Pubdate: Sun, 30 May 2004
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2004 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Kevin G. Hall, Knight Ridder
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Minor Drug Offender, Sent Back To Brazil, Slain Amid Desperate Plot To 
Return To U.s.

CAMPINAS, Brazil - An Ohio man deported to Brazil four years ago for a 
minor drug infraction was gunned down here by drug-dealing teens. Friends 
say he had sought the teens' help to smuggle guns into Brazil and use the 
proceeds to sneak back into the United States.

The case of Joao Herbert, 26, gained international attention in 2000, after 
his adoptive parents' inability to obtain citizenship papers for him, along 
with newly toughened immigration laws and Herbert's first-offense 
conviction for selling marijuana forced his deportation.

Herbert left Brazil at age 8 and grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio. An orphan, he 
had no family in Brazil and as an adult he spoke no Portuguese. Sending him 
back there would be tantamount to "a death sentence," his adoptive mother, 
Nancy Saunders, warned at the time.

In Brazil, Herbert settled into a small brick house in Campinas, an 
industrial town 60 miles north of Sao Paolo. It's on the edge of Sao Pedro 
de Viracopos, one of the city's more notorious slums.

Herbert taught English in Campinas and even opened a school, the English 
University. He moved in with one of his pupils, Paula Alexandre, 30. They 
had a daughter in November.

Herbert's life came apart early this year just months after his baby 
daughter, Nayrah, was born. He separated from his common-law wife, closed 
the school and was using drugs, friends said. He also concocted a desperate 
plan to sneak back into the United States and live under a new identity.

Herbert's idea was to purchase submachine guns in neighboring Paraguay, and 
smuggle them back into Brazil.

Herbert planned to use the profits to cross into the United States 
illegally and start a new life.

Tuesday, Herbert and some friends prepared for a barbecue and planned to 
watch the Brazilian national soccer team play a televised exhibition match.

Three teenagers from the neighboring slum knocked on his door around 1:30 
p.m. Friends say they warned Herbert that the kids were trouble.

The youths had been driving with Herbert two weeks earlier when police 
stopped them, found two guns and confiscated the car. The teens now wanted 
Herbert to repay them for the guns' loss. He had bought marijuana from the 
teens, Herbert's friends said, and intended to use them to take his 
weapons-buying plan to drug traffickers.

Herbert, trying to settle matters with the teens, walked off with them. 
Once they had turned the corner, shots rang out. Someone shot him four 
times in the head and chest. Bleeding profusely, Herbert staggered about 50 
yards toward his one-story home and fell face-up onto red clay with his 
eyes wide open.

"I believe he came to Brazil to die," said Alexandre.
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