Jacqueline Szczepanik: ‘Ice Cold Killers’ Dumped Brazilian Family In River

Ice Cold Killers is on the case of Brazilian missionary Jacqueline Szczepanik and the man who killed her and her entire family, Jose Carlos Oliveira-Coutinho.

Ice Cold Killers on Investigation Discovery brings you the bloodiest crime tales from the files of police detectives’ most bizarre cold cases. Jacqueline Szczepanik (sometimes spelled Szczepanek) disappeared, along with her husband, Vanderlie “Van” Szczepanik, and their 7-year-old son, Christopher Szczepanik, eight years ago. It took police detectives several months to get any leads in the case, with the final break coming two years after they vanished from their home in Omaha, Nebraska.

On tonight’s Ice Cold Killers’ episode “Winter Nightmare,” the story of the Szczepanik family tragedy will be told by Omaha investigators and possibly Tatiane Klein, the daughter of the missing mom who came from Brazil to search for her family.

Family Gone: Omaha’s Brazilian Missionary Family Disappears Without A Trace

It wasn’t like the Szczepaniks to lose touch with one of their missionary friends. And when all attempts to communicate with them failed, the friend contacted the church pastor, who notified the Szczepanik family in Brazil that something was wrong.

A report was filed, and detectives came to the Omaha home to check in on them. However, when they arrived, they found an empty house full of the family’s belongings.

In taking a look around the scene, it appeared as if Jacqueline and Vanderlie Szczepanik left temporarily with plans to return. But they didn’t return — in fact, they were never heard from again.

As police tried to trace their last steps, no one could pinpoint exactly when they had last seen them. Some remembered seeing them around the middle of December.

That’s when Tatiane Klein’s nightmare began. She was baffled as to what could have happened to her entire family. Anguished and confused, she left her home in Brazil to come to America to find her missing family.

When the case was finally solved, a frightening narrative came into focus.

The Horrible Truth: Boss Betrayed By Employees

Vanderlie “Van” Szczepanik was beaten to death and left in the stairwell of the church/home they were renovating. His terrified son, Christopher, and his wife, Jacqueline, had to wait until the killers were ready to kill them. Jacqueline Szczepanik begged for their lives while a screaming Christopher was taken down a dark corridor to meet his death. They placed coverings over their heads, then took Jacqueline to the stairwell and placed a rope around her neck before pushing her off of the top of the stairs. She died hanging, KETV stated.

Christopher Szczepanik was also hanged in the same manner. However, his heart didn’t stop beating until he was placed in the back of the van next to his mother’s body.

The motive for the killings was a dispute over money. Vanderlie Szczepanik employed three Brazilian friends he knew from back home to work on construction projects. Jose Carlos Oliveira-Coutinho became upset when he was let go and then rehired with a cheaper pay, according to the San Diego Tribune. Although he accepted the job for the money, his growing resentments stewed, then festered, leading him to hatch a plan to get rid of his boss.

KETV-7 provides more details.

“Olveira-Countinho, Goncalves-Santos and Lourenco-Batista waited for Vanderlei Szezepanik to get home before hitting him over the head with a baseball bat and beating him, based on her interview with Goncalves-Santos. Ostermeyer said that Jacqueline Szczepanik was punched in the face and tied up while her husband was left in the stairwell where he was left for dead, and her son, Christopher, was held in a bedroom. The three then forced Jacqueline to sign over company checks and provide the PINs for bank cards. Olveira-Countinho and Goncalves-Santos drove to a gas station and bank to verify they could access funds using the cards and PINs. After withdrawing $300 and filling up with gas, Ostermeyer said, the two drove along the Missouri River looking for a place to dispose of the family’s bodies.”

In October of 2011, Christopher Szezepanik’s body was found on the Iowa side of the Missouri River. The body was found after Valdeir Goncalves-Santos confessed to police about what really happened to the missing family, the Deseret News stated.

“Valdeir Goncalves-Santos, made a deal with prosecutors to testify against the other two. In exchange, Goncalves-Santos pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Investigators say Goncalves-Santo told them that the men beat Vanderlei Szczepanik to death with a baseball ball and hanged the boy and his mother, then threw the bodies in the river.”


One of the most chilling parts of this case is knowing just how close Jose Carlos Oliveira-Coutinho was to Szczepanik. He often spent time with the family and played with little Christopher, who they say was a shy little boy who often struggled. It makes one wonder if Christopher somehow always knew or sensed something that could have accounted for why he had a tendency to shy away from people.

Whatever the case, this story is a cautionary tale about how a victim can be betrayed by someone they have known intimately for a long time. It makes one ask, “Is there anyone around me who is secretly jealous or bitter? How about that childhood friend? The friendly neighbor? Or the nice gardener? Could one of them be plotting against you and your family?”

  • Jose Carlos Olveira-Countinho is serving life in prison after being found guilty.
  • Valdeir Goncalves-Santos is serving a 20-year sentence. He is eligible for parole in 2020.
  • Elias Lourenco-Batista left America before he could be tried. He is currently living in Brazil.

In one final conversation with her mother, according to the Omaha World Herald, Tatiane Klein remembered telling her mom that she wasn’t coming to America. In fact, she stated that Jacqueline would have to come back to Brazil since she was the one who decided to leave.

It was a statement that Klein regretted since she did, in fact, have to leave Brazil to find her mother and brother here in America. Today, she resides in Florida, according to her Facebook page.

Watch Ice Cold Killers when it airs tonight at 9/8 p.m. Central on Investigation Discovery (ID).

[Featured Image by Nebraska Department Of Corrections]