Lucélia Rodrigues da Silva was born in the countryside of the state of Goiás, Brazil. Daughter of an extremely poor family, the girl had six siblings and lived in a tumultuous home where fights between her father and mother were constant. The case became known for being among the 30 worst crimes of torture against children in Brazil.
Lucélia’s biological family depended on donations to survive, and what was already difficult became even worse after her parents separated. Lucélia’s mother, Joana d’Arc da Silva, decided to give her children up to live with other families.
Marli, one of Lucelia’s aunts, worked as a cleaning lady in Silvia Calabresi’s company. Silvia was married and the mother of three boys and, according to Marli, her dream was to have a girl child. It was then that Joana made an agreement with Silvia: the businesswoman would take the girl to live in her house and once a month Joana would receive a sum of money.
This fact shocked many people, because it showed that Joana was not motivated only by the welfare of her children, but demanded a financial return.
“It was six months of princess”
Lucélia was taken to live in a two-story apartment in a noble neighborhood of Goiânia, the capital of the state of Goiás, Brazil. Silvia enrolled her in a military school, set up a dream bedroom, and gave Lucélia all the toys the girl never imagined she would have.
“I was afraid that my aunt wouldn’t take me, so I woke up at 5:30 and we went. When I arrived, I greeted Silvia, had breakfast and then asked to take a bath in the pool. I took a bath and she told me that she had a baby named Matheus. I was happy because I saw that Matheus liked me. The next day she told me what my duties would be.Lucélia, in an interview for Record TV.
The first six months were wonderful, Lucélia would receive visits from Joana and would always tell her biological mother that everything was fine and that she didn’t want to go back to the interior. It was then that everything began to change…
The apartment had more than two maids to do housework, which didn’t stop little Lucelia from being in charge of tasks like cleaning the bathrooms and taking care of Silvia’s youngest son.
“I would wake up at 5:15. I would do my chores. I cleaned Matheus’ room, cleaned the boys’ room, and then Grandma Lourdes’ room. Then I would go downstairs and clean. I would clean everything, wash the bathrooms, the yard.Lucélia, in an interview for Record TV.
Lucélia was forced to wake up at 5:15 in the morning to wash the yard, prepare her adopted brother’s bottles, and clean the rooms in the house. She would then go to school, and when she returned, she would be given more tasks such as bathing her brother and washing the family’s clothes.
The large number of tasks left Lucélia tired and sleepy at times, which Silvia defined as “not being at bedtime. From this point on, the physical aggressions began.
Tongue cut with pliers
She was beaten daily and tortured with instruments such as pliers, which, according to the investigation, were used to cut the girl’s tongue. In addition, on some occasions, the woman put pepper in the girl’s mouth, nose and eyes and left her without eating for days.
Lucélia was tied by the arms for more than six hours straight, forced to eat dog feces and lick the animals’ urine. One of Silvia’s favorite forms of torture was to make the girl put one finger at a time on the door hinge so that she could crush her fingers.
She also revealed that she was sexually abused, but never wanted to identify her abuser.
The girl said that she was very afraid of dying. On one occasion, after being hit on the head 70 times, Lucélia had to go to a doctor. Silvia told her that she would go to the hospital, and instructed the child to say that she fell down the stairs, and if she tried to say anything else, her punishment would be even worse.
“She stabbed me 70 times in the head, 60 times in the back of the head, nine times in the stomach. I remember, because I was forced to count them all. That day there was no way and she was forced to take me to the hospital.”Lucélia, in an interview to Record TV.
“A neighbor saved my life”
Dr. Fabio,” as Lucelia called him, was a neighbor who lived on the second floor of her apartment. It was common for him to run into Lucelia when she was leaving for school, and he always greeted her affectionately. The girl, even though she was afraid, took this as a kindness and always smiled at Fabio.
At some point, Fabio noticed that Lucelia was no longer attending school. This fact, along with the child’s fearful behavior, led the neighbor to file a complaint with the DECA (Police Department for the Protection of Children and Adolescents) in 2008.
Tied and gagged
Upon entering the apartment, the police found Lucelia bound and gagged with an old cloth over her mouth. The girl showed signs of dehydration and malnutrition.
Justice for Lucélia
Silvia Calabresi was arrested in March 2008 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. She received the right to progress to semi-open regime in 2014. It is painful to know how fragile Brazil’s justice system is, as it allowed Silvia to return to society after serving only six years of her sentence.
One of the criminal’s cleaning ladies, Vanice Maria Novais, was also sentenced in June 2008 to seven years in prison for participation in the crime. Silvia’s husband received one year and eight months for omission, but his sentence was commuted to community service.
Also in June 2008, the courts ordered the couple to pay the victim $380,000 in compensatory damages for moral and aesthetic damages, as well as labor compensation.
Lucelia’s biological mother, Joana d’Arc da Silva, who had gone on trial on charges of having received money to give her daughter to Silvia, was acquitted. Silvia’s son was also acquitted on charges of omission.
A new life
After being rescued, Lucélia was put up for adoption, and a year later was taken in by a family in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. She maintains a good relationship with her parents to this day. Police officer Jussara, who took Lucélia out of captivity, became her friend, so much so that she was godmother in her marriage to Histênio Alves.
She has finally been given to a new foster mother. A woman whom the young woman refers to as her “real mother”.
“Auntie, do you love me?”Lucélia’s second adoptive mother recounts, with great emotion.
“Lucelia, I am just getting to know you now, but you are the daughter of a God who loves you very much and through him I know I can love you!”
This would have been the first question the child asked when she met her.
Lucélia is currently a missionary, married and pregnant with her third child. She continues to travel around the country telling her story to prevent other children from going through this suffering.
“It is possible [to overcome]. I forgave, I chose to forgive.” To forgive is not to forget. It’s remembering and not feeling any more pain.”Lucélia, in an interview for TV Anhanguera.