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Colombian priests hired hitmen to kill themselves

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Published : Feb. 15, 2012 - 13:46

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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Rev. Rafael Reatiga asked his parishioners to pray for him and gave the choirmaster a list of songs for his funeral shortly before he was found shot to death together with another Roman Catholic priest, a Colombian prosecutor said Tuesday.

Authorities initially suspected robbery when Reatiga's body was found along with that of Rev. Richard Piffano, 37, in a car in southern Bogota on Jan. 27, 2011.

But on Tuesday prosecutor Ana Patricia Larrota said investigators had determined that it was suicide by hitmen in the year-old case: the two priests hired gunmen to kill them after Reatiga discovered he had AIDS.

The priests gave members of a criminal gang the equivalent of $8,500, said the chief investigator of the prosecutor's office, Maritza Gonzalez, as two of the four alleged assassins appeared before a judge for processing.

She said the two priests had originally planned to throw themselves off a cliff into a canyon north of Bogota but apparently lacked the nerve.

In addition to AIDS, Reatiga had syphilis and witness testimony indicated he was a regular visitor to places frequented by gays in central Bogota, Larrota told the judge who processed the two alleged assassins on Tuesday.

Gildardo Alberto Penate and Isidro Castiblanco were charged with aggravated homicide, said Larrota. Each faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Three weeks before their deaths, Reatiga had transferred his possessions to his mother. Piffano withdrew about $3,700 from his bank account on the day of his death, Gonzalez said.

Investigators said they located the alleged killers based on telephone numbers the priests had called from their cell phones in the days before their deaths. Authorities found the stolen cell phone of one of the priests on a gang member months after the killing.

Some of the numbers ended up belonging to a criminal band involved in counterfeiting, fraud and arms trafficking, they said. It allegedly supplied the killers, including two who authorities say remain at large.

 

<한글 기사>

동성애자 신부 2명 “죽여달라” 청탁

지난해 콜롬비아에서 강도에 살해된 것으로 추정됐던 신부 2명의 죽음을 놓고 여론이 뒤늦게 들썩거리고 있다.

당시 신부들은 금품을 노린 무장강도에 살해된 것으로 여겨졌으나 검찰은 오랜 수사 끝에 신부들이 무장괴한을 고용해 사실상 자살을 했다는 결론을 내렸다.

14일(현지시간) AP통신 등에 따르면 가톨릭 신부였던 라파엘 레이티가와 리차르 도 피사노는 작년 1월 수도 보고타의 한 차량 안에서 총에 맞아 숨진 채 발견됐다.

정황 상 사건은 무장괴한들이 저지른 전형적인 강도피해에 초점이 맞춰졌다.

하지만 검찰은 숨진 신부들의 전화통화 내역분석 등을 토대로 1년 간 수사를 벌였고 최근 신부들을 살해한 용의자 4명 중 2명을 체포했다.

검찰은 붙잡힌 용의자 1명으로부터 숨진 신부들이 미화 8천500달러 가량을 주며 자신들을 살해해달라는 부탁을 받았다는 자백을 확보했다고 밝혔다.

검찰은 신부들이 청부살인을 부탁하기 전 절벽에서 뛰어내려 자살하려 했으나 하지 못했고, 의학 검사는 두 신부 중 한명이 후천성면역결핍증(AIDS)에 감염됐다는 것을 보여준다며 신병비관에 따른 자살 가능성에 무게를 뒀다.

하지만 숨진 신부들의 가족은 여전히 무장강도의 소행이라는 주장을 펴며 검찰 수사결과에 강력 반발하고 있다.

아르헨티나 뉴스통신사인 '텔람'은 두 신부가 생전 동성애자들이 가는 나이트클럽을 같이 가는 등 매우 가까운 사이였다고 보도했다.

두 신부는 신학교 때부터 친구로 지내며 함께 미사를 집전하는 등 종교활동을 같이 해 온 것으로 전해졌다.