Margarida Bonetti. The Dark Case of the Abandoned House Woman

Margarida Bonetti. The Dark Case of the Abandoned House Woman
Margarida Bonetti. The Dark Case of the Abandoned House Woman

An abandoned house is the biggest cliché there is, the most obvious horror movie allegory, and this one is no exception. It all started on Christmas Eve, 2021, when Folha de São Paulo journalist Chico Felitti was walking in Higienópolis, one of the richest neighborhoods in São Paulo. On a street corner, a woman was trying to stop the city from cutting down a tree. According to the lady, in a conversation with the journalist, “the felling of the tree was a fraudulent scheme by the city hall, as environmental laws did not allow it”. After that, the two kept in touch. This could be a normal situation. However, on another day, when passing on that same street – by an abandoned house in the midst of large and luxurious buildings – a bright face “which looked like a moon that reflected the light of the streetlamps”, caught the attention of the journalist. As he approached the land, Chico noticed that it was the face of the same woman who had spoken to him about the environmental situation and with whom he had already exchanged some phone calls: Mari, as she insisted on being called.

Felitti quickly realized that “something was wrong”. A huge abandoned house in one of the richest neighborhoods in São Paulo? A woman who lives in it? A face full of ointment? Would she be a woman marginalized by her neighbors for being “eccentric”? Did she have a mental problem? Had she been abandoned by her family? The journalist decided to investigate and it didn’t take long to realize that all the paths would lead to a single story and a name different from the one he had known: behind this mysterious figure who lives in a mansion without a sewage system, two dogs and flaws in the tiles , hides a woman who has been on the run from the FBI for over 20 years, her real name Margarida Bonetti, granddaughter of Barão de Bocaina, and belonging to one of the richest families in São Paulo. Because? For having been accused of having committed “a heinous crime” in the USA, in a small town, Gaithersburg, where she kept together with her husband, Renê Bonetti, a domestic servant in false imprisonment for several years. Realizing this, the journalist decided to tell his story on the podcast A Mulher da Casa Abandonada, which already has five episodes released weekly, and which has become completely viral, not only in the country, but in various parts of the world. The work is considered “a report based on records of a notorious case of public interest” and the six-month investigation, in addition to passing through this square in São Paulo, “travels” to a suburb of Washington and also to a company that makes rockets and satellites for NASA, where Mari’s ex-husband currently works.

The investigation “A mansion, a brick house that spans an entire block (…) In addition to the property – which has more than 20 rooms – the abandoned house also has a backyard the size of a football field, full of avocado trees. It is one of the last lots without buildings in a neighborhood dominated by buildings, where a two-bedroom apartment costs two million reais”, begins by describing Chico Felitti, in the first episode called A Mulher.

According to him, “dominated by the spirit of a real estate salesman that hovers in him”, he asked himself: “How is it that they still haven’t built a building here?”. And that’s when the investigation was born. In this episode, Chico introduces us to Mari, showing recordings of the conversations he had with her, until she discovered that he was a journalist. In the recordings, there are also reports from some neighbors who describe her as a “witch” and who admit that for many years they knew the true story behind the time-worn doors and that, therefore, they never approached her. Except for one person: Felipe, a gentleman who sweeps the streets of the neighborhood and helps the residents with any kind of work. This is the only one in all of Higienópolis that, despite knowing the story, never stopped worrying about you. “I feel sorry. When I pass, we talk. She really likes plants and so do I”, says the worker. In addition, Felipe admits to the journalist that he was the only person to whom Margarida gave permission to enter the land. “I just went to the backyard, which looks abandoned. He asked me to cut down a tree for him. She’s very suspicious, but she seems to like me. I give you talk. I feel sorry for being such a lonely person”, lamented the so-called “caretaker”, who also warned of the degraded situation of the mansion. “There are big holes in the roof. One day I noticed that she was putting umbrellas in piles to try to keep the water from flowing through. In times of heavy rains, we see her with a bucket removing water from the rooms”, he said. Felipe also revealed that one day the woman explained to him that the ointment on her face would be because of a skin problem she had.

Margarida and Renê Bonetti were married and first lived together in this same house, in São Paulo, tells the second episode, A Casa. As an engineer, Bonetti received a job offer in the USA and ended up moving, together with his wife, in 1979. Before that, and because they were from high society, the company that hired him authorized the couple to take a ) employee to help with household chores and that’s what happened. An illiterate Brazilian – who to this day keeps her identity hidden – ended up being taken by them, not knowing the nightmare she would live in the following years.

the crimes According to the Brazilian newspaper O Liberal, Margarida Bonetti and her husband at the time, applied various punishments to the victim, such as: forcing her to sleep in the basement of the house, not paying her a salary, forcing her to work more than 12 hours a day, they beat her when she didn’t like something, threw hot water in her face, didn’t allow her to wash herself, forced her to wash the three cars in the house regularly, locked the fridge to prevent her from eating, and refused to let her go. medical treatment after she took so much tarei that she was left with broken bones, or big wounds. When the crime was discovered in 2001 by a neighbor of the couple who ended up denouncing the case and helping the Brazilian lady to avoid being convicted of the crime, Margarida returned to Brazil.

In turn, according to O Povo, Renê – a Brazilian naturalized as an American – “was sentenced to six and a half years in prison in the US and had to pay compensation of US$100,000 to the US state and US$110,000 to the victim”.

According to Chico Felitti, in the third episode of the podcast, which he named Uma Rua em Silêncio – where he went to the USA, to obtain more information about the process – the latest information about Renê Bonetti realized that he was work for an American technology company that provides services to NASA.

The journalist says that when visiting the city, residents “avoided giving information about the situation”, claiming “they don’t know anything. Except for that citizen who even confirmed that she had helped that person escape from the house where he was held captive. It was in a town near Gaithersburg that the journalist was able to access the entire process, with more than 300 pages.

In the fourth episode, Uma Mulher e um Homem Livres, in addition to continuing to investigate Renê – fifteen years after he got out of jail – the Folha journalist also decided to find out more about the person who was exploited by Margarida Bonetti, who today lives under protection. by the US Government and which allowed him to divulge some parts of the conversation he had with you. For the Brazilian, “the past is in the past” and today she tries to be “a happy woman, without thinking about it”. “I’m fine!” says the lady.

But why was Margaret never arrested? According to O Liberal, according to Brazilian law, “the justice system cannot investigate its citizens to be tried in other countries”. In other words, Mari could not be handed over by the Brazilian justice system to the FBI, so that he could answer for her crimes in North American territory. The husband’s case, on the other hand, was different, as he was naturalized as a US citizen. Despite being wanted by the FBI and having walked away from the journalist and stopped answering her cell phone, Chico says that the woman was always aware that her case was being dealt with on the podcast and even authorized the journalist to publish the story. In addition, Felitti managed to reach some family members who preferred to stay away from the situation. However, some say that for a few years, after returning from the US, Margarida lived in the mansion with her mother until she died.

After the research work that is published on various digital platforms such as Youtube, Spotify or Apple Podcast has gone viral, the house where Mari lives has become a kind of “tourist spot”. Many people started to travel to the place, taking pictures, filming, threatening Margarida, graffiti on the walls, etc. There are even pages created by fans, which gather photos and information about her life. For this reason, the journalist explains, “the woman was never seen again”. Margarida Bonetti is thought to have run away, having left her two bitches behind. The animals were rescued last weekend by the Brazilian NGO Instituto Luísa Mell.

other cases But this is not an isolated story. The fifth episode released by Chico, is called Others Many Women, and in it the journalist portrays other known cases in Brazil. According to Diário Carioca, this case “reveals the tip of the iceberg of a reality that still exists in the country”. In 19 years, 2,330 women have been rescued who were in a situation similar to that of the poor domestic worker who one day sailed to the USA. “Since 1995, 57,600 people have been rescued from contemporary slavery in the country. The data, which are from the Inspection Division for the Eradication of Slave Labor of the Ministry of Labor and Welfare, show that, more than simply carrying the legacy of being the last country in the West to abolish slavery, Brazil continues to produce these practices on a daily basis”, writes the publication.

According to the Brazilian newspaper, as of 2003, “the State began to pay unemployment insurance to rescued people and, thus, a more robust database was created”. Since then, 2,330 women have been found working in “slavery-like” conditions. “Of these, 61% declared they were black, 36% were born in the Northeast and 56% were illiterate or had less than five years of schooling”, details the Diário Carioca.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Margarida Bonetti Dark Case Abandoned House Woman

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