Gay Relationships and the Keys to Keeping One

This past week alone, I have had three very good friends call me to tell me that their relationships were becoming rocky. All of these friends have been in the same relationships for at least five or more years. Why does this happen? It made me question myself as well.

From my experience, I think that one of the keys to keeping things stable is to never take each other for granted. I know this sounds cliché but it's a good rule to follow. It's when you forget the little things, the things that attracted you to each other in the beginning, that's when things start to become unglued. I really do appreciate the small stuff. Holding open a door, or having a good dinner prepared for me just because the other person felt like doing it to show that they care, or even a simple hug when I walk in the door…it all means so much. It's not always the big stuff that matters….sometimes it's the small stuff that has more profound meaning. Telling the other person thank you or saying that you appreciate stuff is important. It lets them know that you are paying attention! The other night David rubbed my back for me on the couch…without even asking him to do that….that meant a lot to me. Why? Just because he cared enough to do it. I always get a kiss and a long hug when I come in the door at his house, and I LOVE that and look forward to it. Why? I guess because it tells me that he was looking forward to seeing me and that he missed me! Again, it doesn't have to involve some huge expensive night out to express love, it is truly is the small stuff! A kiss, a touch on the hand, a love note tucked into your pants pocket when you aren't looking….stuff like that. It just says "hey, I am here thinking about you, and I love you."

The second thing is respect. Not only respect for your partner, but also respect for yourself. When you do argue, and everyone argues no matter how perfect a relationship is, always try to keep it to a respectful level. It's ok to disagree. It is not ok to tear each other to shreds and say hurtful things just to injure the other person. It's so easy to do that sometimes in the heat of the moment when you are angry and not thinking clearly. Most of all have respect for you. You have to be comfortable with your own life so that you can say that you are with the other person because you want to be, not because you HAVE to be. Ask yourself, why am I am I in this? If the answer is because I love this person, and because they make me happy and make me want to be a better person, then it's all good! It took me a very long time to realize that.

The third thing, and the most important of them all, is COMMUNICATION. If you are feeling upset about something or if you are feeling unsure, or scared, or confused, or hurt, or embarrassed….TALK ABOUT IT. Too often we try to guess what the other person is thinking and we are more often than not, dead wrong. We take things the wrong way. We read into things that may not necessarily be meant to be taken that way. I am very guilty of this. Sometimes I look at a situation and think that I know where the other person is coming from and take it personally when it really has nothing to do with me. I have done it a thousand times. If I would have just ASKED the other person what was going on, I would have saved both of us a lot of grief, hurt feelings, and arguments. Trust me on this one, be open, honest, and talk about things. It's sometimes easier said than done but it's worth it in the long run.

The fourth thing is trust. If you can't trust the one you love it will never work. We all have doubts and usually those doubts stem from past experiences, from getting hurt, and we project that into our current relationships. It is very unfair to the other person involved. Again, I am just as guilty about this. I have been hurt in the past and it makes me gun shy. Treat a new relationship as just that, something new to explore. Everyone makes mistakes, but you can't hold someone accountable for something that they haven't even done yet. Trust, in my experience, takes time. The more you get to know someone the more you let your guard down and trust develops. As my father used to say, trust is earned and not assumed.

The fifth thing is to put the other person first. I always try to think about what the other person might be feeling or how they see things. It helps when you consider their feelings and what they might want. Too often we only think about ourselves and you can't do that in a relationship. It really is all about compromise. That leads to the sixth thing.

Compromise, compromise, compromise! I can't say it enough. Relationships are a give and take. They are not all about one person! Sometimes you will not see eye to eye and you may NEVER understand why the other person does what they do or thinks the way that they do but the bottom line is, if you care, you will work around it and make a compromise. If you don't learn to compromise your relationship will eventually self-destruct!

I feel very fortunate to have someone in my life who makes me very happy, who has proven to me that I can count on him even when things aren't going so well and I hope that he knows that he can always count on me. I feel so very lucky to have met such a wonderful person and I hope that we remain in each other's lives and that we never forget that feeling of love. You never never know where lifes unpredictable winds will take you, but I hope that our paths remain always together.

Phipps Conservatory.....A Brief History

In 1893, Phipps Conservatory was built by Henry Phipps as a gift to the City of Pittsburgh. Phipps stated he wanted to "erect something that will prove a source of instruction as well as pleasure to the people." He stipulated that the Conservatory must be open on Sundays so the workers could visit on their day of rest. The Conservatory was designed by the New York firm Lord & Burnham and cost $100,000. The original plant material came in from the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago which closed in November 1893.

The conservatory is one of the oldest Victorian glass houses still standing today.  

CLICK ON THE SLIDE SHOW BELOW TO SEE SOME HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE CONSERVATORY.  The photos in the show are from late 1800's and early 1900's.  As you can see, the main structure has changed considerably over the years as had the interior. 


The Story of Il Mostro De Firenze

 This gives you a general idea about the case but leaves out a lot of history and details. 

The Mystery Begins

The mystery of the Monster of Florence began in August 1968 with the murder of Barbara Locci, a 32-year-old married woman from Lastra a Signa, and her lover Antonio Lo Bianco.  Even though Barbara was married and had a child, she was known around town as a promiscuous woman, and had previously earned the nickname "Queen Bee". 
On the evening of Aug. 21, 1968, Barbara, her young son, and Antonio were returning from a movie theater when Antonio suggested that they stop at a nearby cemetery for a quick sexual liaison.  Since her son was fast asleep in the backseat, Barbara agreed without hesitation.  Their fun was short lived.  As Antonio began removing Barbaras clothes, a dark figure appeared out of the dark and shot them both dead.  Following the double murder, the killer grabbed Barbaras son out of the car and carried him away.  
Sometime later that night, a local farmer was awakened by a knock on his front door.  When the man opened the door, the young boy was standing there with tears running down his face.  "My mother and my uncle are dead," the child told the man.  Apparently not wanting to harm the young boy, the killer had left him on the farmers front steps.  The farmer immediately notified the police. 
As investigators went over the cemetery crime scene, they discovered eight .22-caliber shell casings by the vehicle.  The car was a white Alfa Romeo "Giulietta" with license plates from the Province of Arezzo.  A check of the vehicles registration revealed that it belonged to Antonio Lo Bianco.  Investigators were initially stumped.  Who had committed this heinous crime and why?
Stefano Mele
Stefano Mele

Between six and seven in the morning, a police patrol car reached the home of Stefano Mele, Barbara's husband.  As investigators made their way to Meles front door, it abruptly opened, and he stepped out with a suitcase, appearing to be in a hurry. When he had little reaction to the news of his wifes murder, investigators suspicions  increased.  Mele hesitantly agreed to talk with investigators and accompanied them to police headquarters.
At the stationhouse, Mele told investigators that he had not felt well since the afternoon of the previous day, and had stayed at home, during which time two people had come to visit him, Carmelo Cutrona and Antonio Lo Bianco, both of whom had been his wife's lovers.  During the questioning, Mele also mentioned Francesco Vinci, another lover of his wife.  Vinci had been arrested in November 1967 following an accusation of adultery by his own wife.  As soon as Vinci was released from prison, he resumed the relationship with his lover.  Barbara had been the lover of all three Vinci brothers -- Giovanni, Salvatore and Francesco.  Investigators decided to investigate some of Mele allegations, and he was asked to return the following day.

Revelations Heard

Salvatore Vinci
Salvatore Vinci

The following day, Aug. 23, 1968, after telling investigators that he considered his wife's lovers to be possible suspects in the double murder, Mele surprised everyone by confessing that he and Salvatore Vinci had killed his wife Barbara and Antonio Lo Bianco.  During his confession, Mele stated that, when his wife and son failed to return home by 11:20 p.m. on Aug. 21, he went looking for them.  He eventually reached the town square of Lastra a Signa, where he met Salvatore Vinci and told him that Barbara had gone to the movies, perhaps with Antonio Lo Bianco, and taken their child with her.  Vinci scolded Stefano for allowing his wife to continually cheat on him and told him that he should put a stop to the situation.  Vinci had a small weapon with him, and the two of them drove to Signa.
When the two men arrived, they discovered Antonios Alfa Romeo Giulietta parked near the Giardino Michelacci movie theater.  Stefano and Salvatore waited at the exit and eventually saw Lo Bianco and Barbara, who had the child in her arms, exit the theater.  Stefano and Salvatore got into the car and followed them to the cemetery, just outside of town.  Stefano told investigators that when Antonio and Barbara began to make out Salvatore pulled a small pistol out of a bag and handed it to him.
Stefano said he walked up to the car and began firing until the gun was empty.  His son slept through the initial hail of gunfire, but woke up immediately afterward.  When Stefano returned to Salvatore's car, he told him that he had killed them.  The two men then drove to the Signa Bridge where they disposed of the gun. A short time later he was back home again.
Stefano ended his confession by stating, I killed my wife and her lover because I was tired of continually being humiliated.  My wife had been cheating on me for a number of years, but it was only a few months ago that I decided to do away with her.  While Stefanos story was lacking in many respects, the least of which being that he failed to mention if his son had seen him or how he ended up at the farmhouse, he was quickly arrested and held pending official charges.
The following day, Aug. 24, 1968, the police searched everywhere for the pistol to no avail.  A prosecutor questioned Stefano about the pistol, and he quickly changed his story, stating that instead of throwing the weapon away he had given it back to Salvatore Vinci.  Nonetheless, a few hours later, Stefano retracted his entire confession and began accusing Salvatore's brother, Francesco Vinci.  He stated that Francesco owned the weapon and that Francesco had killed his wife.  For the next three days, Stefano told police the opposite of what he had said previously.
Two years after the double murder took place, Stefano Mele was found guilty as the lone perpetrator during a hasty trial and sentenced to 14 years in prison on the grounds of partial insanity.

Mutilation and Madness

By 1974, six years after the 1968 double murders, the name Stefano Mele was all but forgotten and local authorities were focused on another disturbing double murder.  On Sept. 14, 1974, investigators were called to the Borgo San Lorenzo area just north of Florence.  A passerby had discovered the bodies of 18-year-old Stefania Pettini and 19-year-old Pasquale Gentilcore in a parked car and made the call to police headquarters. 
Upon arriving at the scene, investigators discovered the half-naked body of a young man in the drivers seat of a Fiat 127, later determined to belong to his father.  He appeared to have been the victim of numerous gunshot wounds.  There was no apparent evidence of a struggle, and copper-jacketed bullet shells dotted the scene.
Stefania Pettini crime scene
Stefania Pettini crime scene

At the rear of the car investigators discovered the completely naked body of a young woman on the ground.  Her killer had ghoulishly posed her corpse -- her arms and legs were in a spread-eagled position and a vine branch protruded from her mutilated vagina.  At first sight, it appeared as though she had been stabbed to death. 
In a nearby field investigators discovered the young womans handbag, with its contents scattered about the ground.  Following a search of the crime scene and a photographic record, both of the bodies were bagged and taken to the morgue for examination. 
During an autopsy of the victims, it was soon revealed that both had been shot numerous times with a small-caliber gun.  Ballistic reports concluded that the weapon was a model 73 or 74, .22 automatic Beretta and that the bullets were a distinctive Winchester type manufactured in Australia during the 1950s.  While the male victim succumbed to five bullet wounds, the female victim had only been shot three times -- her death was ultimately the result of at least one of 96 stab wounds.  The knife was estimated to be 10 to 12 centimeters long and 1.5 centimeters wide, with a single-edged blade.
At the start, investigators focused their attention on three men: 53-year-old Bruno Mocali, a self-proclaimed healer; Giuseppe Francini, a mentally unstable man who had accused himself of the crime by coming to the police station of his own free will; and Guido Giovannini, a voyeur who had been identified by a number of witnesses as someone who had been spying on couples in the area where the crime took place.  But there was no evidence linking any of the men to the crime, and all three were eventually ruled out as possible suspects.
Investigators concluded that the murderer was maniacal and sexually deviant.  With no apparent leads or suspects to pursue, the case came to a stand still.

Turning Point

By June 1981, seven years had passed since the Borgo San Lorenzo murders, and as with Stefano Mele, they were all but forgotten.  On Saturday, June 6, 1981, investigators were again stumped when a police sergeant on a country walk with his young son accidentally discovered the bodies of 21-year-old Carmela De Nuccio and her 30-year-old lover, Giovanni Foggi.  The sergeant had first noticed a copper-colored Ritmo automobile parked alongside the road.  The doors to the vehicle were closed, but a womans handbag was lying next to the drivers side door, with the bags contents scattered about the ground.  His curiosity obviously piqued, the sergeant decided to move in for a closer look.  As he made his way to the vehicle, he noticed that the drivers side window had been smashed. Sitting at the wheel of the vehicle was the body of a young man whose throat had apparently been slashed.  The sergeant immediately left the scene to call the crime in to headquarters.
Investigators at Foggi crime scene
Investigators at Foggi crime scene
As investigators joined the sergeant at the crime scene, they soon discovered the body of a female victim lying at the bottom of a steep bank, just 20 yards away from the red Fiat.  Her legs were spread apart, her T-shirt and jeans were slashed, and most ghastly of all -- her vagina had been crudely removed.  There were no tracks and no witnesses.
An autopsy revealed that they had both died of multiple gunshot wounds while sitting in the vehicle.  Subsequently, the young man had received three stab wounds, two to his neck and a third to the chest.  The excision of the girls vagina had been performed with an extremely sharp apparatus, thus prompting the pathologist to conclude that the killer had skill in the use of cutting instruments. 
Ballistic reports indicated that both victims were killed by a minimum of seven gunshot wounds from a .22-caliber automatic pistol with Winchester rounds.  This revelation quickly raised the eyebrows of veteran detectives, and they requested that the bullets be compared to the ones recovered from the 1974 double murder.  A ballistics match was made, and investigators were beginning to realize that they had a possible serial murderer on their hands.
Investigators focused their attention on Enzo Spalletti, an occasional voyeur, whose red Ford had been seen parked near the scene of the crime.  Although the suspect gave investigators a confused alibi, they were more interested in the fact that he had talked with his wife about two corpses and a copper-colored Ritmo automobile as early as 9:30 in the morning, telling her that he had read about them in the paper, whereas the story did not actually come out until the day after the bodies were found. Spalletti was quickly arrested for the crime and placed behind bars to await trial.

And Then There Were Eight

On Oct. 23, 1981, just months after the double murder of Nuccio and Foggi, the killer struck again.  A young couple, 24-year-old Susanna Cambi and her 26-year-old boyfriend, Stefano Baldi, had decided to spend the evening parked at a scenic outlook near Calenzano, just north of Florence.  What the young couple failed to notice was a killer lying in wait.  Later that evening, another young couple discovered their bullet-ridden and mutilated corpses. 
Susanna Canbi crime scene
Susanna Canbi crime scene
As investigators arrived at the scene they discovered a man lying next to a Volkswagen.  He was half-naked and appeared to have been shot and stabbed numerous times.  A female victim was lying on the opposite side of the vehicle.  While her wounds were similar to that of her male counterpart, one detail immediately struck investigators -- her vagina had been removed in the same fashion as with Carmela De Nuccio.
Susanna Canbis body being removed from crime scene
Susanna Canbis body being
removed from crime scene
A pathologist concluded that both victims had been shot through the front window and that they were both still alive when the first of the numerous stab wounds were inflicted.  There was no evidence that either of the bodies had been dragged to the location in which they were ultimately discovered and the knife was believed to be single edged and approximately 3 centimeters wide and 5 to 7 centimeters long. 
The excision of the vagina appeared to have been performed with the same instrument used in the previous case, but it was executed with significantly less precision and a much larger area had been removed.  The abdominal wall had been cut through all its layers, leaving a large area of the abdominal cavity exposed and part of the intestine punctured, thus suggesting that the murderer was rushed.  Ballistics tests also ultimately revealed that the same Beretta .22 used in the previous crime was used in this latest double murder. 
As news of the murders reached the press, two separate couples came forward and reported that they had seen a red Alfa GT with a lone male driver speeding away from the crime scene.  Investigators decided it was time to let the press in on their theory of a serial murderer who preyed on young couples.  They had hoped that the extensive coverage would prompt others to come forward with possible leads.  However, no further clues were brought to light and the result was that frightened citizens stayed behind locked doors for fear of being the next victim of the media-dubbed Monster of Florence.  
Investigators also decided to drop their charges against Enzo Spalletti for the June 6, 1981, double murder of Carmela De Nuccio and Giovanni Foggi.  Since Spalletti had been behind bars at the time of this most recent murder, there was no way he could have committed the crime.  His trial was canceled and he was released from prison.

Deceptive Tactics

On June 19, 1982, a Saturday night, the killer struck again near Montespertoli, southwest of Florence.  A young couple, 22-year-old Paolo Mainardi and his girlfriend, 20-year-old Antonella Migliorini, were making love in a parking space near the Via Nuova Virgilio provincial roadway, when someone appeared out of the bushes and began shooting.  Both were struck by the initial barrage of gunfire and Antonella died almost immediately.  Even though Paolo was seriously injured, he was able start the car, turn on the headlights, and shift the vehicle into reverse.
Unfortunately the car ended up in a ditch and Paolo was unable to get it back out.  The killer wasted little time and quickly shot out the vehicles headlights, restoring the darkness and emptied his pistol into the two victims.  After turning off the engine, the keys were pulled from the ignition and thrown into the weeds.  Obviously disturbed by traffic in the area, the killer decided to skip the gruesome mutilation rites and fled the scene without even realizing that Paolo Mainardi was still alive.
Unfortunately for Paolo, he was not discovered until the following morning and died just hours later, without ever having regained consciousness.  Later the same morning, the assistant district attorney assigned to the case, Silvia Della Monica, gathered various reporters from the media in her office and asked them to spread a minor lie.  The keen assistant DA wanted the press to report that Paolo Mainardi was still alive when he arrived at the hospital, and that he had had time to give a description of the killer before he died.  All of the reporters agreed, and the information appeared in the afternoon paper.  Silvia Della Monica was hoping that the killer would become anxious and make a false move.
The assistant DAs gamble did make the killer nervous.  Following the release of the afternoon paper, one of the Red Cross emergency workers who had accompanied Paolo Mainardi to the hospital received two telephone calls from a person who first claimed to be with the DA's office and then changed his story, identifying himself as the murderer.  He wanted to know what the young man said before dying. 
A few days after the murder of Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Migliorini, a sergeant in the police force, Francesco Fiore, recalled the murder of Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco, committed in 1968 when he was assigned to Signa.  Francesco began to wonder if there was a connection with the crimes of the Monster.  On his insistence, the shells were compared and the tests revealed that the same weapon, a Beretta .22-caliber pistol, fired all the Winchester bullets, and that the shells all came from a single box of 50 bullets.  The pistol used by the Monster was the same weapon that killed Locci and Lo Bianco in 1968.
Analyzing the situation 14 years after the 1968 murders, it was immediately apparent that Stefano Mele, the husband of the murdered woman, could not have been the Monster of Florence since he was in jail in both 1974 and 1981.  At that point the investigators assumed that Mele had to have an accomplice -- someone who continued killing after he was imprisoned.  Regardless, Mele was still claiming his innocence and refused to cooperate with investigators.

The Mistaken Murders

Police sketch of the Monster of Florence
Police sketch of the
Monster of Florence

The killer waited about a year before striking again.  On Sept. 9, 1983, the Monster surprised police by breaking his pattern, albeit by accident, by murdering two West German boys, Horst Meyer and Uwe Rusch Sens.  The two young victims were shot to death while sleeping in a Volkswagen camper just 19 miles south of Florence in a grassy clearing.  Some later reports stated that the boys were homosexual lovers, but there was no evidence to substantiate this claim.
There was no apparent mutilation to the victims bodies and investigators did not initially connect the murders to that of the Monster of Florence.  Nonetheless, ballistics tests proved that the same Beretta .22 had been used in the murders.  This revelation baffled investigators.  Why had the killer changed his pattern?  Perhaps the killer had made a mistake.  One of the victims had very long blond hair and may have been mistaken for a girl.  Upon realizing his mistake, the killer may not have wished to perform his usual mutilations on a male.
Apart from the pistol and the cartridges used by the killer, investigators were intrigued by some of the common elements of each crime -- all of the victims had spent their last evenings at a discotheque; the murderer usually struck on Saturdays; and he preferred to strike when the moon was hidden by the clouds.  This last detail could have some cryptic explanation, or simply be a precaution taken by the murderer to lessen his chances of being recognized.  In addition, it was theorized that the reason the killer rummaged through the female victims belongings was so he could take some sort of macabre souvenir. 
Following the press coverage of the most recent murders, Massimo Introvigne, a religious historian, came forward to talk with investigators about the crimes. Introvigne told investigators that Florence, which partly inspired the poet Dante to write his Inferno, had a long tradition of sorcery.  He went on to inform them that occult sects were not necessarily Satanists and that the ritual nature of the murders suggested fetishists were involved.  This revelation sat well with investigators who had already begun to suspect that the genitalia taken by the killer may have been used as some form of trophy by a religious cult.
A short time after the murder of the two young campers, the Red Cross emergency worker who had accompanied Paolo Mainardi to the hospital in 1982 and was later contacted by the killer, received another disturbing phone call while on vacation in Rimini.  The killer continued to badger him about what Mainardi had told police before he died.  This revelation shocked police.  Who could have known that the worker was on vacation and how did they know how to contact him? 

Another Long Hiatus

The killer waited almost a year before striking again on July 29, 1984, this time murdering another young couple in Vicchio di Mugello, just north of Florence.  This double murder showed all the characteristics of the previous ones.  The mans body was found on the backseat of his car wearing only underpants and a vest.  Not far from the vehicle, behind some bushes, lay the completely naked body of the girl.  As with her predecessors, she was posed in a spread eagle position, with her genitals having been removed.  The only real variance was that the killer had also decided to remove her left breast and slashed her corpse over 100 times. 
An autopsy soon revealed that both victims had been shot through the car window before being stabbed with a knife.  The body of the girl was then dragged by the ankles approximately 10 yards.
The ballistic results were of no surprise to investigators.  The weapon had been a .22 automatic Beretta, and the bullets matched all of those used on previous victims.  The knife was also deemed to have been a single-edged blade and matched the characteristics as that of the previous mutilations.  In addition, no fingerprints were recovered from the scene, strengthening investigators theory that the killer wore surgical gloves during his crimes.
Investigators were curious as to why the killer had removed the breast of his latest female victim.  Were his acts simply becoming more macabre or was this related to a cult aspect?
Detectives freely admitted to the press that they had no leads and were just as baffled as before.  In a press release following the murders, Francisco Fleury, the DA then in charge of the investigation, said, The man could be your respectable next-door neighbor, a man above suspicion.
Other than the killers underlying motives, there was no question about the targets.  The killer was obviously a sadistic individual who preferred to prey on random couples in rural settings.  To veteran investigators, the killer was a ghost.  After almost two decades they had no suspect, no substantial clues and little hope of ever catching the Monster of Florence.

A Final Act of Depravity

The last known murder committed by the Monster of Florence occurred almost a year later on September. 8, 1985, when he murdered a French couple, 25-year-old Jean-Michel Kraveichvili and 36-year-old Nadine Mauriot as they camped in the San Casciano area just outside of Florence.  The womans body, which was discovered closed inside a tent, showed that she had been shot four times.  The first three bullets had penetrated her skull, while the forth went through her thorat.  Four bullets had also hit the male victim -- one in the mouth, two in the upper left arm, and one in the right elbow. 
According to reports by the pathologist, all of the shots were fired at a close range no more  than 15 to 20 inches.  The pathologist also surmised that the couple had been making love at the time they were ambushed.  The man was probably lying on his back with the woman on top of him.  The woman died from gunshot wounds while still inside the tent, but the man, who was only superficially wounded, had attempted to escape.  He succeeded in getting out of the tent and was able to run for approximately 30 yards before being overtaken by the killer and stabbed to death.  He was then thrown down a bank into the bushes where he was ultimately discovered.  Following the murder of the male victim, the killer entered the tent and decisively removed the womans vagina and left breast.  The pathologist estimated that the killer could have completed the operation within a 10-minute period.
Directly after the discovery of Jean-Michel and Nadine, investigators thought they had their first real lead when a copper-jacketed Winchester bullet was found on a sidewalk in front of a nearby hospital.  The hospitals proximity, together with the investigators theory of surgical gloves and a scalpel, led them to question members of the hospital staff.  Nonetheless, no suspects were discovered and the lead quickly fizzled.
On the day following the latest murders, an envelope was delivered to the public prosecutors office, addressed to assistant DA Silvia Della Monica.  The address on the envelope had been created using letters cut from a magazine or newspaper and contained a single spelling mistake.  Inside the envelope was a sheet of paper folded and glued at its edges, and inside the paper container was a small plastic bag.  The bag contained a cube of flesh from Nadine Mauriots left breast.

Televised Justice

Pietro Pacciani, suspect
Pietro Pacciani,

Over the course of the next eight years, investigators questioned more than 100,000 people in hopes of gaining a lead.  During the early 1990s, they began to focus on Pietro Pacciani, a 68-year-old semi-literate farmer who enjoyed hunting and taxidermy.  Intriguing to investigators was the fact that Pacciani had been arrested in 1951 for the murder of a traveling salesman, whom he had caught sleeping with his fiancée.  After stabbing the salesman a total of 19 times and stomping him to death, Pacciani raped his corpse.  He was quickly convicted and sentenced to serve 13 years in prison for his crimes.  Following his release from prison, Pacciani married and settled down to raise a family.  Nonetheless, he was again jailed between 1987 and 1991 for beating his wife and sexually molesting his two young daughters.
In addition to his criminal background, unknown sources reported that Pacciani was involved in an occult group with three other men, Mario Vanni, Giovanni Faggi and Giancarlo Lotti  (who were all known as peeping toms because of their nocturnal ramblings).  Pacciani and Vanni were also alleged to have participated in black masses, which used female body parts at the house of a supposed wizard in San Caciano.  Nurses at a clinic, which had previously hired Pacciani as a gardener, also came forward and claimed that he told them a doctor presided over satanic ceremonies he attended.
Although the head of Florence's detective force, Michele Giuttari, believed Pacciani was too sloppy to have planned the crimes, he was arrested on Jan. 17, 1993. 
Pietro Paccianis trial began almost a year later in November 1994.  Prosecutors were dead set on proving he was one of Europe's most prolific serial killers and asked that the trial be televised.  The public relished the opportunity, and almost everyone became a compulsive viewer.  A Florentine newspaper also went so far as to open up a "Monster hotline" so that readers could telephone in their opinions. 
The packed courtroom drew swarms of spectators, but for all the drama, there was an alarming lack of evidence.  At one point during the trial, a police guard collapsed, the evidence proving too gory for him to stomach.  From day one, Pacciani had claimed his innocence and continued to do so during his trial.  Nonetheless, although the evidence against him was largely circumstantial, he was convicted of committing seven of the double murders and sentenced to life in prison.  When the verdict of guilty was pronounced, Pacciani was dragged from court howling that he was "as innocent as Christ on the cross."

Unbalanced Scales

Pietro Pacciani in court just prior to his release
Pietro Pacciani in
court just prior to his

On Feb. 13, 1996, an appeals court overturned the conviction of 71-year-old Pietro Pacciani and cleared him of "all fault" -- a ruling that came one week after a public prosecutor stated that the evidence against him was unsound.  Nonetheless, few doubted that Pacciani, who in his youth had murdered a traveling salesman, was indeed the Monster of Florence, and his release caused a strong public outcry.  Interestingly enough, the release of Pacciani came just hours after the arrest of Paccianis friends Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti, for their involvement in the murders.
Acting on new information, investigators began to suspect that not one killer, but an entire gang of killers might have been responsible for the Monster of Florence crimes.  They soon concluded that the gang must have been led by 71-year-old Pietro Pacciani, and would have included 70-year-old Mario Vanni, 54-year-old Giancarlo Lotti, and 77-year-old Giovanni Faggi.  In retrospect, it appears as though prosecutors were simply grasping at straws. 
The Italian Supreme Court quickly overturned the decision to free Pacciani and on Dec. 12, 1996 ordered a retrial in light of new evidence.  Allegedly Lotti was said to have confessed to police that he and Pacciani had perpetrated the killings.
On May 21, 1997, Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti went on trial for their involvement in five of the double murders.  The two men were ultimately convicted and sentenced to life and 26 years respectively. Pacciani never made it to his retrial for involvement in the Monster of Florence murders.  On  Feb. 23, 1998, he was found lying face down on the floor of his home with his trousers down at his ankles and his shirt up around his neck. Although his face was blue and disfigured, the initial police opinion was that he had died of a cardiac arrest.  A post-mortem examination revealed that a combination of drugs had caused his death.  The investigating magistrate, Paolo Canessa, believed that Pacciani was silenced lest he reveal the real monster, or monsters.
One would assume that since Pacciani was dead and Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti were behind bars, that the case of the Monster of Florence would be closed.

Hannibal the Cannibal

Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris

One of the visitors to Florence during the 1992 trial of Pietro Pacciani was novelist Thomas Harris, whose bestseller spawned the Oscar-winning movie Silence of the Lambs.  He became so inspired after attending the trial that he decided to locate his third novel, Hannibal, in Florence.
In the sequel, Anthony Hopkins portrays the cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter and Julianne Moore as FBI agent Clarice Starling.  In 2000, Ridley Scott, the films director who had been given an $80 million budget by MGM-Universal Pictures, he decided to film many of the movies scenes on location in Florence and obtained the proper permits from the city. 
Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal (AP)
Anthony Hopkins in
Hannibal (AP)

Two political groups demanded that a gruesome murder scene being filmed inside the ornate Salon of the Lilies in the city's Palazzo Vecchio be stopped.  The scene was a partial re-enactment of a killing which actually took place there in 1478.
Photo: Skyline of Florence
Many politicians felt that Florence's reputation had been sullied enough by the Monster of Florence murders and were upset that their city was now being used as the setting for a cannibalistic serial killer film.  In an open letter to Mayor Leonardo Domenici, the two parties begged him to retract authorization for the three-day shooting, "This will add nothing to Florence's prestige in the world," they wrote. "We believe instead that the most intimate location in the city would become the setting for morbid thrills and vulgar horror."  Investigators were also concerned that increased publicity might prompt the killer to become more active, or even worse, encourage copycats to imitate his crimes.
Skyline of Florence, Italy (AP)
Skyline of Florence, Italy (AP)

Regardless of their objections, filming was only temporarily delayed and Hannibal was able to reinvent himself as the Dante-quoting custodian of the Capponi library, after brutally creating a vacancy.

New Suspects

In August 2001, investigators again reopened inquiries into the Monster of Florence murders.  While detectives are reluctant to discuss many of the details, they have said there are new suspects.  A source close to the public prosecutors office has stated that the police now believe that a group of 10 to 12 wealthy, sophisticated Italians orchestrated the ritualized murders over the course of three decades and got away with it.  Investigators surmise that the religious sect required nighttime executions of courting couples, followed by mutilation with the help of a .22 Beretta revolver and a surgical knife.
As investigators began removing their original files from storage, they were tipped off by a series of undisclosed anonymous letters, which are believed to name some of the suspects, including an unknown doctor and a Swiss artist.  The artist reportedly left the area in 1997, but police are said to have drawings he made of mutilated women and newspaper clippings he had saved.
One month later, in September 2001, Florence investigators raided the homes and offices of Aurelio Mattei, a psychologist with the Sisde Secret Service, and Francesco Bruno, Italy's leading criminal psychologist.  Computer disks, books and notes about the killings were confiscated, and both men were questioned relentlessly for more than nine hours.  While neither man has been deemed a suspect in the murders, detectives believe they may have withheld critical evidence from the original investigation.
Regardless of these new revelations, Vanni and Lotti remain incarcerated and investigators are continuing to keep a tight lid on their new investigation.  The Monster of Florence murders remain a mystery.

Il Mostro de Firenze

While on my trek to Miami, I listened to an audio book best seller called "The Monster of Florence" written by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. I was fascinated by this true tale about a serial killer that terrorized the Italian city of Florence from the late 60's until the early 1980's and claimed the lives of 16 victims, most of which were lovers who were murdered during the heat of passion while parked in cars out in the surrounding areas of Florence. The police investigation spanned nearly 20 years with multiple arrests and evidence trails that lead to places that were far from the city of Florence, to places like the mountains of Sardinia. The investigation affected many people and led to false arrests, suicides, gay scandals, botched crime scene investigations, police cover ups, false accusations and outright witch hunts where neighbor turned in neighbor out of paranoid fear.
I was surprised by the fact that that all of this took place over such a long period, much like the BTK killer in the U.S., but also by the fact that little of this was known to be happening. The American public really didn't pay much attention to it and also the city of Florence wanted it to be kept quiet so as not to frighten its many visitors who vacation in Tuscany.
To this day, the mystery has never been solved and no final arrest was made. The killings stopped in the mid 1980's. The author worked closely with Mario Spezi, who was the journalist and private investigator that covered the case from start to finish. The author claims that new evidence has come to light and that he knows who the real killer is.
Bits and pieces from the killings were used in the film "Silence of the Lambs" and "Hannibal." In fact, the character Hannibal Lecter was loosely based on Il Mostro. The real killings were quite grisly in nature. The killer would spy on lovers who were parked in cars, which apparently was quite the pass time in the city of Florence, and would shoot the male victim through the car window, then shoot the female victim, drag her from the car, and would take her left breast and genital area as a trophy. The killer always struck on a Saturday night while there was a full moon during the summer months and each summer left the city in a state of fear waiting for the next slaying to take place.
This is a great book, a fascinating real life crime story, and is now being made into a movie with George Clooney in a lead role. The movie is set to be released in 2012. If you get a chance check it out!

Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi
Check out the link below for timelines, maps, and detailed info about the real investigation.


David Vance Captures A Texan Hunk

Some new works by David Vance for his new photography book called "Erotic Dreams"


Sleeping Beauties


The Miami Chronicles Day Five and a Half

Moving Forward to Key West
Sean's House

Today was my last day in Miami and I spent most of it on Haulover working on my tan. Last night I drove up to Lauderdale to meet an old friend, my friend Larry. We spent a little time at Georgie's which is on of the numerous local gay bars and also had a bite to eat.

This evening I drove toward downtown to my friend Sean's house. I met Sean two years ago on Haulover. Sean was busy slathering himself down with SPF 50 which struck me as being odd with his dark skin tone. We struck up a conversation and hit it off and have been friends since then. Sean is from Jamaica and is a flight attendant who flies most weeks back and forth to London and Paris and had just returned from Paris last night.

I have never been to Sean's house so tonight he invited me down for dinner. His house was gorgeous and dinner was fantastic! We had a great time and hung out until about ten. He was pretty wiped out from his flight so we ended the evening early. It was great to catch up on things.

Tomorrow morning I leave for the Keys. Most of the day will be travel time with probably some evening time to venture out on to Duval Street. Friday I booked a boat trip which takes you out into the waters around key west for some snorkeling and kayaking into the sponge beds. Its an all gay cruise so I am SURE that I will meet some characters to write about. I always do!

The Miami Chronicles Day Five

A Mishmash of Cultures
The Ocean Palm Hotel circa 1950

For the last three days I have been staying at a place called the Ocean Palm Hotel, which is quite an oddity. It's like a cross road, a microcosm, of what Miami is all about. The place was built in the late 40's and hasn't changed much since then. It sits sandwiched between Trump Towers, which is an ultra-modern, ultra luxurious condominium high rise built by Donald Trump a few years ago. On the other side of Ocean Palm is a half-finished luxury condo building that ceased building during the market crash a few years ago. The entire stretch along the beach is stuffed to the hilt with big shiny new high rises and is touted as Florida's Rivera. When you visually scan down Collins Avenue you see 30 story high-rises and then you encounter our two story, old hotel with its neon "Ocean Palm Hotel" buzzing and flickering like a beacon of obstinacy in the dark. Our hotel, to be honest, has become an obstacle to the concept of what the community of Sunny Isle is trying to achieve. The owner of the hotel refused to sell even though he was offered a hefty 25 million dollars to vacate the area so that it could be bulldozed and yet another tower put up in its place.

What makes this place unique is its clientele. The hotel sits on prime real estate next to Haulover Beach, which is Miami's (and Florida's) only legal nude beach. The beach is about a mile long and is jam packed during the warm months. Ocean Palm is clothing optional at night at the pool and is very liberal with its policies on partying which makes it fun but also can make it difficult to sleep! The clientele here is fiercely loyal and many people come the same week every year and some even stay for a month. It attracts, gay, straight, bisexual, Latin, eastern European, and every other walk of life imaginable. The odd thing is that everyone coexists. Tonight I am at the pool and there is a large group of straight people having a party at one end with disco music playing while the gay and Latin contingent is having their own thing at the other end with Latin music blaring. It's like the battle of the bands and sexual orientations. The other odd thing is that is feels more like a community than a hotel! People know when you come and leave and pay attention to what goes on. I went to my friend Sean's house for dinner tonight down near downtown Miami and when I got back the residents of Ocean Palm were inquiring as to where I had disappeared to for the evening. You don't get that at a normal hotel! In one sense it's cool in another its slightly annoying. I don't even know what my downstairs neighbors in Pittsburgh do nor do I care!

Some of the characters that have encountered have been unique and interesting. I met a guy in his late 60's who was in the Navy and had a life long career of it. He just recently divorced his wife and came out of the closet and is now sowing his wild oats. I also met a guy from Boston who has been living here for over a month because he claims to have met the love of his life. This guy is probably 50….the love of his life turned out to be a 20 year old Latin boy from Miami! The relationship ship to me was rather disturbing.  Not because of the age difference but because of the fact that the older guy treated the younger one like a son and the kid was very immature. I wondered how consensual the whole thing was and if the kids family even knew what was going on. I think the kid saw dollar signs and the older guy saw a young play toy which is not all the uncommon in Miami.  My friend who grew up down here used to warn me about such things when I had considered moving down here.

Trump Tower

Miami is one of the most unique cities that I have been to. It's a little bit of everything all rolled into one. I went out to dinner the other night to a Cuban restaurant and while I sat outside I heard Spanish from a group next to me, Russian from two tables down, and I also overheard two Italian's talking about running numbers sitting at table to my right. Where else in the world could you get all of that at one time.


The Miami Chronicles Day Two

I have finally arrived! After another day's long drive I pulled into my hotel in BalHarbor at 5:00. With a quick unload of the car I was off to the grocery store to stock up on stuff to take to the beach tomorrow. I went for a long walk, which is unheard of in south Florida. No one walks here! You are lucky if there is a sidewalk which explains Miami traffic! I had an early dinner at a wonderful Cuban place called Café Tropical which is just up the street on Collins Ave. I came back to the hotel and Dan decided that he needed a further walk to unwind so I decided to give David a call to see what he was up to.

I think I am going to just crash tonight since last night's late night wore me out!


The Miami Chronicles

Sky Writer

Last night I over-nighted at my friend Luis's house. After the 12 plus hour drive I really was ready to crash when arriving but Luis had been so kind as to prepare a wonderful dinner that was all Puerto Rican cuisine. I love food, as you all probably well know! Luis also invited his friend over, whom I have never met. Peter, Luis's aforementioned fried, is from Ireland. I wasn't sure what to expect prior to his arrival but I knew that he would be a good guy since Luis is such a wonderful person. Peter was very tall with a head of curly hair and quite handsome and ended up being the life of the party later on in the evening. Peter works for a luxury resort that is on an island just off of the coast of Georgia. From what I could tell from his description, it sounds quite charming. The evening flew by, as we drank beer and played some crazy game called Dance Party on Luis's new WII. I am usually not much for acting silly in front of people but the dance party game was very addictive and the four of us ended up dancing like idiots in front of the television for hours. Four grown gay men, acting like 16 year old teenage girls was quite a sight to behold. It was a blast though. Dan, who NEVER dances even joined in!

This morning I got up and Luis already had breakfast ready for us so after a quick meal of eggs, toast, and bacon, and some very wonderful Café Con Leche, we were off and back on the road to Miami.

As we crossed the Florida line, Dan pointed out that there was a skywriter above our heads and since the day was perfectly clear, it stood out very well against the bright blue sky. The message said "God Loves You" and was still being written out. That kept us entertained for about a half hour, waiting in anticipation to see what the next message written across the sky would be.

I spoke with David this morning, whom I am missing very much. He informed me that the weather at home sucks. I feel bad for David being stuck there in the gray gloom but I feel good for me as I drive into the hot sun. I am very happy to be out of Pittsburgh for the week! I only have about two more hours of driving left before I will be firmly planted on the beach at Haulover. I plan on checking into the hotel, and then heading to my favorite Columbian restaurant for some good food. Tonight I am going to walk the beach and chill out by the pool and enjoy the fact that I can sit outside without sixteen layers of clothing and a risk of losing extremities due to frostbite!

I am already starting to feel like a different person. It is like the sun makes you come alive and recharges your batteries! More later…..

The Miami Chronicles

The First Signs of Life

This morning at 7 a.m., I rolled out of the shower and into the Jeep and pointed it toward Miami. The British voice from my GPS told me in its gentle British way that my destination was eleven and a half hours away and my arrival time to Brunswick, Georgia would be around 6:30. I will be overnighting there at my friend Luis's house. I spoke with him last night and he's already planning a wonderful dinner, which I am sure will be some sort of Puerto Rican dish that will be to die for. The man can cook!

And so, here I sit, in the car writing this blog entry. It's been six hours since my departure and I have made it through the length of West Virginia, which is my most dreaded part of the trip. It's long, boring, and well to be frank, the people are just a little bit scary. I stopped at a rest area and let's just say that you could really tell that you were in Appalachia! It's like a little piece of gay hell. 

In the blink of an eye, I was through the skinny part of Virginia. It only takes about an hour. I just passed the "Welcome to North Carolina" sign and the temperature shot up to 65 degrees, which after months of the deep freeze in Pittsburgh, feels literally like a breath of fresh air. The most uplifting thing is that the redbuds are starting to come out into leaf and there are signs of spring everywhere. It's a great feeling to know that spring is slowly creeping its way up from the deep south and will soon paint its lush hues all over the gray shrouded city in which I live. My spirits are already lifting. I think that I truly am a warm weather girl as I tend to get very down in the winter time. When the crispness of fall starts to settle in, something in my brain clicks and sets me off into a very long period of winter blahs. The second I see green, and feel the warm humid air I am immediately transformed. My energy levels quadruple and I feel like a totally different person. 
First Signs of Spring!

The care is still rolling and my stomach is rumbling for some good Carolina Barbeque. I just passed a sign for it so I think this will make for a very tasty lunch. For those of you who have not had the real deal, Carolina Barbeque is not the typical smothered in sugary sauce stuff that you are used to having. Carolina barbeque is a vinegar based sauce that is put on slow roasted pork that melts in your mouth and its usually served on, or with a big fat hushpuppy bun and smothered in coleslaw. MMMMMM!

Well, here comes my exit! Ill keep you posted on the progress of spring…and my gastronomique conquests on the rest of my trip. Miami here I come!



Fire, Ice, Earth and Wind ...Man and the Elements

The Seven Year Itch?

Today I received an email from an old friend and it was not good news.  My friend wrote to me to tell me that he may be ending his eight year relationship. I called him and we spoke in the phone for an hour and a half.  I felt so bad.  Both people in the relationship are friends so that makes it even harder. I am going to refer to them as V. and S. to protect their privacy. I have known both of them for a very long time and  in fact I have known "S". for 20 years so we have a long history going back to my early 20's.

Talking to my friend, "V.", made me think about  a lot of things.  Why do gay relationships seem to fail right around the seventh or eighth year?  Is it really the seven year itch? My first relationship fell apart right around my 8th year.  It was such a hard thing to go through!  It was like a divorce, involving houses and material things and a year of major grief and heartache.

One thing that my friend said was that his partner needed space and that he had learned that if you are going to be in a relationship that you have to learn to accept it for what it is.  People are different in their needs and ways of thinking about what being together means."V." is very much the same as me.  He told me that he loves all of the affectionate stuff, and the romance, and also loves being with his partner doing things most of the time.  I am the same way.  When I am with someone it doesn't bother me to always spend time with them.  His partner "S" is the opposite.  "S" is not the affectionate type and enjoys his private time and space.  I think that it is very hard when you are polar opposites when it comes to relationship views.  My friend also hit home with a very valid point.  He said that "if you are going to be in a relationship you have to learn what you are willing to accept and be prepared to accept the other person for who they are even though you may not always agree with them."  He is right, in order to coexist in a relationship it takes compromise and acceptance. 

I thought about my relationship with David.  David is a very private person and needs his personal time.  In the past, I would often mistake that for him not wanting to be with me.  I realize that I was wrong.  It is because I do not think the same way about things as he does.  For David, it doesn't mean that he doesn't care, its because he really does just need his private time.  As hard as that may be for me to accept sometimes, I have learned to.  V. also said that you have to ask yourself...."better off with or better off without?"  I care so much about David that I cant imagine giving up what we have together and I can't imagine my life without him now. I enjoy being with him so much and I love our time together.  My vote goes for better off with!

We also talked about dating when you are in your late 30's and early 40's.  It sucks!  Everyone in this age range and older is either already taken or scared to death of any kind of commitment because of past experiences.  I know even with myself, my past comes into play when thinking about things.

V. also said that he isn't going to give up on love.  I thought that that was a great thing to hear.  I really do believe in love too!  It exists and its very powerful when you find it.  The biggest advice that I can give anyone is to not bury your heart because you are afraid of getting hurt.  There is a famous quote that says "tis better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all."  I agree in so many ways!

The Human Form...A Texture Study

Have you ever taken the time to notice the color of your skin, or the way someone's eyes look, or maybe the texture of a person's skin?  The human body is amazing and up close it is a work of art. 

Motors Square Garden

Motors Square Garden - East Liberty

Current Modern Interior
The other day my car was broken into and I had to go to AAA to get some documents replaced.  The AAA office that I went to was in Motors Square Garden.  I have often wondered what this huge domed building was used for in the past and why it was originally built.  I have heard several stories.  I have heard that it was once a boxing arena, a car lot, a mall, and a public market.  In it's current state it serves as the headquarters for AAA and also for the UPMC School of Nursing.  Its interior was remodeled and restructured from its original state. 

I did a little digging and found some old historical photographs and also a lot of history about the building.  It turns out that it served originally as a public market, then went on to host the University of Pittsburgh's basketball team and also functioned as a professional boxing arena. It also was used as a new car show place, and later was converted into a shopping mall.

Aerial View of East Liberty - Circa 1950

Early in the twentieth century East Liberty was Pittsburgh’s motor vehicle center. A dozen automobile and parts dealers lined Baum Boulevard and Henry Ford built an assembly plant in a building that still stands today at the corner of Baum Boulevard and Morewood Avenue. In 1913 William Larimer Mellon, the head of Gulf Oil, established one of the first drive-in gas stations at the intersection of Saint Clair Street and Baum Boulevard. In the early 1960s the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh invested $68 million into a project that razed 1500 old homes, constructed new apartment and townhouse complexes, and built a suburban shopping mall in the center of the 500-acre community in the heart of East Liberty. In the right center of the photograph is the Liberty Market (better known today as Motor Square Garden), a ninetieth century, 80,000 square-foot domed indoor market where the first automobile show was held in 1914. Directly across the street to its right is the East Liberty Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Penn Avenue and Highland Avenue. The church was completed in 1935 and dedicated on May 12 of that same year.
Motors Square Garden- 1937
Financed by the Mellon family of Pittsburgh, the building was built from 1898 to 1900 as a city market—after one of their real estate subdivisions failed to sell enough houses—calling it East Liberty Market House. The Boston, Massachusetts architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns designed the building. Motor Square Garden soon failed as a retail space, but in 1915 the new Pittsburgh Automobile Association bought it as a site for its auto shows. In the 1920s, it came into use as a sports venue, especially for boxing, and was used intermittently as the home court of the University of Pittsburgh's basketball team until the opening of Pitt Pavilion inside Pitt Stadium in 1925. By the 1940s it was used as a new car dealership.
In 1988, AAA bought the property. Landmarks Design Associates of Pittsburgh redesigned it as an upscale shopping mall. The retail mall failed, but AAA expanded to occupy the building, along with a tenant, the UPMC Shadyside School of Nursing.

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