March 9, 1980 (estimated)
Pedro Alonso López (31), the so-called Monster of the Andes, is arrested
According to López in an interview after his arrest, his mother ejected him from their home at the age of 8, after he was caught sexually abusing his sister. He was taken in by a neighbor briefly but his mother came to collect him and took him to the edge of town before abandoning him. After López returned home again, his mother took him on a bus ride. The pair disembarked the bus around 125 km (78 miles) away from their house where his mother once again abandoned him. He never saw her again.
The last night he saw his mother, López was approached by a child predator and assaulted. While López experienced several other sexual assaults over the next decade, he credited this first attack as the moment he chose to rape and murder children. “I lost my innocence at the age of eight,” López told journalist Roy Laytner during a 1980 interview, “and I decided to do the same to as many young girls as possible.”
López, according to his confession, killed as many as 350 girls from 1969 until his arrest in 1980, spanning across Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. He would accumulate trinkets as he traveled — such as lipsticks, mirrors, and costume jewelry — which he would offer to his victims. “I walked among the markets searching for a girl with a certain look on her face,” he recounted to Laytner. “A look of innocence and beauty. She would be a good girl, always working with her mother. I followed them, sometimes for two or three days, waiting for the moment when she was left alone.” Once López had successfully lured his victim away, he would rape her, strangle her, and dump her body in a shallow grave, often reusing a grave to hide multiple bodies. The missing children were initially suspected to have been run-aways, trafficked, or sold into slave labor.
In 1978, López was caught in Peru while trying to abduct a 9-year-old. The locals restrained, stripped, and tortured him before digging a hole with the plan to bury him alive. An American missionary happened to pass by and convinced the mob to leave López alive. She took him to a police outpost though he was not charged. Instead, López was deported to Colombia; he illegally crossed the border into Ecuador almost immediately. “I like the girls in Ecuador,” López told Laytner. “They are more gentle, more innocent and trusting than the girls in Colombia, who are too suspicious of strangers.”
López was arrested after he was seen escorting a 10-year-old girl away from a market, whose mother’s screams alerted others nearby. (The exact date of the arrest seems to be up for debate, with reports from mid-1980 indicating it occurred during the first week of March while reports published on April 3, 1980 documented the arrest took place “two weeks ago.”) He was placed in a cell with an undercover investigator who posed as a fellow inmate and, after the pair shared a cell for 27 days, López confessed to between 300 and 350 murders. He agreed to take police to a makeshift cemetery which contained the graves of 53 victims between the ages of 8 and 12. He also provided officials with the locations of some 20 other gravesites. No more bodies were recovered due to the graves being disturbed by either scavenging animals, natural causes, or construction, however.
López was convicted of 110 murders: 53 counts for the bodies recovered and an additional 57 victims he had confessed to having killed in Ecuador. “We may never know exactly how many young girls Lopez killed,” director of Ambato Prison Victor Hugo Lascano told reporters. “His estimate of 300 may be very low. In the beginning he co-operated and took us each day to three or four hidden bodies. Then he tired [sic], changed his mind and stopped helping.”
Dr. Dirk Gibson of the University of New Mexico, author of Serial Killers Around the World: The Global Dimensions of Serial Murder, also doubts the estimate of the 300 victims López claimed, but at the opposite end of the spectrum as director Lascano. “Many [serial killers] if not most exaggerate their victim count. These aren’t exactly honest people, and they are interested in glory, so they inflate their crimes. But at the very least, he killed up to 70 people.”
Ecuador had abolished capital punishment in 1906 and prohibited consecutive prison terms. As such, López was sentenced to 16 years in prison, the maximum penalty allowed under Ecuadorian law. He was released 2 years early for good behavior and deported to Colombia in 1994 where he was declared insane and placed in a mental health facility until 1998. López was released on bond and has not been seen since.
Pearson, Nick. “Pedro Lopez: The world’s second worst serial killer who walked free from prison.” 9News. December 5, 2018. Accessed: March 9, 2021. https://www.9news.com.au/world/pedro-lopez-worlds-second-worst-serial-killer-walked-free-from-prison/2be19c5c-95c5-44e2-8dd1-3253319a34e5
Keller, Robert. “Serial Killers: Pedro Lopez.” Keller On The Loose. February 19, 2015. Accessed: March 9, 2021. http://www.robertkellerauthor.com/2015/02/serial-killers-pedro-lopez.html?m=1
Keller, Robert. Human Monsters: 30 Terrifying Serial Killers from Around the World, Volume One. 2014
“Killer of 300 gets 16-year term.” The Clarion-Ledger [Jackson, Mississippi]. January 28, 1981
“Ecuador police discover bodies of 53 little girls.” Minneapolis Tribune. July 15, 1980
Laytner, Ron. “The Andes Monster: Killer of the young and innocent.” The Province [Vancouver, British Columbia]. July 6, 1980
“100 pre-teen girls raped, murdered?” The Windsor Star. April 3, 1980
“21 murder victims found in Ecuador.” Star-Phoenix [Saskatoon, Saskatchewan]. March 19, 1980