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Why Did They Free Pedro López, the Monster of the Andes?

There's such a thing as being too merciful to a criminal.

Pedro López 

After being convicted of killing over 400 girls, Pedro Alonso López is undoubtedly one of the worst serial killers ever. So how come authorities ultimately let him go?

Part One

It's one of the most distressing serial killer cases of all time, at least for anyone concerned about public safety. If the huge victim number isn't enough, López is also apparently unrepentant for his crimes, once boasting: "I like the girls in Ecuador, they are more gentle and trusting, more innocent."

You see, he didn't just stay in one area. He's known to have killed hundreds of girls in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and probably elsewhere. And when I mean girls, I mean children. That's what kind of guy this is. Also, quite obviously, this isn't a man afraid to travel, which he surely did when he was released in 1998 from a Bogotá, Colombia psychiatric hospital on $50 bail. Again, that's fifty dollar bail! So, how many slaps in the face is this so far? In fact, even before López was caught, the public was hating the police for lack of action. Quite understandably, they felt like the police just weren't taking the disappearances of poor girls seriously. I don't know if the cops ever said,"We're really busy; can you come back later?," but some felt like that was the attitude. Until a body was found, these girls were considered mere runaways (though, still, you'd think they'd also be concerned about that, right?).

And look, I hate to be the guy to beat up on authorities in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, or wherever. Despite my propensity to question authority, I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. However, some cases just make it really tough to do so, and this is one of them. Granted, leniency has its general appeal. I get that. I respect the basic concept of giving someone a second chance—possibly even the average murderer.

However, this isn't the average murderer. It isn't just some dude who flipped out and killed someone in a blind fury. This is someone who killed hundreds of little girls. We also clearly know he was guilty. There's footage of him leading authorities to body after body, or skeleton after skeleton. You can easily find this in documentaries of him online. I watched it on Youtube. It's said the man even wanted a press photo of him posing with a skill. Leniency has its limits sometimes, and this is one of those times.

And hell, I'll even break it down simpler. Let's even get rid of the child killer angle here, just for the sake of argument. Let's say Pedro Alonso López only killed adults, and of either sex (he technically did kill a few younger males who apparently raped him in his youth). Even then, how many chances do we want to give this guy? At a certain point, doesn't leniency blatantly lose merit? It's even said that, when López was released, he was supposed to check in with some probation officer, but fled instead. The question for me is: Why would they assume he would have ever followed the safeguards? Seriously, inquiring minds want to know. The guidelines were probably intended to prevent him from killing. In contrast, Pedro Alonso López really likes to kill. See the problem? Did they not recognize him as a psychopathic killer? That would clearly be the biggest job on his résumé by that point, no? He's not called "Monster of the Andes" for nothing.

One does not simply expect a serial killer of hundreds of people to kill again.

Another thing that bothers me about this case: Serial killers were a known phenomenon by this time. Had López been active in, say, 1948 (the year he was born), it would be vaguely more understandable. Someone could then ignorantly say, "Well, there was no documented historic precedent for this sort of thing. We simply had no way of knowing what to do!” However, let's recall that he was essentially freed in 1998. Not only was I alive in 1998, but I was 17 years old. It bothers me that such an oversight could happen during my lifetime.

Now, I'm far from a "lock-'em-up and throw-away-the-key" kind of dude, and I'm not even pro-death penalty. Still, you have to keep some people away from the general population. Can't we at least agree on that much? So, yeah, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador really dropped the ball on this one. In many ways, the authorities are equally responsible for any crimes he has committed upon being freed.

Is Pedro López still out there?

In YouTube videos I've watched, some comments speculate that López was probably secretly killed somewhere, either by vigilantes or police themselves. However, that's just that: Speculation. In reality, he may very well be out there somewhere. Given his proven ability to travel to kill, not every potential victim would see it coming. In fact, if you remember his words earlier: "I like the girls in Ecuador, they are more gentle and trusting, more innocent." This is someone who knows the signs of someone's innocence and trusting nature, and cruelly exploits it for his sick ends. If he is out there, and not completely debilitated, you can bet he's at least occasionally claiming more lives.

Part Two: What made the monster? Family? Society? Poverty?

Serial killers aren't exactly everywhere, but it seems they could be anywhere. That's part of their lasting, deleterious effect on the world. It's certainly unsettling to know the man could be out there. Still, it's just as bad to know others like him are in the making. I don't want to say "Society made this monster," as that's a bit of an oversimplification. However, there's some truth to that. It's also technically true that López is actually human. He grew up in a human world, and became something unique under unique circumstances.

We know Pedro Alonso López isn't some harmless Teddy Bear, but we do have some insight into his family life and how he developed into such a deviant. For example, right on the face of any biographical sketch, who know he was a runaway, a drifter, and that he had some family troubles (including allegations of abuse). He likely became a serial killer due to some hatred of the world, paired with some self hatred. That alone doesn't explain the stalking and killing of innocents, but he did not have a normal, stable life. That seems to make a difference. Who knows? Had he enjoyed a better, more humane existence, he could have very well been a better, more humane person. I don't fully, 100 percent buy arguments that such people are completely "born that way." I think they have a capacity for violence which is unlocked by certain unique experiences.

Similarly, I think it's erroneous to simply say he was necessarily a misogynist. It's likely that he hated males as well, but simply wasn't attracted to them. More basically, this is someone who lacked the sense of "the greater good," killing to satisfy his own selfish urges. He didn't seem to recognize killing is wrong, at all. Though trials proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, he never seemed to grasp what that meant, other than his incarceration.

The Numbers Game

While looking at this case, I stumbled upon something that reminds me of López: Henry Lee Lucas confessing to the murder of an unknown girl known as "Orange Socks" (called such because that's what she was wearing when found in 1979). Lucas had confessed to the murder seemingly just for fun, as he had confessed to thousands of other murders to inflate his body count. While the López body count really is high, it seems serial killers in general don't mind exaggerating their number of kills to match something like his.

As another example, Russian serial killer Alexander Pichushkin was known as the "Chessboard Killer" for saying he planned to kill 64 people—matching the number of squares in a chessboard. Of course, he later admitted he would have kept killing even after reaching that special number. It's been suggested that Pichushkin was in competition with Andrei Chikatilo, the 'Rostov Ripper.' Either way, he was a danger to himself or others, which is the main point with any of these killers.

Obviously, Pedro Alonso López wasn't just dangerous due to the sheer number of victims. In fact, had he been caught (and/or killed) sooner, he wouldn't have had such high numbers anyway. Still, because his whereabouts are unknown, the body count may have become higher after his release.

Could he have avoided vengeance?

One likes to think that, if he's still out there, he is forced into hiding and has a much harder time getting away with murder (or, of course, any other anti-social acts). After all, if you're on the run, you have to be careful of the company you keep. In fact, I have a hard time imagining him successfully traveling far undetected. It may be possible, but it hardly seems like it would be easy for him to, say, travel to another continent. In addition to the culture shock of entering a foreign land, it's reasonable to think he'd stand out without keeping a very low profile.

There are so many difficulties facing a fugitive. They could be locked up, or they could be attacked by other criminals. It would likely be tough to find reliable work to make money. It would be hard to connect with any old pals or family. Sure, people like López almost have chameleon-like abilities, but they tend to make missteps somewhere along the line. The problem is, so do the authorities. In fact, when López was originally caught, it was by a crowd of angry people. He was accused of trying to lure a little girl away from her mother, and it turned out the angry crowd were right to suspect him. (Similarly, serial killer Richard Ramirez was apprehended by an angry mob, who were fed up with the Nightstalker's bullshit.)

We ask for justice, but what is justice?

Pedro Alonso López is a test for humanity. It's a well-established rule that murder is wrong, be it a stabbing murder, strangulation, fire-setting, what have you. Still, out of interest in fairness, even hard-boiled vengeance seekers tend to grudgingly admit not all cases are alike. Similarly, plenty of people believe in exercising compassion, even for murderers. After all, that's what sort of makes us better than them, right? They lack compassion and we don't.

At the same time, even compassionate, humane people are pushed to the brink by a case like this (or at least they should be). When reading López' crazy bio, I found myself wondering, "Did they put him in one of the best hospitals in Medellín and Colombia?” If so, what about people around the world who lack access to care, and who lack any type of special consideration or treatment? I don't necessary even mean the poorest of the poor, but anyone in the world who is struggling. Did the systems of Colombia and Peru treat him better than they do their non-murdering citizens? It sort of seems like the answer is "Yes."

Now, I wouldn't say "Cruel and sadistic killers should be treated cruelly and sadistically," but how about we use his example as an excuse to treat ordinary people better? You know, stop throwing people out on the street, where they easily find life to be cruel and worthless. That seems to have helped this guy become a serial killer. It's a theory that makes sense, doesn't it? It seems class stratification does come into play here, and quite blatantly. If there's one political aspect to the creation of Pedro Alonso López, this seems to be it. Sure, one may argue that he was just a born killer, but signs point to a more complex origin to his deviance. Nothing excuses what he did, but some things can help explain what he became.

Part 3: More Gentle and Trusting, More Innocent

Horrible people take advantage of gentle and trusting souls, so be careful how gentle and trusting you are. Honestly, I hate to type those words, as they seem to open a Pandora's box of slippery slopes. However, the case of Pedro Alonso López makes it clear that we should proceed with caution in all things, including trust. Colombia and Peru put way more trust in López than any wise person would have. Also, it should never have been required to set him free, ever.

This gets to the heart of another issue: Should the law be valued above human life and safety? Yet again, the Pandora's box of slippery slopes. Still, anyone with sense can see the question applies here. Honestly, I've never been a huge proponent of following laws, at least not just for the sake of following laws. Also, decisions shouldn't be made just to avoid punishment. I've always believed in following a law, or a rule, or a general standard, simply because it makes sense, seems basically just, is possible and easily justifiable.

The problem with law is that, unless something's spelled out in the law itself, we're not supposed to make exceptions. However, when it comes to allowing freedom, exceptions should unfortunately be made sometimes. Someone killing over 350 children would be one such occasion. The case against someone who killed hundreds of little girls is very strong. The case for keeping such a person away from others—especially children—is also very strong.

Maybe I'm ill-equipped to advise politicians in general. Still, despite whatever shortcomings I have as a person, I think I'm pretty sane and reasonable on this matter. Unless he really was executed in secret, it's highly likely that there were new crimes committed by Pedro Alonso López. Of course, it's not just that they're crimes. They're blatantly sick and depraved deeds, whether they are illegal or not. This isn't simply a a matter of being pro-incarceration or pro-prison. This is a matter of public safety and basic sanity. I will say it one more time: The Monster of the Andes should have never been freed.

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