Shortly before the press conference, Brazilian Justice Minister Anderson Torres said in a tweet that Federal Police have dug out “human remains,” which will be submitted to forensics.
Police said the second suspect, a 41-year-old man, was being interrogated and would be referred to a custody hearing in the municipal court. They also said they seized some firearm cartridges and a paddle, which will be analyzed.
Phillips and Pereira disappeared while conducting research for a book project on conservation efforts in the region, which authorities have described as “complicated” and “dangerous,” and known to harbor illegal miners, loggers, and international drug dealers.
They had reportedly received death threats just days prior to their disappearance.
Between 2009 and 2019, more than 300 people were killed in Brazil amid land and resource conflicts in the Amazon, according to Human Rights Watch, citing figures from the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-profit affiliated with the Catholic Church.
And in 2020, Global Witness ranked Brazil the fourth most-dangerous country for environmental activism, based on documented killings of environmental defenders. Nearly three quarters of such attacks in Brazil took place in the Amazon region, it said.
Phillips had reported extensively on Brazil’s most marginalized groups and on the destruction that criminal actors are wreaking on the Amazon.
CNN’s Kara Fox and Juliana Koch contributed to this report.