The Common Good
August 2007

30-Year Sentence in Stang Killing

by Rose Marie Berger, Jonathan Mendez | August 2007

A Brazilian landowner known as the mastermind behind the murder of 73-year-old Catholic nun Dorothy Stang was sentenced in May to 30 years in prison.

A Brazilian landowner known as the mastermind behind the murder of 73-year-old Catholic nun Dorothy Stang was sentenced in May to 30 years in prison. The conviction of Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura came nearly two years after the conviction of three other men connected to the killing—a gunman, his accomplice, and a go-between. These men testified that they were paid the equivalent of about $25,000 for Stang's murder—testimony they later recanted, but which the judge determined to be authentic.

Stang, a native of Ohio and a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, spent 23 years supporting the rights of landless workers and defending the rainforest in northern Brazil. In February 2005, she was shot six times at close range—while she attempted to read scripture to her assailants—because of a dispute over rainforest acreage that ranchers wanted to clear-cut for pasture. With the Moura conviction, "Ranchers will think twice before ordering this kind of killing," said Jose Batista Afonso, a lawyer with the Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission.

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