Unidentified assailants on a motorcycle pursued Viana, who was on his own motorcycle, and shot him several times, news reports said citing police. His body was found on the side of the highway between Santa Rita and João Pessoa, the capital of Paraíba state. None of his belongings, including his motorcycle, were taken, police said.
"It’s not a particularly dangerous stretch of road. There’s no track record of murders or robberies there, and so that’s why we think it was a hit–maybe because of his work or because of a dispute he had with someone," Heber Rommel, an officer with the federal highway patrol, told CPJ.
Viana, 51, had worked on two television shows and three different radio stations before joining 100.5 FM Lider in the mid-1990s, his colleague, Jose Antonio Borges, told CPJ. Viana hosted a daily show called "100% You," which ran from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., in which he spoke to callers, played music, and offered opinions on the stories of the day.
"He would run campaigns asking for donations, and he really tried to help people," said Borges, who has an afternoon show on the station. "He was very popular and much loved."
Borges told CPJ the journalist had not reported any threats or harassment. Journalists in Paraíba are rarely targeted for their work, according to Rafael Freire, president of the state’s journalists’ union.
Viana often spoke favorably about a half-hour politics show that followed his own, which was hosted by Damião Feliciano, a federal deputy who was also a friend of Viana’s, according to local journalists and an adviser to Feliciano. Feliciano’s wife, who is the vice-governor of the state, and the governor released a statement condemning Viana’s murder and said they would do all they could to solve the case quickly.
The week after the murder João Alves, general director of the civil police, told reporters authorities were investigating a particular possible motive but would not give more details, according to news reports.
In August 2017, a police investigation identified seven men suspected of participating in the killing, including two alleged gunmen, according to news reports. As of February 2019, authorities still had not made public any more information about the mastermind of the crime or the motive for Viana’s murder, according to news reports.
On February 27, 2020, all seven suspects accused of involvement in Viana’s killing were found not guilty in a trial by jury in the city of João Pessoa, according to news reports.