SAO PAULO, Brazil – The rancher accused of ordering the killing of American nun Dorothy Stang (search) in the Amazon rainforest six weeks ago surrendered to police on Sunday and declared his innocence.
Vitalmiro Moura (search), who had been a fugitive since an arrest warrant was issued for him on Feb. 15, was taken into custody after turning himself in with a lawyer in Altamira, about 80 miles from where 73-year-old Stang was killed, police said.
"I'm not guilty, I don't have anything to do with this crime," Moura told reporters after being interrogated late Sunday.
During the interrogation in Belem (search), the capital of Para state, Moura said he surrendered so he could prove his innocence, police said. He said that he had no motive to kill Stang and that he was likely set up by the gunmen.
The two alleged gunmen have testified that the rancher hired them to kill Stang, a naturalized Brazilian originally from Dayton, Ohio. The accused gunmen were arrested shortly after the Feb. 12 killing.
Amair Feijoli, an alleged middleman, initially said he offered the men about $18,000 to kill Stang on Moura's behalf, but later changed his testimony to say he alone ordered the killing, police said.
Officials have said a revolver found on Moura's ranch was connected by ballistic tests to the four bullets recovered from Stang's body.
Police and Moura's lawyer had been negotiating his surrender for the past two weeks. Moura did not say where he had been hiding.
Stang wanted a stretch of rainforest to be declared part of a sustainable development project for poor settlers, but Moura allegedly wanted to develop and log the area.
Stang spent the last 23 years of her life in lawless Para state trying to protect the rainforest and peasants from loggers and ranchers seeking to exploit the area's rich natural resources.