By Francesco Amicone
«Dear sweet waters, I do not know you anymore: my childhood dream is ended here.» The main sentence the Monster of Florence cut out to compose a letter to challenge the investigators in 1985 is the title of an essay by writer Piero Chiara. The article appeared on pages 36 and 37 of the weekly Gente number 51 on newsstands from 14 to 20 December 1984, in an eight-page long report indicated in the summary as “My country and my lake”.
Monster’s letter did not contain any words, but evidence, a piece of flesh of one of his last victim. The envelope reads: “Doct. Della Monica Silvia, Florence Prosecutor’s Office (hyphen and misspelling in the word “republi-ca”) 50100 Firenze”. “CA” in that position of the envelope seems to suggest a link between Florence and California
The cover of the weekly was dedicated to Gloria Guida and little Guendalina Dorelli, Johnny’s wife and daughter. Dorelli was the famous “Dorellik” who parodied the main character of the comics “Diabolik” in 1967.
The discovery of the magazine was made by the documentarian Paolo Cochi and his fellows Martino Rossi and Valeria Vecchione. More than 34 years have passed since the last of the seven double murders attributed by Courts to the “Tuscan” serial killer was committed, but the origin of the newspaper clippings pasted on the envelope sent to the prosecutor Silvia Della Monica and postmarked “San Piero a Sieve, 9 September 1985” had never been ascertained.
«We worked hard to find the magazine used by the Monster, in the end here it is,» Cochi told me. The documentarian has recently rewritten and expanded his book “Al di là di ogni ragionevole dubbio” (Runa, 2020).
The number 51 of Gente is a «key element in view of investigations», said the documentarian. It is also one of the most important clues in a case in which there are still six murders officially unsolved.
Cochi anticipated the discovery in February in his column in Ok Mugello. On the contrary of what I published on tempi.it two years ago, he does not believe the Monster is the American serial killer Zodiac. «In my opinion, the culprit of the crimes was an individual who had to do with Mugello,» he said. «He was a native from the area and had maintained a relevance near San Piero a Sieve,» the town where the Monster mailed the letter to Della Monica. «He was a person close to a certain type of “apparatus” and tied to a certain people.» «Apart from my convictions,» explained Cochi, «in my work, I stick only to documented researches and disclosures of factual data taken from records. Criminal inquiries are the responsibility of prosecutors, I only try to provide a documental contribution. I hope it will be useful to the investigators.»
How did Cochi and his fellows understand they were in front of the right magazine? «That font type was used by a few weeklies,» replied the documentarian. «Having a copy of the expertise on the envelope carried out by the scientific police with the part behind and every single letter annexed, we were able to unequivocally identify the magazine, comparing the front part of every single clipping with the back part.» Although the weekly in 1984 recorded an average circulation of 667,553 copies sold (Ads data), it was very difficult to find the number 51: «We bought entire collections of various weeklies. A search that lasted a couple of years,» admitted Cochi. An enormous effort that will hopefully bear fruit.
«Dear sweet waters, I do not know you anymore: my childhood dream is ended here.» – Z and E of “acque” are the last letters on the Monster’s letter received by the Italian Authority in Florence in 1985. They were taken together with the only entire word pasted on the envelope from the same pages of the magazine Gente (picture above)
«DEAR SWEET WATERS…»
Last week, I spoke with historian Pietro Montorfani, who had quoted the article cut out by the Monster and signed “Piero Chiara” in his essay “I thought about it all my life – Piero Chiara and Manzoni”. Montorfani’s note referred to a text published in the collection “If not here, where? Varese’s landscape” by Chiara (Nicolini, 1997), edited by Federico Roncoroni, heir of Chiara’s work.
Contacted by me, Bambi Lazzati, director of the “Amici di Piero Chiara” association, replied breathlessly: «We have a lot of work to do. We are receiving short stories by young students, in these days … and with this mask … ».
Association employees are scrambling aspiring writers’ works sent from all over Italy. Like it was on purpose, “the water” is the theme of the Chiara Giovani award that will keep the jury occupied in the coming months.
Lazzati called the curator of Chiara’s books. «I read the article “Dear sweet waters …” directly in the magazine Gente,» Roncoroni recalled. «Later I found a copy of Chiara’s article among the clippings kept in his Archive.»
Stumbled upon that essay, now lost among papers in the Lombard writer’s archive, he inserted it in “If not here, where? The landscape of Varese”, a collection of pieces «conceived to testify the great affection that bound the writer to Varese and its surroundings.»
Chiara’s text expresses a deep attachment to “his” lake. «Chiara was very close to Lago Maggiore and to the places where he spent the youth to which he always returned after each trip,» Roncoroni recalled. «It is no coincidence that many of his novels and short stories have those places as a backdrop, and it is needless to specify that those places are places of the heart.»
The number of Gente dates back to nine months before the letter to Della Monica was sent, so it is reasonable to assume the magazine was carefully kept for future use. Even the choice of titles for the clippings (one of which is an offensive allusion directed to Della Monica) would seem wisely considered and substantially confirms the inquiry on the common identity of the Monster and the American serial killer Zodiac.
The number 51 of Gente in 1984 was on newsstands in the week of the year which included December 20, a date that, as reported in my inquiry in May 2018, should be symbolic for Zodiac.
On December 20, 1968, the «cipher killer» committed his first double murder in Vallejo. The same day of the following year, he sent a letter to attorney Melvin Belli asking for help. «I’m drowning,» he wrote.
The second occurrence is the Zodiac’s obsession with the water, already mentioned in my inquiry, an element present in the phrase: “Dear sweet waters …”. The Monster selected from the article by Piero Chiara (photo by Gianni Minischetti) more characters than any other, including the final letter pasted on the envelope, that is the “E” of “acque” (waters).
In the late 60s and early 70s, there was a maniac who «attacks couples» and «kills on weekends, near the water» in California wrote Robert Graysmith in the 1986 book “Zodiac” (St. Martin’s Press). Graysmith contributed to the fame of the “Californian” killer who had threatened the people of the San Francisco Bay Area with his murders for a few years.
Zodiac sent about twenty letters containing puzzles and encrypted messages to the press, a lawyer, and a reporter. He plagiarized his name from the brand “Zodiac”, a watch enterprise whose advertising hype was focused on its articles for divers, especially the Sea Wolf. The serial killer disappeared from the United States in 1974 claiming 37 murders and signing his farewell with a verse on suicide by drowning taken from Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado”. Thus concluded a dense correspondence in which the references to the water are numerous.
The signatures left by Zodiac and the Monster (also in crimes) present a series of affinities and analogies that do not end in the occurrences above, even if these are the most obvious. Both attacked couples at lover’s lanes, preferably before midnight and on weekends, trying to keep media attention high on themselves. Furthermore, the letter mailed to Della Monica has two other peculiarities in common with Zodiac’s “literary style”: the missing of a double consonant and use of the hyphen.
San Giorgio washing machines (“lavatrici”) and household’s advertisement – The word “Wash” was a reference that Zodiac used a few times instead of the water. At the bottom, the complete list of references to the water and “wash” by the killer
DELLA MONICA’S REQUEST TO SEARCH ABROAD
At the beginning of the 1980s, the hypothesis that the Monster of Florence had emigrated to Italy was not considered by investigators science fiction. Prosecutor Silvia Della Monica, the recipient of the Monster’s letter, asked the Carabinieri and police to ask the Interpol to check the existence abroad of criminal episodes that were “analogous for modus operandi” to the attacks of the “Tuscan” serial killer. It was July 3, 1982.
The results of the investigations were not made public, but the range of research set by the prosecutor investigating the crimes excluded Zodiac, limiting itself to the crimes that occurred after 1970. Indeed, the last crime officially attributed to the “enigmatic killer” dates back to 11 October 1969, although his parting letter after a three-year interval was sent on January 29, 1974.
The investigations that could have led abroad were abandoned.
Concomitantly with Della Monica’s request to consult Interpol, the crimes of the Monster were linked to a double murder of 1968 that occurred in Lastra a Signa and for which the husband of one of the victims, Sardinian bricklayer Stefano Mele, had been convicted. On July 20, 1982, the investigators found five bullets and five shell casings belonged to the Monster among the records of the trial against Mele. They were stored in the archives at the Clerk’s office in the Florence Court’s building, where they would have been since April 1, 1974. This was not the place where they should have been, but the evidence room.
Italian actor Albertazzi: “I wish I was a woman” – The Monster wrote “Dott.” (male) instead of the correct “Dott.ssa” (female) in his letter. Dott. and Dott.ssa are titles that precede graduates’ names in the formal communications in Italy.
INVESTIGATIONS AND TRIALS
The Monster had no fear of the “Sardinian” lead. He sanctioned his indifference with the blood of the other six victims in the Florentine summer nights of 1983, 1984, and 1985, making the police release the suspects of 1968 one after the other, before concluding his grim sequence of murders with the letter mailed to Della Monica. The investigating judge Mario Rotella accepted the reality. Defendants Piero Mucciarini, Giovanni Mele, and brothers Francesco and Salvatore Vinci were acquitted on December 13, 1989.
The last real prosecuted “Monster” was Pietro Pacciani, a farmer from Mercatale in Val di Pesa. Pacciani died on February 22, 1998, before the second appeal. After being sentenced at first instance, he had been acquitted of all charges in 1996 and then remanded for further judgment by the Cassation. The two alleged accomplices, Giancarlo Lotti and Mario Vanni, were definitively sentenced in 2000.
Last summer, a piece of news leaked from the Prosecutor’s Office saying Paride Minervini, ballistic expert of attorney Luca Turco, the prosecutor in charge of investigations on the Monster, had found traces of falsification in one of the decisive evidence against Pacciani, a .22 caliber cartridge, brand Winchester “H series”, found in a stake in his kitchen garden.
Zodiac Sea Wolf advertisement
According to reports drawn up by the police, at the time of his disappearance Zodiac must have been a stout, stocky built forty years old man possibly with a prominent stomach, about 5.8’ in height. Contrasting comments on hair color. One of the surviving victims saw it light brown, one other, dark brown, for other witnesses it was reddish-brown. Contradictions suggested the killer had disguised himself in all the attacks, as he stated in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle mailed on November 9, 1969.
Two Department of Justice’s reports in 1970 and 1971 by the agent Mel Nicolai accused Zodiac of six homicides committed in California between 1966 and 1969. For detective Dave Toschi and other American investigators he had slaughtered a girl in Riverside, killed a taxi driver in San Francisco, and attacked three couples at lover’s lanes in Vallejo and Lake Berryessa.
On September 14, 1974, two teenagers were killed at the Fontanine di Rabatta, in Mugello, Italy, a few months after the last official Zodiac’s written communication. It is the first ascertained crime of the “couples maniac” of Florence, one of his three attacks officially unsolved.
Envelope sent by Zodiac to Melvin Belli postmarked December 20, 1969
List of references to water by Zodiac
1. Riverside, October 30, 1966 (the city where the murder was committed);
2. Dive watch Zodiac Sea Wolf, 1967 (advertisement);
3. Lake Herman Road, Vallejo, December 20, 1968 (crime location);
4. Blue Rock Springs, Vallejo, July 4, 1969 (crime location);
5. Springs Road and Tuolumne Street (oil and gas station Joe’s Union), Vallejo, July 5, 1969 (phone booth location);
6. «Water hose», August 4, 1969 (letter);
7. Lake Berryessa, September 27, 1969 (crime location);
8. «I am drownding (sic)», December 20, 1969 (letter);
9. «Blue meannies (sic)», “Yellow submarine” (movie on The Beatles), April 20, 1970 (letter);
10. «I was swamped out by the rain», April 20, 1970 (letter);
11. «I shall listen to their pleass for water (sic)», July 26, 1970 (letter);
12. «I am crack (instead of water) proof», October 5, 1970 (postcard);
13. «By fire, by gun, by knife, by rope (on the cover he copied there was also “by water” which here is omitted)», October 27, 1970, Halloween card (based on the cover of Tim Holt No. 30, discovery by Tahoe27 here);
14. «I am crack (instead of water) proof», March 13, 1971 (letter);
15. «Blue meannies (sic)», “Yellow submarine“, March 13, 1971 (letter);
16. «He plunged himself into the billowy wave and an echo arose from the suicides grave» (a “death by water”, excerpt from “The Mikado” by William S. Gilbert and Arthur S. Sullivan), January 29, 1974 (last signature).
List of references to “wash”:
1. Washing line (link), September 27, 1969 (evidence);
2. Car wash (link), September 27, 1969 (phone booth location);
3. Washington Street, October 11, 1969 (crime scene);
4. «Washington street», October 13, 1969 (letter);
5. «I just washed my pen», November 8, 1969 (greetings card).