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Brazilian Court Acquits Alleged Satanic Cult Leader in Murder Trial - 2003-12-06

A Brazilian court on Friday acquitted the alleged leader of a Satanic cult of charges that she planned and ordered the ritual mutilation and murder of boys in a remote Amazon town.

Friday's decision by jury came after a 17-day trial in Belem, Para state. The verdict brought tumult, tears and protests from the victims' families.

The 72-year-old defendant, Valentina de Andrade, fainted after the verdict was read. Her lawyers made no comment, but the prosecution said it would appeal.

She was accused of ordering the murder of three boys and the castration of two others in the western Amazon city of Altamira between 1989 and 1993. Reports on the gruesome murders shocked Brazil and sparked widespread fear in the farming community in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

Four other defendants have already been sentenced in the case to prison terms ranging from 35 to 77 years. They included two doctors. The four are all appealing their sentences.

The victims' families say there were 19 victims in all - boys aged eight to 13 that they say were kidnapped, tortured or killed in Altamira.