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?
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.|
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 MadnessBy 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.
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.
And Then There Were Eight
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
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 HiatusThe 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 DepravityThe 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.
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."
Hannibal the Cannibal
New SuspectsIn 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.