Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Brazilian police announced Friday that they had arrested a man and two women on suspicion of having murdered and cannibalized at least two women in what was described as a purification ritual.
The three defendants formed a sect called "Cartel" that seeks to purify the world and reduce the population, police spokesman Democrito Honorato from the northeastern Brazilian town of Guaranhuns told AFP.
The three defendants, Jorge and Elizabeth Pires da Silveira, both 51, and Bruna da Silva, 25, intended to kill three women per year, police said.
"The details of the actions of the trio, with drawings and explanations of cannibalism, were found in a 50-page book written by Da Silveira, a man with a diploma in education and a black belt in karate," Honorato said.
The book, entitled "The relationships of a schizophrenic," hints at acts of cannibalism.
"The three ate the flesh of their victims to purify their souls," said the police spokesman.
Two bodies were found in the garden of the house occupied by the three defendants, which police believe were those of two women who disappeared recently: Alexandra Falcao, 20, and Gisele da Silva, 30. Both had been seen in the vicinity.
The house of the three suspects was set on fire Thursday by neighbors.
One of the suspects confessed she knew the name of a woman the group killed in 2008, Jessica Pereira, in the nearby city of Olinda.
A five-year-old girl found with the trio is believed to be the daughter of the victim, police said. She was placed under the protection of a juvenile judge to find her a new family.
The group attracted victims "by offering them well-paid babysitting jobs," Honorato said, and they chose victims when "a spirit warned them they were bad people."
Welsey Ferandes, the police official in charge of the case, told reporters the suspects planned to kill another woman in the neighboring town of Lagoa de Ouro. Police did not rule out the possibility there had been other victims.
After families of the victims reported their relatives missing, police were drawn to the suspects when a credit card bill arrived at the home of one of the victims after her death. Security cameras at the shops where the credit card purchases were made showed images of the suspects doing the transactions.