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article imageEmile Dubois — A serial murderer or a miraculous soul? Special

By Igor I. Solar     Mar 26, 2013 in Crime
Santiago - On March 26, precisely 106 years ago today, Emile Dubois, a Frenchman found guilty of killing four people in Chile, faced the firing squad. His memory has endured in the faith of the people who consider Dubois a martyr of injustice, a hero and a saint.
The “Animita”
The term "animita" is the diminutive of the Spanish word "ánima", a synonym of the word “alma” (soul). It is used in Chile in reference to a makeshift chapel or sanctuary often built at the roadside or in a cemetery. This word is used only in Chile. In other Latin American countries the “Animita” is called "Santuario", meaning Shrine or Sanctuary. According to scholars and researchers of popular culture, the belief in the “Animita” is part of the idiosyncrasy of the masses, developed by the tendency to worship death and perpetuate the memory of the deceased.
Some people believe that those who die in tragic circumstances leave their soul wandering in the place where they died or where they were buried. This requires the construction of shrines where the relatives will light candles and ask for mercies. In these places, the distressed ask the soul of the deceased to intercede with the Saints or directly with God to solve their problems. If the issue is resolved, the debtor must thank the soul by placing a plate on or near the shrine. A large number of plates shows the ability of the soul to answer prayers and perform miracles, which increases the number of faithful.
One such “animita” exists in one of the cemeteries of Valparaiso. It is the sanctuary of Emile Dubois, who according to popular belief has performed countless miracles in response to people’s prayers, thus becoming one of the most legendary public cults in Chile.
The  Sanctuary  dedicated to Emile Dubois in the cemetery of Valparaíso  Chile. For over a century ...
The "Sanctuary" dedicated to Emile Dubois in the cemetery of Valparaíso, Chile. For over a century people light candles, bring flowers and decorate the "Animita" of one of the most notorious criminals in Chilean history.
Who was Emile Dubois?
The sanctuary of Emile Dubois honors a mass murderer who was charged of killing four people.
Picture of Emile Dubois  probably printed in 1907 on the main newspaper of Valparaíso reporting on ...
Picture of Emile Dubois, probably printed in 1907 on the main newspaper of Valparaíso reporting on the crimes commited by the acussed.
Unknown
He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad.
The identity of the accused, Emile Dubois, was not true. His real name was Louis Amadeo Brihier Lacroix. He was born in 1867 in Etaples-sur-Mer, northern France. He was an anarchist and adventurer who emigrated from France with the police on his trail. He traveled to South America. Brihier/Dubois journeyed through Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia before settling in Valparaiso, Chile. In Colombia, he seduced 15-year-old Ursula Morales who left everything to follow him in his adventures.
Although he was attributed literary inclinations, and carried business cards with the title of "Mining Engineer", he never held a job or regular employment.
The Crimes
The crimes, one in Santiago and three in Valparaiso, occurred between 1905 and 1906. The victims were all foreigners living in Chile; two victims were French, one German and one Englishman. All were well-known citizens involved in politics or in business and reportedly at least three of them were loan sharks.
In all murders the "modus operandi" was similar. In every case the murder weapons were a rubber club and a knife. All the victims were robbed of their money and the first victim was also robbed a gold watch.
When police finally caught Dubois, after a fifth failed attempt in which the intended victim, a British dentist, managed to defend himself, several incriminating items were found in his home, which included one rubber club, knives, and the gold watch from the first victim.
Trial and death sentence
Despite the overwhelming evidence, Dubois never admitted or confessed his culpability. He vehemently insisted on his innocence. His lawyer attempted to save him from the death penalty alluding lack of responsibility because of mental problems. Dubois refused that line of defense, fired his lawyer and undertook his own defense. Prosecutors and judges were impressed by the eloquence of his rhetoric, but ended up sentencing him to death by firing squad.
The day before the execution, Dubois married Ursula. On March 26, 1907, exactly 106 years ago today, Dubois marched to his execution. He rebutted the priest attempting to give him the last rites and refused to be blindfolded. He said a fiery speech in which he reiterated his innocence and blamed the judge for condemning an innocent. With absolute calm, he smoked a cigar and facing the firing squad he said serenely: "Execute! I only ask you to aim straight to the heart."
Popular Devotion
Dubois became instantly a victim and a hero. Many believed blindly in his innocence, and those who thought him guilty considered him a “Robin Hood” for purging society of some mean loan sharks. People valued his personal pride and his contempt for his lawyer. They respected him for assuming his own defense and because he married Ursula just hours before his death. Admiration grew for the courage he showed on the way to the execution bench, for his final address to the audience insisting on his innocence, for refusing to be blindfolded, for coldly smoking a cigar without tremor in his hand, and for pronouncing the execution order himself, directing the platoon to shoot straight to his heart.
Lots of people joined the cortege on its way to the cemetery. However his grave in the cemetery did not last long. Nobody paid for maintenance and a year later Dubois’ remains ended up in a mass grave in a courtyard next to a ravine with a great ocean view.
In this field was the mass grave where the remains of Dubois were placed after being removed from hi...
In this field was the mass grave where the remains of Dubois were placed after being removed from his tomb.
 Animita  of Emile Dubois in the Cemetery #3 of Valparaíso.
"Animita" of Emile Dubois in the Cemetery #3 of Valparaíso.
Hundreds of plaques have been placed by people to thank the deceased for  favours conceded .
Hundreds of plaques have been placed by people to thank the deceased for "favours conceded".
Next to the Sanctuary  a large wall was painted showing an image of Dubois and the legend:  They may...
Next to the Sanctuary, a large wall was painted showing an image of Dubois and the legend: "They may think I am a murderer, but for the people I will be a saint"
Label on the bottle of  Emile  Reserve Carménère wine of Botalcura Vineyards of Chile.
Label on the bottle of "Emile" Reserve Carménère wine of Botalcura Vineyards of Chile.
Soon after, however, people built in the rear of the cemetery a little chapel where Dubois’ fans placed candles, flowers, portraits, badges and French flags. Thousands of people afflicted by problems and injustices made him a miraculous saint. People pledged plaques to thank Dubois for favors granted and troubles resolved. Today, there is almost no space left for another plaque.
Dozens of newspaper articles, academic and literary studies have been published analyzing Dubois’ history, his actions and the possibility that an injustice may had been committed. A Chilean Vineyard put his name on the label of one of its better wines.
More than a century after his death, the French anarchist and mass murderer of Valparaiso has secured a special place in the cemetery and in the minds and hearts of those who believe in his innocence and in his extraordinary aptitude for miracles.
More about Emile Dubois, Valparaiso Chile, Murders, Injustice, Criminal charges
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