and he has since used appeals to avoid trial.
Galvao has denied any role in Stang’s death, arguing he had no interest in the lands Stang was defending.
But prosecutors said that last month he went before Brazil’s Incra land reform agency to present documents showing he owned the land and wanted it back — casting doubt on one of his main alibis.
Brazilian prosecutor Felicio Pontes said last month that the land where Stang was killed was public property, and if Galvao claimed to own it, the case against him could be reopened.
A second rancher accused in Stang’s murder, Vitalmiro Moura, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in May last year. But Moura’s sentence was overturned earlier this year after a gunmen confessed to killing Stang and said he acted alone. Gunman Rayfran das Neves Sales was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Stang was born in Dayton, Ohio, and spent three decades trying to preserve the rain forest and defending the rights of poor settlers who confronted powerful ranchers seeking their lands on the Amazon’s wild frontier.