- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

RIO DE JANEIRO — A descendant of Manfred von Richthofen, the German pilot known as the Red Baron, has been sentenced to almost 40 years in prison in Brazil for bludgeoning her parents to death.

Suzane von Richtofen, the 22-year-old daughter of the great-nephew of the World War I ace, was described in court as “the personification of an evil blonde.” She was convicted along with her boyfriend, Daniel Cravinhos, and his brother Christian.

Daniel Cravinhos was sentenced to almost 39 years and Christian Cravinhos, who was judged to have played a lesser role in the double homicide, was given almost 38 years.

A jury in Sao Paulo decided that the three had sneaked into Manfred and Marisia von Richtofen’s bedroom as they slept at their home in one of the city’s wealthier districts and beaten them with iron bars before choking them with towels.

All three had taken a cocktail of marijuana, paint thinner and glue. Prosecuting attorneys argued that the trio killed the couple in order to inherit their estate.

“It was all planned in advance in a macabre fashion,” Roberto Tardelli said for the prosecution. “They did what they did because they wanted to.”

The slayings took place in October 2002, but because Brazil’s legal system works slowly, the trial did not take place until last week.

The three ransacked the house and stole money in an attempt to make their crime resemble a botched break-in, but police detained Cravinhos after he paid in cash for a new motorbike the day after the slayings.

Von Richthofen, who was his girlfriend, was arrested soon after and their fate has gripped Brazil ever since.

In a country where elaborate soap operas of evil, sex and intrigue regularly attract tens of millions of viewers, the trial surpassed anything dreamed up by the nation’s scriptwriters.

Most intriguing to Brazilians was the relationship between the wealthy, blond von Richthofen and the poorer, darker Cravinhos.

Her parents, Manfred von Richtofen, 49, an engineer and the great-nephew of the Red Baron, and his wife, a psychologist, disapproved of their daughter’s relationship with Cravinhos, who is from a lower-middle-class family.

Although the two are no longer lovers, von Richthofen told jurors she lost her virginity to him before he led her astray with drugs. She accused her estranged boyfriend of threatening to leave her if she did not help kill the couple.

Cravinhos, however, accused von Richthofen of masterminding the crime in order to acquire her parents’ $1 million estate. He said she also sought revenge for her father’s sexual abuse.

Each defendant denied the other’s version of events and both changed their stories during the course of the trial.

In one of the most telling moments, television cameras caught one of von Richthofen’s attorneys instructing her to cry during a television interview broadcast on the eve of the trial. She also laughed several times during the trial, causing outrage inside the packed courtroom.

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