FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Brazilian national who died in a plane crash 16 years ago has been identified as a serial killer linked to the deaths of at least three women in South Florida two decades ago.
Roberto Fernades was identified Tuesday as the suspect in the previously unsolved homicides of Kimberly Dietz-Livesey, Sia Demas, and Jessica Good.
Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony was joined by homicide detectives and Miami police Tuesday morning to provide closure to the families of the victims, who were killed over a 14-month span in 2000 and 2001.
"Justice never expires," Tony said.
WATCH: Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony, investigators hold news conference
DNA evidence linked Fernandes, a Brazilian citizen who was living in Miami at the time, to the killings of all three women, but he fled to Brazil before detectives could get to him, Tony said.
The body of Dietz-Livesey was found in a suitcase along a roadway in Cooper City on June 22, 2000.
Several weeks later on Aug. 9, 2000, the body of Demas was found stuffed in a duffel bag near Dania Beach.
More than a year later on Aug. 30, 2001, Good's body was found floating in Biscayne Bay in Miami.
Fernandes fled to Brazil after Good was killed and later died in a 2005 plane crash.
Investigators from the Broward County Sheriff's Office and Miami Police Department determined that DNA evidence from all three deaths, as well as fingerprint evidence collected at two of the crime scenes, led them to one then-unidentified culprit, later determined to be Fernandes.
Although the U.S. has no extradition agreement with Brazil, BSO Detective Zack Scott said that, as the years have gone by, the Brazilian government "has been nothing but helpful" in their investigation.
Fernandes, who had been accused of killing his wife in Brazil in 1996 and later acquitted at trial, was a suspect in "several investigations in Brazil as well," Scott said.
When investigators traveled to Brazil in an effort to collect DNA evidence from Fernandes, they learned he had purportedly died in a plane crash in Paraguay in 2005.
"But there were a lot of circumstantial things that were discovered in Brazil that led them to believe that he might have faked his own death," Scott said. "He had amassed a certain amount of enemies in the country of Brazil."
Investigators worked with Brazilian authorities and the U.S. Department of Justice to convince a judge there to exhume the body in Fernandes' grave.
Scott credited a 2015 Palm Beach County murder investigation as the precedent for the Brazilian government's cooperation with U.S. authorities.
In that investigation, the murder suspect fled to Cuba, where, like Brazil, there is no extradition agreement.
Nevertheless, in 2018, Marco Ernesto Yanes Gutierrez was convicted in a Cuban court for the murder of Dr. Ronald Schwartz.
"This was unprecedented," Scott said. "It wasn't anything that had been seen before, but it laid the groundwork for us to approach the government of Brazil with the possibility of, could we locate Roberto Fernandez? Could he stand trial in your country? And they were receptive to the concept."
DNA evidence extracted from the body in the grave showed that Fernandes was, in fact, the killer of the three South Florida women, Scott said.
"Knowing his last minutes on earth were probably full of terror makes me feel a little better, but at least today we can provide answers to the families as far as what happened to their loved ones and the person who was responsible," Scott said.
Although the killer is dead, Scott didn't rule out the possibility that there may have been other victims.
"I believe there are other cases out there and that is part of our ongoing investigation," he said.
This story was originally published by Peter Burke at WPTV.