Mauricio Leal was the Colombian hairstylist to the stars. Her client list included beauty queens, local celebrities and TV presenters. He was a slim, clean-shaven man who liked to dye his hair. At 47, he is at the height of his career. It was difficult to get an appointment at his salon in Bogotá and appear as a regular customer on his site was a status sign. He was about to start collaborating with Miss Universe and the famous fashion brand Victoria’s Secret. That’s why everyone thought it strange that he was found dead in his bed in November last year. He was lying next to his mother, whom he appeared to have stabbed to death before committing suicide. The hairdresser left a handwritten note: “I love you, forgive me, I can’t take it anymore. I leave everything to my siblings and cousins. All my love, forgive me, mother.
Two months later, Colombian authorities now believe that Leal did not commit suicide after murdering his mother. They believe the two were actually killed by the same person, who made Leal write the suicide note. That person, according to the prosecution, was Leal’s brother, Jhonier, who was arrested for the murders last week. Jhonier, who is a year older than Mauricio, was the opposite of his brother – a man with no luck. Unlike Mauricio, all of his ventures ended in failure. When police went to his home to arrest him on January 14, they found account numbers and property records which he hoped to inherit now that his brother and mother were dead.
The case was followed closely by the Colombian press. Leal was a regular guest on entertainment programs, a Colombian version of American fitness personality Richard Simmons or famous Spanish hairdresser Lluís Llongueras. Like Llongueras, Leal began his career washing hair and sweeping the floors of other people’s salons. Recognition came when he opened his own salon in Cali, the world capital of salsa and cultural melting pot, where the cocaine business rules. After having triumphed in his hometown, he went to the Mecca of the hairdressing world: Miami. After some time in the United States, he moved to Bogotá, where he opened a salon that quickly became popular with the country’s biggest celebrities.
On the day of his death, November 22, Leal sent a WhatsApp message to one of his employees saying he was taking the day off – something he rarely did. Meanwhile, in the living room, people were waiting for her and growing impatient: they wanted to see the diva hairdresser. The substitute hairdressers asked him to come, but Leal just gave an excuse. By then, according to investigators, Leal had been dead for hours and it was his killer who was responding to messages. But no one knew then. According to police reconstruction, at 2:40 p.m. Leal’s brother and his driver drove to the mansion in La Calera, an area near Bogotá with large hills that attracts cycling enthusiasts.
The doors to Leal’s house were closed, but the driver spotted an open window directly in his bedroom. After getting on, he discovered two corpses on the bed: Leal and his mother next to him. It was a horrible scene. It emerged that Leal had stabbed his mother to death and then killed himself in the same way, as if he had performed seppuku, a Japanese form of ritual suicide by disembowelment. Such suicidal practices are very rare. Jhonier, who lived in the same house, said the two were having breakfast when he left them that morning. However, the autopsy showed that they had been dead for more than 30 hours and that the hairdresser had ingested Zopiclone, a drug used to induce sleep. Police also noticed that Jhonier had cuts on his hands, which the brother attributed to an accident with scissors.
The double murder investigation also triggered a second investigation into money laundering and illicit enrichment. According to the prosecution, Leal was linked to drug traffickers. The barber had opened three savings accounts with over half a million dollars in total. For months, these accounts received almost daily deposits of $50,000 – money that was then transferred to other banks. The police believe that even if the stylist’s business was booming, it could not have made him so much money. They suspect that Leal worked for La Gran Alianza (The Grand Alliance), a syndicate of several drug trafficking organizations in Cali.
Authorities have currently seized Leal’s assets as part of a legal mechanism used to expropriate the property of those involved in criminal activity. Leal, who was single and had no children, had amassed large sums of money, owned a house worth over half a million dollars and had a very successful business. According to police, Jhonier spent weeks planning how to get his hands on the fortune before the case was solved. But he ran out of time. While he was calculating and fantasizing about being rich, the police broke down his door.