Two unidentified men on a motorcycle shot Neto as he was getting into his car after attending a local barbecue in Ipatinga, in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, according to news reports. The journalist died at a local hospital.
Neto was the host of the show “Plantão Policial” (Police Shift) on Rádio Vanguarda in Ipatinga and had started working the week before as a reporter at the daily Vale do Aço. He was also a press aide for the local mayor, according to Fernando Benedito Jr., a journalist in Ipatinga and a friend of Neto.
Benedito told CPJ that Neto, who had once wanted to be a police officer, had aggressively covered police corruption throughout his career. He said Neto had frequently received threats, especially for his coverage of cases in which police officers were suspected of being involved in local murders. Durval Ângelo, a state congressman and president of the state assembly’s human rights commission, said that Neto had been working on a book about one of these cases at the time of his death that he planned to title “The Perfect Crime,” Vale do Aço reported.
News accounts reported local authorities as saying that they would be primarily looking into his journalistic work as the possible motive. In the days after the murder, law enforcement officers said Neto had twice reported being threatened to the authorities, most recently in February 2012, according to news reports.
Journalists in Ipatinga told CPJ that the local press corps had formed the “Rodrigo Neto Committee” to investigate the murder and keep pressure on authorities to solve the case.
In August 2014, former police officer Lúcio Lírio Leal was sentenced to 12 years in prison for participating in the planning of Neto’s murder, according to news reports. In June 2015, a court sentenced Alessandro Neves Augusto, known as “Pitote,” to 16 years in prison on charges of carrying out Neto’s murder, according to news reports. Neves was already in custody at the time of his sentence. Both men denied the charges and Neves alleged that he was being framed by the local police, according to local reports.
Neves has also been charged with carrying out the murder in April 2013 of Walgney Assis Carvalho, a freelance crime photographer who also contributed to Vale do Aço, according to news reports.
In his court testimony in Neves’ case, police chief Emerson Morais said he believed that Carvalho had been killed because the journalist had apparently told people that he knew who had killed Neto, according to news reports. Morais said that authorities were looking into Neto’s critical reports as the primary line of investigation but no motive or mastermind has yet been identified.