Brazilian Police Arrest Suspect in Vitor Belfort's Sister's Murder

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterJuly 24, 2013

DELRAY BEACH, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Vitor Belfort conducts a workout at the Jaco Hybrid Training Center on September 17, 2012 in Delray Beach, Florida. Belfort will fight Jon Jones on September 22, 2012 at UFC 152 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

One of the saddest and strangest chapters in MMA history has moved a little closer to closure.

According to a report from the Rio de Janeiro state government (h/t Fighters Only), on Monday police in Rio de Janeiro arrested Leonardo Luiz Batista on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering Priscila Belfort, sister of current UFC middleweight contender Vitor Belfort.

Priscila Belfort was kidnapped in 2004 and never seen again. Batista is the latest in a string of arrests in the case, and is the second this year after the case went cold for several years. In 2007 one of the kidnappers, Elaine Paiva, confessed to murdering Belfort following her apprehension. Paiva also alleged that Priscila Belfort's body had been burned and buried following the murder. The body has never been found.

In February the police announced new suspects after new leads emerged regarding the kidnapping. A month later they arrested Leandro Ferreira Fernandes for participating in Belfort's kidnapping and killing. 

Paiva previously noted that the kidnapping was done with the goal of raising ransom money to resolve a debt with a drug dealer.

Belfort has previously credited the tragedy with motivating him to become a born-again Christian.

Kidnapping for ransom is a relatively common crime in Central and South America, particularly for celebrities and their relatives.

Most recently, this spring the family of Detroit Tigers pitcher Brayan Villareal was nearly kidnapped at gunpoint. In 2011 Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in Venezuela, though he was later released alive and well.

In 2005 the mother of former major-league pitcher Ugueth Urbina was also kidnapped and later rescued, also in Venezuela. Celebrated soccer coach Ruben Omar Romano was abducted in Mexico, also in 2005.

In 2002 the sisters of famous Mexican singer Thalia were kidnapped in Mexico City, and were later released. In 2003 former Miss Venezuela Veruska Ramirez was abducted and released three hours later after signing several autographs for her kidnappers.


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