For seven years, Luis Garavito, known to authorities as “the Beast,” abused, tortured, and murdered anywhere from 150 to 400 boys.
Inside a maximum security, geographically secret Colombian prison, there is a man named Luis Garavito. He lives separately from the other prisoners, for his own protection and only takes food and drinks given to him by those he knows. His guards describe him as relaxed, positive, and respectful. He’s studying to be a politician, and upon his release he hopes to start a career in activism, helping abused children.
After all, abused children are something Garavito is an expert on, having abused over 300 of them himself.
Before Garavito was known as the relaxed, respectful inmate that the Colombian prison guards so admire, he was known as “La Bestia,” or, the Beast. From 1992 to 1999, the Beast raped, tortured and murdered anywhere from 100 to 400 boys, all between the ages of six and 16. His official number of victims rests at 138, the number he confessed to in court.
Police believe the number is closer to 400, and continue to this day to prove it.
In 1992, Colombia was in the middle of a decades-long civil war that had begun in the late 1960s and left thousands of Colombian residents homeless, fending for themselves on the streets.
Many of those left homeless were children, their parents either dead or long gone, ensuring that no one would notice if they started going missing and making them easy targets.
Luis Garavito knew this and would use it to his advantage for the next seven years.
Though there was hardly a reason to be, Garavito was careful about his crimes. He specifically targeted the downtrodden, the homeless, orphaned boys who roamed the streets looking for food or attention. Once he found one, he would approach him, luring them away from the crowded city streets, promising the younger boys gifts or candy, and the older boys money or employment.
He would dress the part when offering a job, impersonating a priest, a farmer, an elderly man, or a street vendor, looking for someone young to help around his house or business. He would rotate his disguises often, never appearing as the same person too often to avoid suspicion.
Once he’d lured the boy away, he would walk with him for a time, encouraging the boy to share with Garavito about his life to earn his trust. In reality, he was wearing the boys down, walking just long enough that they would tire, making them vulnerable and unwary.
Then he’d attack.
He’d corner the tired boy, binding his wrists together. Then he’d torture them beyond belief.
According to police reports, the Beast truly earned his nickname. The bodies of the victims that were recovered showed signs of prolonged torture, including bite marks and anal penetration. In multiple cases, the victim’s genitals were removed and placed in his mouth. Several of the bodies were decapitated.
Five years after Luis Garavito murdered his first victim, police began to take notice of the missing children.
In late 1997, a mass grave was discovered, prompting police to launch an investigation into their disappearances. In February of 1998, the bodies of two naked children were found on a hillside, lying next to each other. A few feet away, another corpse was found. All three had their hands bound and their throats slashed. The murder weapon was found nearby.
While searching the area around the three boys, police came across a note with an address handwritten on it. The address turned out to be Garavito’s girlfriend, whom he had been dating for years. Though he wasn’t in the home at the time, his things were, and the girlfriend gave the police access to them.
In one of Garavito’s bags, police discovered pictures of young boys, detailed journal entries in which he described each of his crimes, and tally marks of his victims.
A search for Garavito continued for days, during which known residences of his were searched, as well as local areas where he was known to hang out to look for new victims. Unfortunately, none of the search efforts turned up any information on Garavitos whereabouts. That is, until April 22.
Roughly a week after the hunt for Garavito had begun, police in a neighboring town picked up a man on suspicion of rape. A homeless man, sitting in an alleyway, had noticed a young boy being followed and eventually accosted by an older man. Thinking that the situation was dire enough to intervene, the homeless man rescued the boy and alerted authorities.
The police arrested the man on suspicion of attempted rape and booked him.
Unbeknown to them, they had in their custody a man guilty of far more than attempted rape. In an almost accidental arrest, local police had caught the beast that everyone had been looking for, Luis Garavito.
As soon as he was interrogated by Colombian national police, Garavito cracked under the pressure. He confessed to abusing 147 young boys and burying their bodies in unmarked graves. He even drew maps to the grave sites for police.
His stories were corroborated when police found a pair of eyeglasses at one of the crime scenes which matched Garavito’s highly specific condition. In the end, he was convicted on 138 counts of murder, though the others continue to be investigated.
The maximum penalty for murder in Colombia is roughly 13 years. Multiplied by the 138 counts he received, Luis Garavito’s sentence came out to 1,853 years and nine days. Colombian law states that people who have committed crimes against children are required to serve at least 60 years in prison.
However, because he helped the police find the victim’s bodies, he was given 22 and is scheduled to be released in 2021.