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Brazilian actor accuses his wife in soap-opera murder trial

Perez In this story: January 23, 1997
Web posted at: 4:10 p.m. EST (2110 GMT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) -- A Brazilian soap opera star accused of murdering his on-screen lover testified Wednesday that he didn't do it -- it was his jealous wife.

Testifying at the beginning of a trial that has gripped millions of soap opera fans, Guilherme de Padua said his ex-wife Paula de Almeida Thomaz killed actress Daniella Perez four years ago by stabbing her 18 times with a pair of scissors.

movie icon (1.4M/39 sec. QuickTime movie) - CNN's Marina Mirabella reports couple

De Padua said he watched Thomaz repeatedly stab Perez, as she lay unconscious on the ground, with a look "that wasn't anger ... but like she didn't really want to do it, but had to."

De Padua, a former male stripper, and Thomaz are jointly charged with murder, but are being tried separately. Word of the slaying in 1992 so riveted the nation that even the impeachment proceedings against President Fernando Collor de Mello, who resigned in a corruption scandal, paled against it.

In the soap opera "De Corpo e Alma" ("Of Body and Soul"), the 27-year-old de Padua played the brooding boyfriend, Bira, of a sexy teen-ager, Yasmin, played by Perez.

De Padua confessed to murder, then recanted

the boyfriend

He originally confessed to murdering Perez, who was 22 years old, but later accused Thomaz, now 23, of carrying out the stabbing in a fit of jealousy. The two were divorced soon after de Padua was imprisoned.

De Padua intimated during his testimony that he had had an affair with Perez and said his wife stabbed her with scissors out of jealousy.

"Around Christmas, I revealed many secrets to Paula, things I hadn't said before, girls I had been with, friends of hers," de Padua said. "I said, 'Daniella, for example,' and she said `What? You were with Daniella?'"

De Padua said he became involved with Perez because her mother, Gloria Perez, was the show's author and he thought the daughter could help him professionally.

When his wife became pregnant, de Padua said, his efforts to cool the romance with Perez were rewarded with a smaller role in the TV show.

Fight broke out

the crime scene

After a taping session on the night of the murder, de Padua said, he and Perez drove to a deserted beach. His wife had insisted on coming along and was hidden in the back seat, he said.

De Padua said he and Perez argued, then a fight broke out between the three of them.

"While I grabbed Daniella, I tried to hold Paula back with the other hand but I lost balance and we fell to the ground," he said.

He claimed the fall knocked Perez unconscious and he believed she was dead. Out of desperation, de Padua said, he tried to disguise his license plates with tape.

"I heard something and said 'Paula, what's happening?' I went back and witnessed only the last two or three blows," he said.

De Padua said he then drove past the beach, threw the scissors into the sea and went home. The murder weapon was never found.

Although de Padua initially admitted to the murder, and Thomaz confessed to taking part, both later recanted and now blame each other. Prosecutors say both of them killed Perez together to seal a pact of fidelity.

If convicted, they face 30 years in prison. But under Brazilian law, first-time offenders serve only a third of their sentence and are eligible for work-release after serving only one-sixth of their sentence.

Because the defendants have already been jailed for four years, they would be eligible for work-release within a year.

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