RIO DE JANEIRO – Former professional soccer player Joao Rodrigo Silva Santos was decapitated in the wee hours of Tuesday and his severed head placed in a backpack and left at the door of his Rio de Janeiro home, authorities said.
The backpack was found by the victim’s wife, a police officer assigned to one of the units responsible for public order in Rio slums taken back from drug traffickers.
The couple’s home is in Realengo, a neighborhood near several “favelas,” or shanty towns, that remain under the control of drug gangs.
Santos, 35, who played for several second-division clubs in Brazil as well as for teams in Sweden and Honduras, had no enemies and did not receive any threats, his wife said.
The former athlete was managing a shop.
Witnesses said Santos was abducted after midnight Monday by two men who forced him into a car.
The murder appeared to have been planned, official sources said, revealing that the killers removed the eyes and tongue from Santos’ severed head.
Drug traffickers may have been behind the slaying, Rio de Janeiro state police said.
Besides tracking down the killers, police are still searching for the rest of Santos’ remains.
Five men and two women were fatally shot last Thursday night inside a residence in the Realengo neighborhood. The victims, ranging in age from 24 to 37, were found on a terrace of the home, which neighbors described as a drug den.