Police are investigating the death of Chilean artist Jorge Selaron in Rio de Janeiro after his body was found on the colorful tile steps he transformed into a tourist attraction.
Officials declined to give the cause of death and did not rule out a possible murder, according to newspaper O Globo, after the 65-year-old artist was found covered in burn marks near a can of paint thinner on Thursday morning. Phone calls and emails to police were not immediately answered.
Selaron spent two decades decorating the staircase from the bohemian Lapa neighborhood to hilltop Santa Teresa with tiles from around the world. He turned a dingy back alley into a vibrant, tiled backdrop for snapshots, postcards and the music videos of Snoop Dogg and U2.
Lapa has since become a nightly draw for locals and young tourists alike and its white arches figure in FIFA ads for the 2014 World Cup, whose final will be played in Rio's Maracana Stadium. Rio will also host the 2016 Olympic Games.
As it prepares for the global spotlight, the city has sought to play up its wealth of tourist attractions, while addressing security concerns that have lingered since the 1980s, when entire neighborhoods fell into the hands of violent gangs.
In November, Selaron told police of threats he had received from a former assistant whose brother was in prison for bank robbery and drug trafficking in Lapa, O Globo reported.