Terror in the City of Art: The Monster of Florence

Posted: January 15, 2014 in Murder Most Foul
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The term “monster” is a harsh one. The only monsters we are familiar with are the ones conjured up from our imaginations, the fire-breathing dragons and ugly ogres from our childhood fairy tales. Seldom would we call a fellow human being a monster. Just what kind of heinous deeds must one commit in order to earn that title? The city of Florence, located in the Italian region of Tuscany, would soon know the answer as the natives came under attack from an unseen killer who struck from the shadows with nothing on his mind but murder. The hunt for one of Italy’s most notorious serial killers would take place over the span of 40 years, with 9 suspects and 4 different arrests and convictions.

The killer would also claim 16 victims as part of his bloody rampage in the Florentine countryside.

This is the story of II Mostro di Firenze.

The Monster of Florence.

First Blood

On the night of 21 August, 1968, 6 year old Natalino Mele had just finished watching a movie at a theatre. The boy was with his mother, Barbara Locci, and a man whom his mother had introduced to him as his “uncle”, Antonio Lo Bianco. The trio were driving home from the theatre, under the velvet night sky. His mother and Antonio were chatting in the front seats, seemingly eager about something. It’s possible that the last thing Natalino saw before he fell asleep was his mother’s smile.

Natalino Mele was only 6 at the time of his mother's murder. The boy would also be the first to discover her body.

Natalino Mele was only 6 at the time of his mother’s murder. The boy would also be the first to discover her body.

He awoke soon after. If the boy thought that he was still in the throes of a nightmare, he was wrong.

At 2 AM in the morning, local farmers were awakened by knocks to their doors. Natalino stood before them, tears streaming down his face. The 6 year old boy was petrified, frightened as though he’d seen a ghost. As he stood there, the young boy said, “Open the door and let me in, I’m sleepy and my Daddy is sick in bed. Then you have to drive me home, because my Mommy and my uncle are dead in their car.” Stunned, the farmer immediately called the police.

The police arrived soon after to the scene of the crime and saw what young Natalino saw: Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco, both dead with multiple gunshot wounds. Evidently this had been the cause of death. The killer had struck while the couple was at their most vulnerable: Barbara had been in the midst of undressing, most likely to have sex with Antonio. In their sexually charged mood, the couple hadn’t noticed anything strange in their surroundings. In the backseat, Natalino was fast asleep. And in the bushes nearby, the killer was waiting. Once the opportunity presented itself, he seized it. Several gunshots later, the couple lay dead. The boy, however, was just beginning to awaken. For whatever reasons, the killer left him home, slinking back into the shadows and leaving Natalino to awaken to a true nightmare.

31 year old Barbara Locci and her 29 year old lover Antonio Lo Bianco. They would be the first in a string of victims of the Monster of Florence.

31 year old Barbara Locci and her 29 year old lover Antonio Lo Bianco. They would be the first in a string of victims of the Monster of Florence.

At this point it’s important to learn a bit about Barbara Locci. Or more specifically, her promiscuity.  Even though she was already married and had a child, Barbara chose to engage in many illicit affairs around town, so much so that she even earned the nickname Ape Regina, or “Queen Bee”. Antonio Lo Bianco was just one of her many lovers that she tried to keep hidden from her husband, Stefano Mele, Natalino’s father. Stefano was well aware of his wife’s extramarital affairs, but chose to remain with her, keeping his feelings under check.  The Mele household was clearly going through a tempestuous time.

As the investigators began combing the crime scene, they discovered the discarded shells of the gun used in the murder: eight .22 caliber shell casings lay scattered about the crime scene. This fact would later prove crucial in linking the Locci/Bianco murders to a chain of murders in the future. But aside from this, there was very little evidence present to indicate the identity of anyone else who might have had been present at the time of the crime. Officers decided to pay a visit to Barbara’s husband, Stefano Mele.

If they were looking for a suspect, they didn’t need to look any further. Arriving at the Mele household, the door abruptly opened and a man stepped out, lugging a suitcase with him and looking frantic. When told that his wife was dead, he displayed little emotion. The suspicions of the investigators were immediately aroused and Stefano Mele was taken to the station.

Stefano Mele, the first man suspected to be the Monster.

Stefano Mele, the first man suspected to be the Monster.

At the station, Mele denied that he had any participation in the double murder. After presented with the results of a test that showed he had fired a gun, he confessed that he had been at the crime scene. But Mele decided that if he was going down, he wasn’t going to do so alone. In his official statement to the police, he implicated Salvatore Vinci, another one of Barbara’s lovers. How Vinci managed to contact Mele and cooperate with him is unknown, but Mele claimed that the duo worked together to kill Barbara and Antonio. In his own words, “I killed my wife and her lover because I was tired of being continually humiliated.”

The police thought they had a foolproof, air tight confession. Far from it. For one thing, Mele neglected to mention one important aspect of the crime: his son, Natalino. Nowhere in his confession did he mention finding his son in the backseat, or if his son had seen him. It seems curious to me that a father would choose to endanger his son (and from all accounts, Natalino and Stefano had a normal relationship) by firing recklessly into the front window. Even stranger is the fact that he would leave behind his child at the bloody crime scene instead of bringing him home and perhaps telling the child a story that his mother had successfully brought him home and then went out again into the night. But perhaps most damning of all is that Mele began changing his story when questioned on specific parts, like the location of the gun. He later chose to completely retract his confession, and began accusing Salvatore Vinci’s brother, Francesco. It’s clear to me that Mele, under the stress of the investigation, had given a false confession.

But the Florentine police remained convinced of his guilt. Two years later, Stefano Mele was found guilty of the murders of Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco and sentenced to 14 years in prison. The case was officially closed, with officials sure that they had captured the perpetrator.

But they were wrong. Florence would only get to experience a short respite of 6 years before the true killer decided to quench his thirst for blood again. The Locci/Bianco murders were only the prelude, a small taste of what was to come. The true horror lay ahead: the subsequent killings would be the ones that earned the killer the title of the Monster of Florence.

Evolution of a Monster

The dawn of September 14, 1974, would bring with it the gruesome discovery of two bodies in a parked car located in the Borgo San Lorenzo area just north of Florence.

Just like the 1968 double murder, the victims had been shot. Ballistics tests later revealed that the shots were fired from the same .22 Beretta gun that had killed Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco, but investigators did not pick up on this yet. After all, it had been 6 years since the last double murder and the officers were convinced that the murder had been a crime of passion, committed by Stefano Mele in fit of rage. Additionally, this crime scene was different from the first one in a most horrible manner.

The crime scene of the second Monster murder.

The crime scene of the second Monster murder.

The male had been shot 5 times – and these five shots had been the ones that killed him. The female, however, was not so lucky. The killer apparently wanted her to suffer – she survived being shot 3 times only to have been stabbed up to 96 times. She eventually died from blood loss. Such overkill represented a lot of pent-up anger: imagine the amount of effort it takes to stab someone 10 times, let alone 96.

But that was not all. The female victim had been positioned by the killer such that her arms and legs were spread out wide.. A grapevine branch was also protruding from her vagina. Later autopsy tests proved that she had been violated with it post-mortem.

The couple was later identified as 19 year old Pasquale Gentilcore and 18 year old Stefania Pettini. They were high school sweet hearts, and had gone out for a night of fun with some other friends at a disco nearby. The lovers then decided to drive out into the countryside, presumably to have some time alone together. That was when the killer found them.

Pasquale Gentilcore and his girlfriend Stefania Pettini, seen here in happy times.

Pasquale Gentilcore and his girlfriend Stefania Pettini.

Once again, investigators had no real leads on the case. They managed to round up a carnival of suspects including a self-proclaimed faith healer, a mentally unstable man who had accused himself of the crime and peeping tom who was caught spying on couples in the area, but there was no evidence linking any of them to the crime scene. All three were eventually released.

Something of interest to note: several hours before her murder, Stefania mentioned to a close friend of hers that she had encountered a weird man that had terrified her. Had she met the killer before her demise?

Without any suspects or any evidence, the trail eventually grew cold. Investigators were once again forced to abandon the case, and the killer got away with his second murder.

The level of violence inflicted on Stefania Pettini indicated that the killer was escalating – where before he was content with simply shooting the woman like in the Locci case, he was now releasing his rage by taking it out on her physically with a knife. This wasn’t just a random urge that the killer had. It was a part of him now.

A Taste for Murder

Although investigators were on their guards, the next Monster killing would not occur till 7 years later, in June 1981. FBI profilers would later speculate that the lack of murders in the 7 year gap was because the killer was living somewhere else, away from Florence.

The peace that the natives had enjoyed since the Gentilcore/Pettini murders was short-lived, for the killer would soon return to Florence and claim his third set of victims.

June 6, 1981, saw the discovery of the bodies of Carmela di Nuccio, 21, and her boyfriend,  30 year old Giovanni Foggi. Both of them had been shot in their car and had subsequently died in it. The killer then stabbed Foggi 3 times and had then removed di Nuccio’s body from the car.

Carmela di Nuccio, 21, and her boyfriend, 30 year old Giovanni Foggi. The Monster claimed them as his third pair of victims.

Carmela di Nuccio, 21, and her boyfriend, 30 year old Giovanni Foggi. The Monster claimed them as his third pair of victims.

He had then positioned her just like Stefania Pettini 7 years ago, arms and legs spread-eagled. Her jeans and shirt had been slashed, and perhaps most gruesome of all, her vagina had been removed with a sharp instrument. Medical examiners later concluded that the killer must have had some skill in the usage of cutting instruments. Investigators would not have realised it then, but the removal of the pubic region of the females would soon become the signature of the Monster of Florence.

Ballistics tests revealed that the gunshots came from a .22 caliber automatic pistol – much like the ones from the 1968 and 1974 killings. A quick comparison of the results soon revealed that the gun used in the 1974 double murder were one and the same. This led to the chilling conclusion that the Florentine police was dealing with a serial killer.

Enzo Spalletti, an occasional voyeur in the region, was quickly arrested and put behind bars for the crime. Investigators were convinced that he was the killer based on one detail -he had talked about the discovery of the bodies with his wife as early as 9:30 in the morning, whereas the local newspapers did not actually publish anything about the crime until later that day. This seemingly incriminating detail led to Spalletti being placed behind bars where he would await trial.

The innocent voyeur: Enzo Spalletti.

The innocent voyeur: Enzo Spalletti.

But Spalletti wouldn’t have to spend much time in prison. Just a few months after the June murders, the true killer struck again in October, clearing Spalletti’s name in the process. He was hastily released from prison, his trial cancelled.

The October murders were nearly identical to the ones committed in June. Stefano Baldi, a workman, was found lying on one sideof his Volkswagen, shot and stabbed multiple times. On the other side of the vehicle lay his girlfriend, Susanna Cambi, her body riddled with gunshot and stab wounds too. The autopsy report concluded that both of the victims had still been alive after being shot. They had then succumbed to the numerous stab wounds that the killer inflicted on them. Just like Carmela di Nuccio, Susanna Cambi’s vagina had also been removed. It seemed that the Monster had found his signature style.

Stefano Baldi and Susanna Cambi. By all accounts the couple was very much in love.

Stefano Baldi and Susanna Cambi. By all accounts the couple was very much in love.

News of the fourth double murder spread through Florence, inciting widespread panic everywhere. As the grisly details of the crime emerged and Florentine citizens learned of the atrocities that the female victims suffered,  the Italian newspapers officially dubbed the killer II Mostro di Firenze – the Monster of Florence. Florence was now on wide alert for the serial killer that supposedly lived among them – all doors would be shut and locked tightly after dark, and only the bravest or the most foolhardy of citizens would dare to venture out in the night.

The Baldi/Cambi murders are interesting to me because they occurred so quickly after Enzio Spalletti was arrested and convicted. The Monster apparently had no interest in lying low and letting Spalletti take the blame and become a scapegoat – the killing urge was simply too strong in him. It was like an addictive drug, where the only relief from withdrawal is to take up another shot, except this time the “shot” was killing.

Susanna Cambi’s mother also received a phone call from an anonymous caller the morning after the murder, to “talk about her daughter”. Efforts to trace this caller were in vain. Susanna herself had also spoken to her mother a few days before she was killed and had told her that someone had been tormenting her. This detail was eerily similar to the 1974 case, where Stefania Pettini had also been in a similar situation with an unknown man. It’s highly likely that the Monster was stalking his female victims before killing them. Random chance, apparently, had no part to play in the murders after all.

A Survivor?

Paolo Mainardi and his long time girlfriend Antonella Miglorini were very much in love with each other. The two of them were inseparable, glued to the hip. Their level of devotion to each other was such that the locals even nicknamed them Vinavil, a brand of superglue. The loving couple were engaged and set to marry very soon in 1982, and it is of no contention that both of them were looking forward to their wedding day and having a blissful life together.

They would never get the chance to do so.

The Monster's 9th and 10th victims: Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Migliorini. The pair were so inseparable that locals nicknamed them after a brand of superglue.

The Monster’s 9th and 10th victims: Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Migliorini. The two of them were so inseparable that locals nicknamed them after a brand of superglue.

On the night of 19 June 1982, while the couple was making love in their car near a railway south of Florence, someone emerged from the shadows and began shooting at them. Antonella died immediately – but Paolo survived the initial shots.

Stricken and in great pain, he managed to start the car, turn on the headlights and shift the vehicle in reverse. He probably would have escaped from II Mostro – but fate was unkind that night. Paolo was so focused on getting away that he neglected to notice the ditch behind him. The car ended up stuck in it. As Paolo tried desperately and in vain to move out of it, the Monster slowly approached the car. One can only imagine the sheer terror that Paolo experienced, the love of his life dead in her seat right next to him while not far away a cold-blooded killer was closing in, his dark shadow growing longer and longer until it fell upon him.

The Monster shot out the vehicle’s headlights, plunging the region back into darkness. He then turned his gun once more on Paolo and Antonella’s body, emptying multiple rounds into them until he was sure they were dead. The railway experienced a high amount of traffic – the Monster decided that his freedom was more important to him than the mutilation of the bodies, and thus he quickly fled the area, sure of the fact that Paolo was finally dead.

The car where Paolo and Antonella spent their last moments together. The killer shot through the glass, killing Antonella immediately and only wounding Paolo.

The car where Paolo and Antonella spent their last moments together. The killer shot through the glass, killing Antonella immediately and only wounding Paolo.

But he was wrong. Against all odds Paolo was still alive – in great pain, surely, and in much torment, but he was still breathing. Unfortunately, as the attack occurred at night, Paolo was only discovered in the morning, still holding on but unconscious. This superhuman feat of endurance was alas in vain, for he died a few hours later from blood loss without having ever regained consciousness. The Monster had his 10th victim after all.

Here the story begins to twist: the assistant district attorney assigned to the case, Silvia della Monica, decided to have a little gamble. She informed the media that Paolo Mainardi was indeed dead, but that she wanted them to spread the news that he was in fact still alive when he arrived at the hospital, and had given a description of his killer before he died. Silvia clearly wanted to unsettle the Monster and possibly lure him out of his comfort zone – so far before all his killings had been nearly perfect ones, without any traceable evidence. How would the Monster react to this piece of news which could possibly lead to his capture?

It turns out the Monster behaved exactly how Silvia predicted. After the media announced to all that a face had been put to II Mostro, one of the Red Cross emergency workers who had accompanied Paolo to the hospital received mysterious phone calls. Initially the caller claimed to be  from the assistant DA’s office, and wanted to know about what Paolo had said. When that tactic didn’t work, the caller became angry and admitted that he was the killer, all the while demanding to know the details of Paolo’s “identification”. Unfortunately, the gamble’s payoff ended here. No more calls were made after one where the killer identified himself. Once again, the trail went cold.

The Mainardi/Migliorini murders also made an old police veteran realize that this case had startling similarities to an old unsolved one back in 1968, where a young boy awoke to his mother and her lover dead in a car. A ballistics test was carried out, and here the threads finally connected. The Florentine police now knew that this gruesome pattern of killing had began nearly 20 years ago and from the signs from the latest case, II Mostro had no intention of stopping.

Nearly 14 years after his imprisonment by the police for murdering his wife Barbara and her lover Antonio, Stefano Mele was finally cleared of the Monster charge. The investigators, however, remained convinced that Stefano had accomplices working outside of jail to carry out the murders, to Stefano’s repeated protests that he was nothing but innocent. In my opinion, the police officers who handled the case at that time seemed too eager for someone to blame, someone to wear the mask of the Monster. Looking at the false arrests of Stefano Mele, the 3 suspects in the second murder and Enzo Spalletti, perhaps the Italian police were too cuff-happy. But their actions were understandable in that there was a public outcry for justice – whoever was committing these grisly crimes needed to be arrested, and fast. Pressure from the public and the media was huge contributor, I think, in the Florentine police’s arrests.

A Spanner in the Works

The Monster returned a year later, this time puzzling policemen with a double murder that seemed like it wasn’t his work at all. Two German boys, tourists who had been in the countryside at the time, were found murdered in their camper vehicle. Just like the previous murders, they had been shot to death but there was no sign of mutilation.

German tourists Horst Meyer and Jens Uwe Rusch. The 8th pair of victims, they were suspected to be gay lovers but this was never proven.

German tourists Horst Meyer and Jens Uwe Rusch. The 8th pair of victims, they were suspected to be gay lovers but this was never proven.

Why had the Monster deviated from his typical choice of victims? Was this an attempt to throw investigators off track? Or was it just an honest accident? Police investigators theorized that the German tourists, Horst Meyer and Uwe Rusch Sens, had been gay lovers. Uwe had long blonde hair and a slight build, which could have caused the killer to have mistaken him for a woman. Allegedly, a gay pornographic magazine was found torn up near the crime scene, presumably by the Monster who ripped it apart out of pure frustration after realizing his mistake. This theory, however, has never actually been corroborated but it would certainly explain a lot if it were true.

Here the case takes a turn for the bizarre: A religious historian, upon learning of the murders, came forward to talk to the investigators. He introduced the idea that the crimes were ritualistic in nature, possibly Satanic, and that the killer had taken away the vaginas of the female victims for use in some dark rites. Although such an idea had no concrete evidence supporting it, investigators were somehow swayed by such a notion and they began searching for a religious cult.

The same Red Cross emergency worker who had received the menacing calls a year ago was contacted again by the Monster, while on vacation. Once again the killer demanded that the details of the fake description given by Paolo be told to him. It’s quite unnerving indeed: how exactly did the Monster manage to know that the worker had been on vacation? Was he stalking him as well? Regardless, attempts to contact the Monster in return were futile.

July 29, 1984, would see the death of another young couple: A 21 year old student, Claudio Stefanacci and his 18 year old girlfriend Pia Gilda Rontini, a barmaid and a cheerleader. Once again the murder was nearly a replica of the previous ones: the couple was shot and stabbed to death in a woodland area near Florence.

Love's kiss: Claudio Stefanacci with his girlfriend Pia Gilda Rontini.

Love’s kiss: Claudio Stefanacci with his girlfriend Pia Gilda Rontini.

The brutality inflicted on Pia was of an even greater level than before: along with her vagina, her left breast had been surgically removed. The girl had also been stabbed close to a 100 times. It’s possible that the killer, denied the chance to mutilate Antonella Miglorini, unnerved about the false description from the lips of her boyfriend Paolo Mainardi and enraged by the mistake he made in the killings of the German boys, chose to take out his anger on her corpse. That would certainly explain the level of overkill.

The removal of Pia’s left breast stirred suspicions that this was perhaps indeed the work of some Satanic cult. In the years to come, this idea would take root and become the primary motive of the Monster, although FBI profilers would later inform them in an official profile that such body parts were nothing but trophies to the Monster. Crucial information in the profile would also be ignored by the Florentine police, much to their detriment.

Let us consider the enormity of the Monster case at this point in time: 14 murders, over the course of 20 odd years. On the one hand you have falsely accused suspects like the voyeur Enzio Spalletti who was later cleared of all charges and ones which are clearly implausible like the long suffering Stefano Mele. As a writer I am supposed to write of the exploits of the police in a neutral manner, but as a human being I cannot help but marvel at the incompetency at which the case was handled. Evidence may have been sparse, leads slim and witnesses non-existent, but it seems to me like the investigation could have been done in a much better manner. I’m not saying that all of the Florentine investigators were like this, but as a whole the entire investigation was one random grasp for straws (just look at the cuff-happy officers).

After almost two decades with 14 victims and a city plunged into panic, the police once again (depressingly so) were left in the dark with no leads to go on. II Mostro was free to continue his reign of terror over Florence.

The Final Slaying

The final killings would occur in September of 1985, an end to the bloody murders that had plagued Florence for 20 years.

On Monday, September 9, the bodies of French tourists Jean Michel Kraveichvili and Nadine Mauriot were found in a camping area. Nadine had been shot and stabbed to death while sleeping in their tent. Jean, miraculously had only been slightly wounded by the gunshots. An amateur champion of the 100 metre dash, he had managed to escape from the tent after the death of Nadine and ran for his life. The Monster, unfortunately, managed to catch up with him and finished the job with a knife. II Mostro would subsequently return to the tent and mutilate Nadine’s body, removing the vagina and left breast just like in the last murder.

The final victims of the Monster: 36 year old Nadine Mauriot and 25 year old Jean Michel Kraveichvili.

The final victims of the Monster: 36 year old Nadine Mauriot and 25 year old Jean Michel Kraveichvili.

On the day following the murder, Silvia della Monica, the prosecutor who had leaked the false description of the killer in the Mainardi/Miglorini case, received a letter from an anonymous sender. The address had been cut out from letters from different magazines and the letter had been mailed directly to her office. Silvia, upon opening it, found a piece of Nadine’s left breast, wrapped in a piece of tissue. A taunting letter accompanied this gruesome discovery, challenging the authorities to catch the killer. Silvia immediately resigned from the case upon receiving the letter.

And that was it.

Just as the Monster murders had abruptly began in 1968 with the murders of a mother and a lover, they ended just as abruptly in 1985 with the deaths of two French tourists. The citizens of Florence would not know it then, but they could finally breathe a sigh of relief. For whatever reason, the Monster’s killing days were over. As quickly as he had come out of the shadows, he had retreated back into them.

But the investigation refused to die. Much to their credit, over the course of the next 8 years, Italian police relentlessly pursued leads and questioned probable witnesses, determined to apprehend II Mostro di Firenze.

Unmasking the Monster

The people of Italy wanted the Monster. They wanted to see his real face, spit on him, curse him, and most of all see him dead. The Florentine police found the perfect target in their 8 year search: Pietro Pacciani, a 68 year old farmer. When investigators dug deep into his past, they found a closet full of skeletons. In 1951, he attacked his 16 year old girlfriend while she was with her lover, stabbing him to death. He then proceeded to rape her while the corpse lay nearby before going on to rape the corpse of the man he had just murdered. If anyone thought that he was a family man, they would have to be sorely disappointed too, for he went to jail shortly after the first Monster murder for beating his wife and raping his daughters.

There were also allegations that Pacciani was involved in an occult group with 3 other men and that they had been engaging in dark rituals and using female body parts in these rites. With the idea that the Monster was part of a Satanic cult already planted in their minds years ago, investigators wasted no time in arresting Pacciani and convicting him for all the Monster murders except the first one, to which they still believed Stefano Mele was responsible for.

In November 1994, Pietro Pacciani went on trial as the Monster of Florence.

The trial itself was nothing but a media circus. Prosecutors, determined to see someone burn at the stake for the Monster murders, allowed the trial to be televised. Each day, the people of Italy stayed glued to their screens as they gazed upon the face of the man they believed to be II Mostro. A local newspaper even went as far to set up a Monster hotline, for viewers watching the trial to dial in and contribute their opinions.

Pietro Pacciani, seen here in his 1994 trial.

Pietro Pacciani, seen here in his 1994 trial. He maintained his innocence till the end.

It’s apparent that Pacciani was already a monster for the crimes he committed in the past. But was he the Monster?

Examining the trial and the evidence, it’s clear that he was not. The prosecution, eager to secure a conviction and finally put away one of Europe’s most prolific serial killers, had an alarming lack of evidence. Most of what they had was merely circumstantial; there was nothing substantial to show that Pacciani was indeed at the crime scenes or that he had possessed the .22 Beretta used in all the murders. The gun itself was never found.

Doubts about whether Pacciani would have been able to physically commit such brutal crimes also arose: the last male victim, Jean Michel Kraveichvili, was an amateur champion of the 100m dash, as mentioned above. Although he had been able to escape the tent, he was unable to outrun his killer. Clearly the Monster had to be in good physical shape. And yet at the time of the murder Pacciani was 58 years old, and suffering from a multitude of ailments including a bad knee, scoliosis, diabetes and hypertension.

Despite this stunning lack of evidence, the media hype was enough to ensure that everyone thought Pacciani was guilty. Swarms of spectators would flock to the courtroom every day, eager to watch the man be crucified.

Pacciani himself protested that he was innocent from the very beginning, and continued to do so until the end of the trial. Regardless, the man was doomed from the start. A verdict of “guilty” was summarily pronounced upon him and he was convicted of 14 murders and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. According to witnesses, Pacciani was dragged screaming from the court, proclaiming his innocence to the very end.

It would only be a short two years before Pacciani’s conviction was overturned – by a prosecutor who clearly saw the lack of evidence against him. But unsound evidence was not the only reason Pacciani was released. Just hours before the man’s conviction was overturned, his friends Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti were arrested for the Monster murders. These two men were also part of the occult group that Pacciani was said to have been a member of.

Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti: Satanists, or simply old men unfortunate enough to be Pacciani's friends?

Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti: Satanists, or simply old men unfortunate enough to be Pacciani’s friends?

The Italian police believed the Monster murders were perpetrated by not one man but a whole gang of murderers – Vanni and Lotti amongst them. If Pacciani was relieved that his conviction was overthrown, it must have been short lived as investigators once again hastily concluded that he had been the ringleader. I’m sure I don’t need to remind the reader of the expertise or lack thereof at which the Italian police handled the case.

On May 21, 1997, Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti went on trial for the Monster murders. Both were found guilty, with Vanni sentenced to life in prison and Lotti getting 26 years instead. Pietro Pacciani, on the other hand, never got the chance to attend his retrial. In 1998 he was found dead, having overdosed on his heart medicine. One can assume that the man probably did not have the strength or will to face Italy’s wrath once more.

With Pacciani dead and Vanni and Lotti behind bars, most assumed that the Monster case was closed.

Lingering doubts must have remained as to the authenticity of the convictions though, for in 2001 the officials reopened the investigation. This time, not many details are available. Detectives have stated that they have numerous suspects in mind, though no arrests have actually been made. However, a source close to the prosecutors’ office revealed that officials now believe that the Monster of Florence was not a single man, but rather a group of wealthy Italians with the money and power to orchestrate the murders and get away with it. Once again, they presented the idea that a ritualistic cult was behind everything.

As of January 2014, the true identity of the Monster of Florence remains a mystery.

Final Thoughts

The Monster case was certainly one that was drawn out over a very long period of nearly 40 years. But there are many mysteries surrounding the case that have been unsolved to this day.

For one, if Stefano Mele was really innocent, why did he appear to the officers with bags all packed and ready to go, as if he already knew that his wife Barbara was dead? And yet Mele cannot have been the Monster, for he was in jail for all those years. But the weapon used in the later Monster murders was also used in the first murder – so the Monster had to have been there. Or more accurately, his gun had to have been used. There’s also the question of the mystery men that stalked Stefania Pettini, Susanna Cambi and Pia Gilda Rontini (a friend remembered that Pia had told her that she had been bothered by “an unpleasant man” while she was working at a bar). Were they all the same person? The Monster? Or was this just pure coincidence? The Red Cross worker who received those disturbing phone calls also deserves to be investigated, I think. Was he truly telling the truth about the phone calls? Or perhaps he was leading investigators off-track? More chillingly, what if he was the Monster and had been watching everything unfold before his very eyes?

We can only speculate about the answers to the many mysteries of the Monster case. We can theorize and conjecture, but it’s likely that a conclusive answer will never be found. Assuming that the Monster was in his 20s to 30s when Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco were killed in 1968, he would in his 70s and 80s if he were alive today, certainly in no condition to continue killing. There’s also the question of why the Monster stopped after 1985 – there was no indication that he was satisfied with the last murder, or that he would stop. In my opinion he either (a) died some time after the murder or (b) decided to lay low due to the media buzz that was growing stronger each day or (c) just barely managed to catch up to and kill Jean, the amateur athlete, and probably realized he was in no state to continue such vigorous kills. Regardless, his reign of terror ended for good in 1985.

A sketch of what the police thought the Monster of Florence looked like at the time of his rampant killings.

A sketch of what the police thought the Monster of Florence looked like at the height of his rampant killings.

All of the victims were couples – young lovers, enamoured with each other. As some of us know, love can be a powerful intoxicant. The different lovers, driven by their passion for each other, probably gambled and took a risk that the Monster would not be out hunting on the same night they were out. Sadly, that gamble cost them their lives.

Some people have remarked that given the state of panic that Florence was in, the more recent murder victims should not have gone out to such remote places. I agree that perhaps going out at night when a serial killer is on the loose isn’t the most wise of choices, but it’s hardly justified to say that the victims were asking for it.

As gruesome as the Monster murders were, we have to remember that the victims were not simply bodies or corpses lying cold in the morgue. They were living, breathing people once, people who loved, people who cried, and people who ultimately died because they were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite her promiscuity, Barbara Locci was by all accounts a good enough mother to her son Natalino. Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Miglorini, the devoted lovers, were to marry each other in a very short time before their untimely demise.

Paolo and Antonella in happier times.

Paolo and Antonella in happier times.

It’s easy to treat the victims as just faces on photographs, bodies in fields, and get lost in all the gory grisly details. But they were just like you and me once.

It’s the ability to empathize that distinguishes human beings from all other creatures – the ability to understand another, to feel what they feel, to imagine what they must have gone through. To know what it’s like to laugh, to cry, to love, to lose, to live.

Only then can we call ourselves human.

Only then can we be sure that we’re not monsters ourselves.


The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, by Michael Newton; December 1999, Facts on File

The Monster of Florence, by Magdalen Nabb 1996, Collins Crime


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