‘Dexter’ Was Heavily Inspired by This Chilling True Story

The Big Picture

  • Showtime’s Dexter, inspired by the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, follows Dexter Morgan, a forensic technician and serial killer who lives by a code.
  • Pedro Rodrigues Filho, a real-life serial killer, had a troubled past and his first murder occurred when he was 14 years old.
  • Filho killed dozens of “bad people,” including rapists and drug traffickers, and even murdered his own abusive father. He was released from prison but was later killed in 2023.

Editor’s Note: Content may be disturbing for some readers.

Regardless of how you felt about how the show ended, or how you perceived the follow-up limited series, there’s no denying that Showtime’s Dexter made an impact over the course of its run. Inspired by Jeff Lindsay‘s 2004 novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the show follows Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a man who lives two lives: as a forensic technician for the Miami Metro Police, and as a serial killer, with the former helping cover up the crimes of the latter. Unlike most serial killers, Dexter lives by a code. Specifically, ‘The Code of Harry’, a set of rules taught to him by his father Harry (James Remar), which, in a nutshell, allows Dexter to channel his murderous side — his “Dark Passenger” — into vigilante justice, only murdering those who have committed crimes. If the idea of a vigilante serial killer sounds completely fabricated, well, it’s not. Lindsay’s novel, and ultimately the television series borne from it, are based on a real-life serial killer: Pedro Rodrigues Filho.

Pedro Rodrigues Filho’s First Murder Was as a 14-Year-Old

Image via Showtime

It could be argued that serial killer Pedro Rodrigues Filho never really had a chance. While his mother was pregnant with him, his father kicked her in the belly during one of their many fights. As a result, upon his birth on July 17, 1954, it was discovered that Filho’s skull was bruised and left permanently damaged. His first inclination of the desire to kill emerged when he was 13, while in a fight with his older cousin. Angered, Filho pushed his cousin into a sugar cane press. “I pushed him, thinking his whole body would go through, but just his arm went through,” Filho would later say of the incident. He would be more successful with his next attempt one year later. Now 14, Filho killed the vice-mayor of Alfenas in retaliation for firing his father, who was a school guard, on accusations of stealing. When he came across a watchman that he believed was the real thief, he killed him as well.

Filho fled to Mogi das Cruzes, where his crimes began in earnest. During that time, he proposed to Maria Aparecida Olympia, a local woman, but shortly after Olympia, now pregnant with Filho’s child, was brutally murdered by the gang members of a drug dealer he had killed. As told in The Sun, Filho tortured and killed whoever he could to get the names of those who killed his fiancee, only opportunity presented itself. When a wedding organized by the gang’s leader, where the gang members were present, was held, Filho and his friends massacred the guests, killing seven people and sending sixteen more to the hospital. All of this, while still only 18.

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Pedro Rodrigues Filho Killed Dozens — Including His Own Father

Dexter (Michael C. Hall) preps a victim in Showtime's 'Dexter'
Image via Showtime

Filho, the “Brazilian Dexter,” by his own admission never killed innocent people, but rather “bad people”: rapists, pedophiles, drug traffickers, assassins, traitors, and others of their ilk. Never out of bloodlust, mind you, but out of anger. And he was angered often, with an estimate of over 100 victims before being apprehended in 1973. Disturbingly, he would actually add to that count while in prison, where he killed more than 40 others, serving out his own “Code of Harry.” Even more disturbing is the fact that he added to that count en route to prison by killing another convict, a known rapist, in the back of the police van. So quietly that the police didn’t realize the murder had even occurred until they got back to the station, as recounted in The Sun.

The 40+ that Filho murdered while incarcerated includes one cellmate that Filho accused of watching him during a conjugal visit. That number also includes Filho’s own father. Filho’s father was excessively abusive towards Filho and his mother, and after believing she had an affair he murdered her, dismembering her with a machete. The crime landed him in prison, the same prison Filho was already in. As Filho explains, “I found a way to get to the cell where my father was. He was afraid of me. He was afraid that I would take his life, so he waited for me to go to prison to kill my mother.” Once he confronted the man he swore to kill as vengeance for his mother’s death, he stabbed his father 22 times, cut out the still-beating heart, and chewed it.

Pedro Rodrigues Filho Goes From a 400-Year Sentence, to YouTube, to Death

Pedro Rodrigues Filho, the inspiration behind Showtime's 'Dexter'
Image via Newsflash

One would think, given the man’s history, that Filho would rot in prison until he died of old age, but that becomes the strange part of his whole story. He was originally sentenced to almost 130 years, but after he had killed his fellow inmates, that was extended to 400 years. However, the law in Brazil at the time was that an inmate can serve no more than a maximum sentence of 30 years. So in 2007, 34 years after he was imprisoned, Filho walked out of jail a free man. The Toronto Sun reported that he was arrested again in 2011, but for promising threats, weapon possession and taking part in riots. Finally, Filho walked out of prison for the last time in 2018.

“Pedrinho Matador” (“Killer Pete”) was a changed man, and launched a podcast on YouTube, where Filho recounted the details of his life and warned others not to take up a life of crime as he did. According to The Daily Star, Filho’s podcast had as many as 172,000 subscribers on YouTube as of 2021. He would eventually pay the price for his sins in March 2023, when assailants cut the throat of the 68-year-old and fatally shot him as he sat outside the home of a family member. And while the life of Pedro Rodrigues Filho inspired Dexter, Dexter would, in turn, inspire others to homicidal aspirations, bringing the story of Filho to a deeply disturbing full-circle of sorts. On the positive side, at least Filho didn’t survive and become a lumberjack.



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