‘A Life Too Short: The Isabella Nardoni Case’ Explained: Why Did Alexandre & Jatoba Kill Isabella?


A Life Too Short: The Isabella Nardoni Case is a new Netflix documentary film that brings to light one of the most moving murder cases in Brazilian history. On March 29, 2008, a five-year-old girl named Isabella Nardoni was reported to have fallen to her death from her father and stepmother’s apartment. The parents reported that someone had broken into their apartment and thrown their child out of her bedroom window. However, as the police investigation began, unsettling clues and indications were found, which led to a frenzy in the media and among the common people of the country.

Who was Isabella Nardoni?

Isabella Nardoni was born in 2002 to parents Ana Carolina Oliveira and Alexandre Alves Nardoni, who were a very young couple at the time. Carolina was just seventeen when she got pregnant, still pursuing her school education, and despite her fears, her parents and family accepted Isabella with happiness after her birth. Carolina was still growing up and understanding life, and perhaps because of their young age, her relationship with Alexandre did not last very long. After their relationship broke down, Carolina and Alexandre still continued to keep in touch because of their daughter, and like most divorced parents, they tried their best to ensure a good life for little Isabella.

Eventually, Alexandre started dating another woman named Anna Carolina Jatoba, and this gradually increased the distance between himself and his first partner. Over time, Jatoba had children with Alexandre, and as Carolina states, she became more sensitive and understanding towards Isabella after this time. Isabella would spend her weekends with her father and his family, as agreed to by both parents, and Carolina did not ever feel uncomfortable with this arrangement. Isabella also loved spending time with her step-siblings, and she would be excited about these visits. On March 28, a Friday, Alexandre took Isabella from her mother’s house to his own, just like on any other weekend. However, on March 29, Carolina received a call in which she was informed that Isabella had been gravely injured in an accident as she had fallen from the window of her room.

Around this same time, the police in the northern part of Sao Paulo were also called by a man asking for help, as there had been a horrible accident at his building. He informed the police that there was a burglar inside the building who had broken into the apartment on the sixth floor and had thrown down a little girl from the window. As it was soon found out, this little girl was Isabella Nardoni, and although she did not die immediately after the fall, she succumbed to her injuries and passed away within some time. While Carolina and her parents rushed to the apartment building, a shaken Alexandre and Anna kept claiming that there was a burglar inside their home who had committed this heinous act. But even at first glance, there was something odd about this entire incident, especially given the fact that the apartment had safety nets on every floor. The net outside Isabella’s room had been neatly cut open with a pair of scissors, though, raising questions about whether a burglar would have enough time to do this.

What Were The Clues Found Against The Parents?

When the Brazilian police first arrived at the scene, their first response was to find and get hold of the reported burglar who had broken into the apartment building. But despite combing the area around the place, no such individual could be found. When the police gave their first official statement about the case, they immediately identified it as a possible case of homicide since there was no chance of it being an accident. On that night, Alexandre Nardoni and his partner Anna Jatoba had arrived home late in their car, along with Isabella and two other kids who were the biological children of the couple. Alexandre claimed that Isabella had already fallen asleep inside the car and had to be carried up to the apartment by him and his girlfriend while the two other children remained in the car. When the couple came down to fetch the other kids, Isabella had already fallen and was lying in the yard. It was also mentioned that the stated burglar had entered the apartment at this time and had thrown the child from the window, but no immediate explanation about the safety net having been cut was given.

The police naturally visited the apartment along with the building manager and other local authorities and found things to be very different from what had been stated. There was no sign of any fight or forceful entry at the apartment whatsoever, and it did not at all appear that there had been an intruder. No furniture had been turned upside down, and no item was missing either. A pair of scissors was found in the kitchen, and it was immediately identified as the tool that could have been used to cut a hole in the safety net. Upon examination, it was indeed revealed to be true, as a small fragment of the safety net was still stuck inside the pair of scissors. There were also drops of human blood found all over the apartment, and the position of them made it seem like a bleeding person had been carried in through the door up to Isabella’s room since there was blood inside her room as well. This made it clear that Isabella had been injured outside the apartment and was bleeding all the time until she was thrown. There was also a bloody diaper found in one of the laundry baskets, and the fact that this was the only item being washed out of numerous other dirty clothes made it seem rather suspicious.

When a post-mortem investigation was done on Isabella’s body, more shocking secrets were revealed that contradicted the couple’s statements. A deep cut was found on the girl’s forehead, which was probably caused by some sharp instrument. Her face and nails had turned blue, and together with the marks on her neck, it was evident that Isabella had been strangled by someone. The cause of her death was determined to be multiple traumas, along with mechanical asphyxiation from being choked. As was quite obvious, Alexandre and Jatoba were immediately arrested by the police, and a full-fledged interrogation was started. It also seemed odd to the police that from the moment the couple stepped foot inside the police station, they were ready with lawyers and attorneys. It seemed really odd that instead of trying to find their daughter’s murderer, the couple were more determined to convince the police of the presence of a burglar.

Alexandre Nardoni’s father, Antonio, was also a defense attorney by profession, and it was really his money that Alexandre lived on since the son did not do anything. All the houses and cars that he used belonged to his father, and it could be sensed that Alexandre was allowed to live off his family’s wealth as long as he did not go against their wishes. More information about Anna Jatoba was also found, particularly with regard to her suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of her second child. She was very clearly depressed and caught up in life, as suggested by the lack of friends that she had at the time. It was also clear that whatever her husband and his family decided, Jatoba would simply follow suit. There had also been reports of Alexandre turning abusive against his partners, and even Carolina had faced this too. She had even filed a complaint with the police some years ago when Alexandre threatened to harm Carolina and her mother when she had gotten Isabella admitted to a school against his will. As is reported by one of the police personnel, when Alexandre and Jatoba were temporarily released from prison, they supposedly laughed and chatted their way back home as if nothing had happened and Isabella had not died.

What Were The Claims In Favor Of Alexandre And Jatoba?

By this time, the case had received a lot of attention from the press and the public. The media got into its usual habit of turning an event into a sensational frenzy, and all sorts of programs were telecast on TV. On the streets, more and more people started to demand justice for the poor girl, and the entire anger of the country was directed at the parents. It was perhaps most likely that Alexandre and Jatoba had indeed caused the death of their daughter, but A Life Too Short also focuses on the claims that the case had been swayed because of public pressure. The media attention did start to get out of hand, as Isabella’s mother, Carolina, and her family were also crowded by the press at all times. The father and stepmother were hounded by journalists and reporters whenever it was possible, and the two were almost persecuted on news television.

One program managed to conduct an interview with the couple, but this did not help their cause at all. Instead, the fact that they were not really used to answering questions on a TV program was perceived as them lying and making up answers. Another program even supposedly conducted a lie detection test with a video of this interview and openly stated that Jatoba was lying. There are also claims made in the documentary that the police and the authorities did not do their job correctly and instead gave in to the pressure of having to find the perpetrators quickly. For example, there was construction going on right beside the apartment building complex, and the building could be very easily accessed through this construction site. After the tragic incident had taken place, a reporter’s search through the construction site revealed that the place had been broken into during the previous weekend. This made it theoretically possible that a burglar might have broken into the apartment building through the construction site, and he could have had a role to play in Isabella’s death. However, the police did not investigate this, and after their interrogation of the worker who first talked about this break-in, the construction worker changed his story and stated that there had been no break-in. This was perceived to have been the police’s attempt to stop any other possibilities so that all focus remained on their current investigation.

Eventually, it was a video presentation made by the forensics team that became instrumental in the court case against Alexandre and Jatoba. This video was made on the basis of clues that had been found by the investigators at the place, and it did have a lot of claims without any proof. The theory put forward was that Alexandre and Jatoba had probably hit Isabella inside their car in order to discipline her, but they had accidentally hurt her too hard. The parents then strangled the child and threw her down to make it seem like an accident or that an intruder had thrown her down. However, this claim was not entirely based on proof found at the crime scene, and crucial elements were based only on hypothesis.

What ultimately happened to Alexandre and Jatoba?

As the investigation continued for two long years, Isabella Nardoni’s murder case was put up for court trial in March of 2010. This event also received very close media attention, as it seemed like the entire country was eagerly waiting for a decision to be made. A jury of seven members had been selected, and it was very much possible that some of them had been biased in their decision by the gruesome nature of the incident and also by the media frenzy on the outside. The defense lawyers tried to bring a halt to the case by stating this too, but the judge did not agree. Finally, when the court’s decision was announced, both the father and the stepmother were found guilty of killing Isabella.

As per the court’s judgment, Alexandre was sentenced to thirty-one years of imprisonment for murdering a minor who was his own daughter. Jatoba, on the other hand, was sentenced to twenty-six years for homicide against a minor. Ever since their arrest in 2008, Alexandre and Jatoba have been in prison to this very day. The couple continues to be together, and they also continue to claim innocence. While many had believed that they would eventually confess their crimes and report against each other since that would ensure easier solutions for both of them, nothing like that has happened yet.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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