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RIO DE JANEIRO – The soap opera levels of twists and turns in the allegations that a former Brazilian soccer star orchestrated the brutal murder of his model ex-girlfriend is sending shock waves through the international soccer community.
Former Flamengo goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes went on trial Monday for charges of planning the murder of his ex-girlfriend Eliza Samudio, in a case that includes allegations the young model was lured to a ranch where she was held hostage, killed and her body dismembered.
The case of the once loved soccer player, known in Brazil just as Bruno, has riveted the country with allegations including that the model has never been found because her remains were fed to dogs.
The former captain of one of Rio's premier clubs led his team to Brazilian soccer championship victory in 2009. That same year, Samudio made the first allegations to police that she was pregnant with Fernandes' child, and that the soccer great and others kidnapped her and tried to force her to terminate the pregnancy.
She refused. The child was born healthy, and named Bruno. But the model disappeared in June 2010 and has not been found.
In December 2010, Fernandes was found guilty of Samudio's initial accusations and is serving a prison sentence of four years and six months in that case. After a court dispute, Samudio's mother was named the child's guardian.
The former soccer great is now being tried a second time, this time on charges he ordered his ex-girlfriend's death.
Investigators said the player was behind a scheme that lured the 25-year-old woman from Rio de Janeiro to a ranch in the neighboring state of Minas Gerais with the promise that Fernandes would recognize the child as his and give her an apartment. There she was allegedly held against her will by Fernandes' accomplices, killed and quartered, and her remains fed to dogs who roamed the property.
The first day of the murder trial in Minas Gerais was marked by high drama, with attorneys for two of Fernandes' alleged accomplices, who are also facing murder charges, walking out after arguing with the judge over access to videos of witness testimony.
"We would like to leave clear to the jury that it is impossible to carry out a fair trial," said Ercio Quaresmo, the attorney for Santos, according to O Globo newspaper.
The Associated Press could not reach the attorneys for comment.
Besides Fernandes, those charged with Samudio's kidnapping, murder and the hiding of her body include Dayanne Rodrigues, Fernandes' wife, Fernanda Castro, a lover, Luiz Romao, the soccer player's former right-hand man, and a former police officer. All those charged with the death have pleaded innocent, including Fernandes.
The attorney for the former soccer player said he remained confident that his client would walk out a free man.
"Bruno is tired of being in prison," said attorney Rui Pimenta to O Globo newspaper outside court in the town of Contagem. "He is ready to walk out and go eat some rare barbecue."
The defense's argument is that there can be no murder charges because Samudio is, in fact, alive. The attorney Pimenta says he will produce proof that Samudio is living in Eastern Europe.
Samudio's mother, Sonia Moura, told the news website G1 that she trusted justice would be made and dared the soccer player to look her in the eyes in court.
"I believe in justice, and in the condemnation of all the accused," she said. "I want my daughter's mortal remains."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.