The murderer was not talking.

Ecuadorian police stood around the prison cell. They were starting to run out of ideas. And patience. Pedro Lopez, a deranged killer, sat behind just a few metal bars that kept them just beyond his reach. He was fuming silently. Lopez knew they would be unable to build their case against him unless he said something.

He would be hard to break, but the police could not give up, especially now they finally had a suspect in custody for the countless missing girl cases in Ambato city. Threats and intimation were not working on this mass killer. The police left him for now.

Photo Credit: : O Aprendiz Verde

For a while, Lopez remained alone in his cell. When the door creaked open a little later, he was surprised to see not an officer coming inside, but a complete stranger.

A fellow criminal.               

The new inmate appeared to be a bit older than Lopez. His dark hair and stern expression gave him an almost authoritative presence. When the stranger introduced himself, Lopez was surprised the police had locked him up with a kindred spirit.

His name was Cordova Gudino, and he was a rapist. Despite his stern appearance, he gave Lopez an easy smile that quickly won him over.

The common interest roused Lopez’s memories of the countless rapes and murders he had committed. He recalled the divine moment when the spark of life faded from a girl’s eyes as she died. It was an experience only a killer could fully appreciate, and Lopez wondered if Gudino had known it, too.

Photo Credit: Murderpedia

The pair immediately got along well, as though they had been friends for years. When Gudino brought up the past exploits that had landed him in prison, Lopez began to brag about his own. It was thrilling for him to finally be able to tell someone about what he had been doing with his life for the past few years, especially to someone who could understand him.

Lopez’s long career as a killer began in 1969 when he was only eighteen-years old. Arrested for car theft, Lopez had only been two days into his seven-year sentence when he was cornered and gang-raped by four inmates. Enraged, Lopez planned his revenge, and two weeks later, using utensils stolen from the prison’s kitchen, slit the throats of three of his attackers.

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He was a free man again by the time he turned twenty-three in 1971. His short stay in prison did nothing to rehabilitate him, and spilling the blood of his rapists gave him a thirst for murder that could not be quenched. However, his new targets would be very different.

Lopez was still haunted by his childhood. He was born the seventh of thirteen children to an abusive mother during Colombia’s brutal civil war. After his mother, Benilda, a prostitute, kicked him out when he was only eight-years old, Lopez lived as one of the many homeless children on the streets of Bogota. He was repeatedly sexually abused by adults who preyed on his vulnerability, and as the years passed, Lopez came to despise the weakness he saw in others.

He decided his next victims would be the most vulnerable: little girls.

Photo Credit: Criminal Minds

With no reason to stay in his native Colombia, Lopez traveled to Peru, where he lived for some time. It was here he began raping and killing an untold number of young girls, and he soon found that he had a type.

Lopez preferred the polite, well-behaved girls aged six to twelve that he often saw walking alongside their mothers. They were usually also poor and indigenous, which meant that their sudden disappearances were of little interest to the police. Lopez’s kill count soon rose to over a hundred girls.

Peruvian law enforcement may have had little interest in the concerns of the Ayachuco people, whose daughters were going missing in alarming numbers. But the Ayachuco knew they were being targeted and became suspicious of strangers. Then one day in 1978, locals finally caught Lopez as he was attempting to lure away a nine-year-old girl.

The Ayachuco community sought to punish him according to their tribal laws. They tied up the killer and tortured him for hours, rubbing nettles all over his body to cause an excruciating rash. Later, they dug a hole in the earth and buried him up to his neck, leaving him immobile and helpless. They covered his head with sticky syrup, most likely honey, and left him out for the insects. It was a process that could have taken days as the tiny insects ate their way through to the bone, working away at his eyes and brain until there was nothing left but a sun-bleached skull sticking out of the earth.

Photo Credit: Magster

Lopez told Gudino that his story could have ended there had it not been for an American missionary passing by. The woman, who had come to preach Christianity to the Ayachuco, was appalled at the violent scene before her. She went to the village chiefs and pleaded for Lopez’s life. She promised to take him to the police herself, and the Ayachuco reluctantly handed the killer over.             

But the woman never took him to the police, instead leaving him at Colombia’s border for unknown reasons, so he free to kill again.           

Gudino continued to listen as Lopez began to tell him about his time in Ecuador, where he continued to live a transient life. He came to Ambato, where in early May of 1979, he saw a girl who immediately caught his attention.  

Eleven-year-old Hortensia Garcés Lozada was the kind of girl Lopez liked best. She was a sweet, hard-working girl selling newspapers to help support her pregnant mother. She appeared to be very trusting and innocent. She immediately agreed to go with Lopez after he offered her a hundred sucres, the equivalent of ten dollars in United States currency, to be his guide around the city.

They walked around Ambato until they reached Ficoa on the outskirts. Lopez maintained a friendly, harmless persona to gain her trust. He was always careful with his victims, no matter how badly he wanted to get his hands around their necks.

Photo Credit: Murderpedia

When darkness fell, he pinned Hortensia down, keeping her wrapped in a tight embrace. This kept her from escaping, and perhaps he thought it might soothe her, allow her to believe that he meant her no harm. He seemed to have a genuine—if not twisted—affection for his victims. With their pure hearts and beauty, they were like dolls to him. While his desire for revenge was what first drove him to kill the innocent, there was another reason he needed to do it. Pedro knew firsthand how cruel this world was and how it shaped him into the man he was now.

Eventually, the sun came up again, and its light slowly illuminated the dark reaches of the city where they hid.

It would be the last sunrise Hortensia would ever see.

Her death would not be an easy one. An incredible rage took over him, and the violence he had been holding back all night was finally released. He raped her, and then beat her. As the sun climbed overhead, he grabbed her by the neck and strangled her until she could no longer fight back. He brought his face close to hers. His wild eyes started into her until the final spark of life had faded away, and then she was no more.

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His next victim was nine-year-old Ivanova Jácome, who he lured away before noon on Valentine’s Day of 1980. Her father, Carlos Jácome, quickly noticed her disappearance and alerted police. Since Carlos was a successful businessman, the police took his concerns seriously, and a search for the little girl soon began. Unfortunately, on March 8th, Ivanova’s body was found in a wooden shack on a farm.

Photo Credit: Sign Sun

While anxiety rose among the parents of Ambato, Pedro continued killing. That April, heavy rain caused a river to overflow, which triggered a flash flood that uncovered several shallow graves. The bodies of four girls rose to the surface of the earth. Three of them had been strangled with such force that their eyes had popped out of their sockets. The fourth’s face was still frozen in an expression of sheer terror.

Police could no longer deny there was a serial murderer in Ambato, but they had no luck locating a suspect.

On the same day that the Jácomes buried Ivanova, Lopez was selling padlocks and chains in the Plaza Urbina, a popular marketplace. He approached a hot food vendor, Carlina Ramon, but appeared to be more interested in Carlina’s young daughter than anything she was selling. Carlina became suspicious and, along with her friends, restrained Lopez and accused him of being the killer of all the missing girls.

It seemed there was no end to his list of victims, and as time went on, even Gudino was becoming afraid of his cellmate. At night, he lay awake, fearing that Lopez would try to strangle him in his sleep.

Unluckily for Lopez, the police would soon know the truth about his innumerable crimes. Overwhelmed by Lopez’s gruesome recollections, Gudino left the cell and soon revealed himself not to have been a rapist or even a criminal at all. He was a police investigator.

Surprisingly, Lopez was not angry with Gudino for tricking him. Having never known his real father, Lopez grew fond of Gudino in their short time together and began calling him “Padre”. From then on, under the watch of his unwilling father figure, Lopez began to cooperate with the police.

After taking investigators on a tour throughout Ecuador to locate the corpses of his victims, Lopez began to enjoy the media attention he was getting. He posed with the skulls and liked having his picture taken. During this tour, he was attacked by Hortensia’s father, Leonidas, when her family was called to positively identify her remains.   

In court, he was diagnosed as a psychopath, and on July 31st, 1981, he was sentenced to sixteen years in prison, the maximum sentence at the time in Ecuador.

Shockingly, Lopez only served fourteen years due to good behavior and was released in 1994. The outraged families of his victims planned to hunt him down, but Lopez was immediately deported back to Colombia.

Once he was in his hometown of El Espinal, Colombian police arrested him for the 1979 murder of Floralba Sanchez. Colombia had harsher prison laws than Ecuador, though Lopez was declared legally insane and committed to a psychiatric hospital. In 1998, he was rereleased, still as remorseless as ever.

Photo Credit: The True Crime Database

In the late ’90s, he paid a visit to his estranged mother, Benilda, who he had not seen since the 1950s. She could do nothing but watch in horror as he went through her small house, took her few meager belongings, and sold them on the street. He pocketed the money, looked at her one last time, and disappeared into the countryside. Nobody has seen the Monster of the Andes since.

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Written by : Team Seven

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