By Francesco Amicone
May 19-21, 2018 – Edited translation of the story originally published on tempi.it.
The voyeur, the Sardinians, and the farmer
Sant’Angelo is a hamlet on the edge of Calenzano and Sesto Fiorentino: very few houses surrounded by fields and mountains. Not far from there, in a rural crossroads of the only way that goes around the valley, an inscription on a stone cross recalls two names: Susanna Cambi and Stefano Baldi. They were a young couple from Calenzano used to withdraw in the evening on the edge of an olive grove. On the night of October 22, 1981, they were shot to death by the man who went down in history as the “Monster of Florence”, a brutal murderer who killed at least seven young couples in the Florentine countryside with a .22 caliber gun between 1974 and 1985 (here’s an explanation of why I do not mention the 1968 case TLN).
More than thirty years have passed since those crimes, but the flowers at the foot of the cross that reminds Susanna and Stefano are still fresh. «It’s nice that people haven’t forgotten about Susanna and Stefano,» comments Edoardo Orlandi in front of their memorial. Orlandi was already a researcher of the “Monster” case before becoming a criminologist at the University of Florence. Like many Tuscans born in the ’80, Orlandi grew up in an environment where the serial killer became an integral part of the history of the city through the trials of the ’90. None of which came to any definitive truth about the main perpetrator of the murders. «Very few Florentines believe that the Monster has never really been identified,» notes Orlandi.
Crazy and wily
Law enforcement officers do not immediately understand that they are facing a serial killer. «Only the morning after the Calenzano crime – Orlandi recalls – the Florentine people realize that there was a homicidal maniac who goes hunting for alone couples on moonless nights. And that time the murderer also frightened the Tuscan public opinion which, in a somewhat picturesque way, to play down, had called him “Cicci, the monster of Scandicci”.»
From October 22, 1981, what a few months earlier seemed to have been the work of a schizophrenic drifter takes on new meaning. «The inhabitants of Florence are faced with a socially organized person, whose disturbances, however serious, allow him to act in a cold and lucid manner,» Orlandi explains. He was a madman, not a schizophrenic. The police now faced something that in Italy, before then, had only been seen in movies. An American-style serial killer. One of the shrewdest minds that Italian investigators have ever found themselves fighting and also, the criminologist stresses, «one of the very few serial killers who have been successful.»
From the day he committed the Calenzano crime and for five long years, the “maniac” armed with a torch, pistol, and knife, who had nothing in common with the Florentine or Italian chronicles, became the main news of the local newspapers.
A “provincial” killer
«Although he’s called the Monster of Florence – Orlandi recalls – the crimes claimed by the homicidal maniac never took place in the city but in the neighboring villages.» Borgo San Lorenzo, Scandicci, Calenzano, Galluzzo, Vicchio, Baccaiano, Falciani. These are the names of the crime locations chosen by the serial killer. «These are small courtyards, where the chatter about the crimes quickly made the rounds of the bars,» the criminologist says. This created many problems.
Enzo Spalletti, an ambulance driver, was the first man who pays for a slip of his tongue. Spalletti practiced a “sport” very popular in the province of Florence in the eighties: spying on couples sitting alone in their cars. During the night, dozens of people searched the countryside of Florence to find couples who made love in their car. They lurked along the rows of cypresses, in the acacia woods, armed with infrared binoculars and microphones to caught couples in their privacy. Many of them met in the Chianti taverns the following day to exchange photographs and audio recordings.
«On the morning of 7 June 1981, Spalletti hoed his vegetable garden, then went to his favorite bar, where he told the patrons that he had seen the bodies of the two victims of Scandicci. He was immediately arrested». How did it end? «Three months later the killer struck again in Calenzano, leading to the release of Spalletti and virtually announcing to the Florentines: “You are facing a real serial killer, not a voyeur”. The Monster would continue to claim his crimes with the same gun also in the following years, freeing one by one all the suspects sent in prison by the pre-trial judges. «He would only stop in 1985 when no one was jailed for his murders. It’s like he wanted to say to the police: “I don’t need your help”,» Orlandi observes.
The so-called “Sardinian lead” ended up in a general acquittal, in 1989. Seven years earlier, about July 20, 1982, the detectives began to follow the track left by the Monster from bullets and shells found in a case-file of a double murder near Florence accrued in a “Sardinian” environment (Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco – August 22, 1968). The marks on the shells were identical to those found on the crime scenes of the serial killer from 1974 onwards. The man convicted for the crime of ‘68, Barbara Locci’s husband, Stefano Mele, was in prison in 1974, however.
You can have doubts about the authorship of the crime of 1968, «but as regards Mele’s responsibility – recalls Orlandi – it is a fact that Locci’s husband had been found with the fat spread on his hands, the morning after the crime. Mele – continues the criminologist – has never been able to give a reason for what appeared to the investigators of the time as a banal attempt to deceive the paraffin glove (test to which Mele was positive).» Mele charged himself with the crime, then accused acquaintances. Finally, he was sentenced. Beginning in 1982 it was therefore thought that the serial killer might somehow have had access to the gun used in the ‘68 murders and used it later. All the people who may have participated in the ‘68 crime were arrested one by one: Francesco Vinci, Piero Mucciarini, Giovanni Mele. Salvatore Vinci was also arrested with another excuse. Nothing was found.
From the real killer to Pietro Pacciani
Who is really the “couple maniac”? What personality is hidden behind the mask he wears for his audience? The Monster, according to Orlandi, «most likely appears as a normal person, otherwise, it would not be explained why it has never been possible to identify him up to now.» «He is a person with two lives – the criminologist explains – in the normal one, he is a citizen like the others, in the secret one, he is the maniac of moonless nights.» Perhaps this is one of those very rare cases in which criminologists face someone who embodies the protagonist of Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. The Monster seems to flaunt two faces also in his crimes. «On the one hand, he is the practical, efficient and smart person, self-confident who leaves no traces and clues; on the other one, it is the maniac who takes very high risks to respect his crazy rituals and challenge investigators,» Orlandi says.
The criminological expertise of a team of the University of Modena drawn up by Francesco De Fazio, Ivan Galliani, Salvatore Luberto in 1984 describes the Monster as “methodical”, “systematic”, “cautious”, “astute”. However, the experts point out that the Monster suffers from a serious psychic pathology, which reaches the peak of the acute phase when he kills. «The exceptional nature of this serial killer – underlines Orlandi, paraphrasing the expertise of the University of Modena – is that he completes his ambushes in a situation of strong emotional charge. Yet, in this phase of acute psychosis, he is capable of modulating strength, approaching victims in silence, shooting and hitting, moving bodies, and mutilating them. He also managed to quickly change weapons and torch in the dark. All this without making mistakes.»
«The Monster – Orlandi concludes – is a maniac who moves between Mugello and Chianti with the same security as a hitman.»
A man light years away from the depicted suspect was the result of the “super-computer” screening with which the Florence prosecutor led by Pier Luigi Vigna comes to Pietro Pacciani.
Where are the killer’s “souvenirs”?
In 1990, the Florence Police Anti-Monster Squad (SAM) was still looking for the manic perpetrator of the seven double murders that occurred in the Florentine countryside between 1974 and 1985. A few years earlier, in an anonymous letter, an alleged Monster had warned the investigators: «You won’t take me if I don’t want to … I’m very close to you.» Authentic Monster’s letter or not, it confirmed the impression of the SAM agents. The killer had always been one step ahead of them. As if he knew their moves in advance. Besides, why hadn’t the fake couples, the police and Carabinieri blocks, the investigation, or the arrests been able to stop him? What had given the Monster the security to be able to challenge the city and the police, always acting in the same period, every year, for five consecutive years? How had he managed to plan his crimes in an area on high alert, strewn with Chianti and Mugello with euphemistic signs “Danger: risk of aggressions”? How was it possible that, despite the precautions and resources used, despite the 300 million Lire bounty (300.000 $) – the only one ever issued by the Italian State – the killer had escaped capture?
So, when Florentines discovered that the main suspect of the Florence Prosecutor’s Office was Pierino Pacciani, a peasant, the “young wicked boy” whose minstrel Giubba sang at village fairs for his crime of passion of 40 years before, people shake their heads. It will take all the efforts of the mass media to make it possible for a larger minority of Florentines to accept that Vampa (blaze) – as he was nicknamed in the village – is the icy murderer who had terrorized the city for shine and from whom the citizens still feel threatened. But the prosecutors led by Vigna were certain: Pacciani was the Monster.
When investigations into Pacciani begin, Ruggero Perugini, Sam’s chief, has just returned from Quantico, home of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit – the world specialists in the “serial murder” discipline. Roy Hazelwood, the guru of the unit, had warned the Italian detective: «If you find these trinkets, it means that you have found the killer.» Hazelwood had shown Perugini some objects that criminals like the Monster of Florence jealously guard. Criminologists call it “booty”. These are the personal belongings of the victims that serial killers steal to remember and claim their murders. To date, nothing of the sort has ever been found.
It had been the voyeur’s turn, then the Sardinians’ one. The defendant, this time, was a son and grandson of sharecroppers. His red face well known in San Casciano testified that the farmer had nothing of the cold and wily serial killer. At the trial, one of the witnesses would say that you could mistake him for the «god Bacchus» if you observed him serving wine at a Festa dell’Unità in the 1980s. Yet the prosecution had made a commitment to find someone who would tell something compatible with the accusatory picture (a serial murderer, calm, lucid, and above all sober). Maybe Pacciani terrified someone in San Casciano? Not even this. It was discovered that the Vampa had not only given them (the beatings) but he had also taken many, and many: a beating in 1951 by Giampiero Vigilanti, former French legionary of Prato; many handbags from “Cinzia”, a prostitute who walked between the Via Scopeti and Cassia, in San Casciano, near the Florence American Cemetery; a few slaps from the gamekeeper Gino Bruni, whom Pacciani had threatened with a pitchfork. These stories, however, appear to be more authentic than the “scientific” analyzes of Pacciani’s “secret” personality which was shown in the newspapers during the trial period.
The former Florence attorney general, Piero Tony – who represented the accusation against Pacciani in the appeal trial- asked for Pacciani’s acquittal and obtained it. Twenty years later, he still has the same idea about Vampa’s guilt as his lawyers Rosario Bevacqua and Pietro Fioravanti: «Pacciani was a man who committed many crimes in his life, but he was not the Monster,» Tony says.
The former Florence attorney general has always criticized the method that the Public Prosecutor’s Office decided to use to arrive at the identity of the Monster: «The mechanism by which attention was focused on Pacciani – says Tony – was the following: between many things, it was assumed that the serial killer had attracted someone’s attention; then, that he had a dirty criminal record and was resident in the province of Florence.» «Pacciani – continues the former prosecutor – had been reported by an anonymous letter, had a criminal record (he had killed a man in 1951 and had abused his daughters for years), lived in San Casciano and was not in jail when the Monster had killed. It was therefore deduced that Pacciani could be the serial killer.» «This mechanism – explains Tony – has not been fully respected. According to the parameters that the investigators had given themselves the name of Pacciani must have been off the list of suspects. For two reasons: he did not respect – at all – the profile drawn up by criminologists; at the time of the crimes he was not healthy (he had suffered a heart attack).»
The “hunchback” bullet
For some reason, the idiom “farmer: big shoes and clever mind” was heralded by the press lined up with the Public Prosecutor’s Office as an indication of guilt in a serial murder case. It was forgotten that the syllogism made all people with work boots and an above-average IQ suspicious. Not just the farmers. But also – for example – the man from whom Pacciani felt “persecuted”. It was this «long-legged intellectual» who had prevented him from entering the house of an old fortune-teller in the village. Or the mysterious man who stalked him in nightmares, the “General of Death”. And also the character in military clothes and with “Mickey Mouse” military boots, which appeared in a drawing by the Chilean artist Christian Olivares, a sketch of a theatrical scenography for the filmmaker Raphael Ruiz that was found in the Vampa’s house.
Pacciani had renamed the work of Olivares: «Dream of fairy science (instead of “science fiction”), summer in San Casciano.» He had put his signature on the bottom and put the painting above the fireplace in the living room. The psychologists heard by the prosecutor’s office did not see in it a denunciation of the Pinochet regime – which in fact it was – but the work of a deranged, a sexual maniac suffering from serious disturbances. The famous critic Vittorio Sgarbi, having heard that the Florence Public Prosecutor’s Office attributed the hand of a follower of Salvador Dalì to Vampa, obviously took the ball for one of his reprimands. The real author – in voluntary exile in the Canaries – sent a fax to La Repubblica, explaining the meaning of drawing to psychologists. Vampa simply shrugged: «I always said I just colored it.»
In early 1993, not even Perugini seemed to be certain of Pacciani’s guilt. While investigating the farmer from San Casciano, the chief of the SAM had publicly appealed to a still faceless serial killer. Perugini had offered him a hand to «get out of the nightmare.» How did the Monster react to the appeal? A few months later, in April, during a search, the detectives found a 22-caliber bullet in the farmer’s garden of Pacciani (this bullet had been forged, a Prosecutor’s Office expertise found out in 2019 – here’s the news TLN).
«A “hunchbacked” nail?» Vampa asked while Perugini showed him the artifact. It was not a “nail”, but a “hunchbacked” bullet, a misshapen cartridge similar to what the Monster had left on crime scenes. Was stuck in a stake in the farmer’s vineyard. Right at the breaking point of a stake broken for less than a week.
It was necessary to wait for the appeal trial for the Court and the Prosecutor to be informed informally by the defense expert, Enrico Manieri, that that bullet was a “fake”: he had been loaded on a weapon other than that of the killer. The conclusion was obvious: someone had wanted to frame Pacciani.
«An infamous column»
«Before the trial, we also received an anonymous letter. A guide rod of a Beretta was attached – Tony says – The author of the letter said that it had been buried by the Vampa, “a devil who enchants the fools on TV”. But even that was an indication of little value, as well as of dubious origin».
Regarding this “gift”, the president of the Court that acquitted Pacciani at the Appeal, Francesco Ferri – a magistrate who continued to be inspired by the books by Alessandro Manzoni and the Verri brothers also at the time of Tangentopoli – observed that if the guide rode was one of the 48 parts of the supposed Beretta that would be buried by Pacciani at various points in the campaign, the prosecutor Paolo Canessa and his team of investigators would have had to unearth another 47 parts before holding the whole proof. «Have you at least found the map?» Ferri ironized in his book “The Pacciani’s trial, an infamous column?”. The accusatory picture that the prosecutor Canessa had brought to court collapsed piece by piece at the Appeal. The accusatory picture that the prosecutor Canessa had brought to the Court collapsed piece by piece in the appeal process. The key testimonies were demolished. The most important was that Giuseppe Bevilacqua, a former agent of the “criminal police” and superintendent of the American Cemetery in Florence at the time of the Monster’s crimes.
Lawyers from the US Embassy in Rome had warned him about Italian justice. Joe – that’s what he called himself – could get into a mess. He benefitted from diplomatic immunity granted for international courtesy to the technical personnel of the American mission, why take the risk?
The Repubblica article “Pacciani was in the woods” by Franca Selvatici, on 7 June 1994, signed also reports that the official of the American Battle Monuments Commission was very busy on 6 June 1994. On the day of his deposition, he would have to go to the D-Day ceremony which also attended by President Bill Clinton. Bevilacqua decided to make his contribution to the inquiry on the serial murders of the couples, despite everything.
“Joe“ told the Court in an Italian-American slang what he had seen near the scene of the Monster’s latest crime, which took place between 6 and 8 September 1985 in Via Scopeti, San Casciano. The place was located 300 meters as the crow flies from the cemetery, where he lived.
In his deposition at the Pacciani trial – the audio recording is available at radioradicale.it – Bevilacqua claims to have seen the French victim Nadine Mauriot in a “black bikini” while sunbathing under the pines of Via Scopeti. He saw her again, the next day, in the place where she would be killed a few hours later. In the same period of time, he spotted a man whom he then recognized as Pacciani about 500 hundred meters. He was walking at the edge of the woods, near a path that led to the crime scene. The dogs, Bevilacqua claims, barked fiercely that night.
The superintendent of the Florence American Cemetery says he doesn’t know Pacciani. At that point, a dispute arises over the height of Vampa which leads to a confrontation between the accuser and the accused. The two are brought together. They huddle. The scene ended with the astonished words of the counselor Bevacqua: «They are very similar, Your Honor!». Pacciani’s lawyer highlighted how difficult it could be to distinguish two unknown people who look alike. When Bevilacqua then insists on claiming that he learned of the murders since the following morning of the crime (the news had not yet been released), his memory is believed to be flawed. That’s where it ends.
After a first condemnation, the Vampa was acquitted: «Pacciani – judge Ferri writes – is condemned at first instance without the necessary proofs, on the basis of dialectical tricks, obvious illogicality, speculations, and mere invectives». Ferri resigned as a judge in controversy with the magistrate order and calling the entire trial of Pacciani “an infamous column “. The acquittal will be canceled by the Cassation Court, but the farmer will die before a second appeal trial, on February 22, 1997.
The companions of snacks
Giancarlo Lotti, called “Katanga”, did not go back even when he was wrong. The fact that he did not even have a primary school certificate is one of the reasons why he had to beg for food and accommodation on a daily basis. However, at fifty he still said: «The school is useless.» Lotti would not go back on his decisions, not even on the testimony on the alleged “monsters” of Florence.
At the beginning of 1996, Pacciani was about to be acquitted, the State – usually absent in this case – arrived at Lotti’s house (that is, from the priest who hosts him) offering him real accommodation and a salary. In return, Katanga had only one thing to do: become the famous witness who defeated the Monster of Florence. Lotti knew Pacciani. He knew he was a violent individual. And then he was stingy: he had never given him a penny in his life. This is how Lotti, who had no money for gasoline or wine, accepted and began to “sing”.There is a reason why Katanga is the Beta and not the Alpha witness: his testimony is later than that of his friend of “tours”, Fernando Pucci. The Alfa witness, Pucci, is the origin of the theory of the “Companions of snacks”.
In January 1996, Pucci reported to the SAM led by Michele Giuttari at the time that he and his friend Lotti had seen Pacciani in Scopeti on September 8, 1985. They were driving in Lotti’s (uninsured) car. They had stopped at the pitch where the French were to urinate, then – Pucci recalled – he felt one, two shots, and went to see that he was there. In the video filmed at the trial, the images following the moment when Pucci told this story, focus on his friend Katanga, in the Court House, who raised his hand and said: «I told Fernando those things.» The story that Pucci has just told was invented: it was not at Scopeti. And Pucci himself immediately confirmed the words of his friend: «Yes, Lotti told me about these things.» It was now clear to the whole Court that the certificate of oligophrenia (or dementia) of the Tuscany Region that Pucci had exhibited before testifying had been given to him for a reason.
Former prosecutor Tony comments on the decision to bring Alfa and Beta to trial as follows: «Let’s forget Pucci, who – poor fellow – had a mental illness. I remember, however, that when Lotti’s name came out, the priest who had him in charge called to the Prosecutor’s Office to warn us not to listen to him.» Yet, Beta would be the pillar (the only one, after Alfa’s exploit) of the theory of the so-called “Companions of snacks”, a group composed of the farmer Pacciani, the illiterate Lotti and the postman Mario Vanni, called Torsolo, who would have killed the couples.
«Neither Torsolo nor Katanga knew how to shoot,» Tony observes, «and none of them had the physique or mind of the serial killer. Not even Pacciani.» None of them, in the dark, with a demijohn of red wine in their stomachs, could have hit to death two young germans, Horst Wilhelm Meyer and Jens-Uwe Rüsch, through the plates of a Volkswagen minibus, on September 9, 1983.
«Lotti has made several mistakes in reconstructing the dynamics of the murders – concludes Tony -. Sometimes his lies are hateful. Like when on the ‘84 crime, in which Pia Rontini and Claudio Stefanacci lost their lives, he says that the girl died screaming and moaning. But all the forensic doctors’ reports say that Pia immediately lost consciousness.»
The scientific proof of Lotti’s lies
«It is a historical fact that in the trial of the “Companions of snacks” there was not a single evidence of guilt that supported Lotti’s testimonies”, says Nino Filastò, at the time lawyer of Mario Vanni. But there is scientific evidence to the contrary. One of these was found by a certain “De Gothia”. Behind this nickname hid a brilliant “mostrologist” who for years dedicated himself to the study of the crimes of the Monster, divulging his investigations in publications on the web. De Gothia demolished Lotti’s testimony starting from an image taken by Ennio Macconi, photographer of La Nazione, on June 22, 1982, in the aftermath of the crime “number 4” of the Monster. The photograph captures the victims’ car, kidnapped in the parking lot of the Carabinieri di Signa, and scientifically proves that Lotti simply “copied” the investigators’ version. But he saw nothing.
The Fiat 147 in which Paolo Mainardi and Antonella Migliorini were killed in 1982 had been found by rescuers and law enforcement officers a few minutes after the crime, in a drainage canal that flanked the road, on the opposite side to where the victims had parked. The driver’s door was locked.
The investigators and Lotti have always claimed that the “Companions of snacks” attacked the couple and, therefore, that Paolo, in an attempt to escape, ended up off the road in reverse with the car. Things did not turn out that way. De Gothia promptly dismantles the official reconstruction of the crime, based on the law of gravity. In the photograph taken by Macconi to the car of the victims, a drop of blood appears clearly perpendicular to the ground on the lower part of the driver’s door, at the height of the seal. Blood dripped onto the hull while the car was level and the door was open. The car, however, was found in an oblique position and with the door closed and locked. As the blood thickens in six long minutes, the victims could only have been mortally wounded when the killer had closed the car door. Evidently, concluded De Gothia, it was the Monster, not Mainardi, who had driven the car out of the pitch, making a mistake and ending up in the canal. Angrily throwing the car keys and wasting three bullets – as the Monster did – one per headlight and one on the windshield, after such a slip, was certainly more logical than doing it before having killed the couple in the spot.
Lotti lied. This is scientific proof. Not as objectionable as they were, in the Court’s opinion, the other six testimonies of that evening which contradicted the Beta’s version.
The companions’ motor pool
According to Lotti’s words, he and his acquaintances moved through the streets of Mugello and Chianti with a little fleet of cars to plan and carry out their crimes. «According to Lotti, on the evening of June 19, 1982, two cars were parked along the straight stretch of Via Virginio Nuova,» says Francesco Cappelletti, writer and specialist of the Monster case, «but nobody has seen them. How is it possible?».
Via Virginio is a strip of asphalt that runs for kilometers in the Chianti countryside. The point where Mainardi’s car was found is at the center of a stretch hundreds of meters long and without crossbeams, apart from a closed alley. «And still», Cappelletti comments, «there are five eyewitnesses who did not see the Companions of Snacks’ cars that evening». «The cars the witnesses drove – the writer continues – proceeded from the two opposite directions of the road. They noticed the victims’ Fiat 147 before and after it fell in the canal, but not the two cars described by Lotti. The interval of witnesses’ sighting is a few minutes. If none of them saw one of the Companions of Snacks, nor did they ever cross one of their cars, it is because Lotti lied».
To support the fact that Lotti has told a lie, in addition to the force of gravity and the eyes of the five witnesses who saw the crime scene that evening immediately before and after the aggression, there is a sixth witness, Lorenzo Allegranti, the stretcher bearer who rescued the two victims. Allegranti has always claimed that the boy dying was in the back seat and not on the front seat of the car, where instead he should have been, according to Lotti’s story. Allegranti’s testimony was ignored by the Court which condemned Lotti and Vanni as accomplishes of a supposed Monster (Pietro Pacciani, who died before another trial). The definitive sentence of the Court of Florence transformed the serial killer of the couples, lonely, cold and calculating, who successfully challenged the police, in a grotesque combination of the cultured and secular “black soul” of Florence, and a bunch of patrons from the “Taverna del Diavolo” of Scandicci who killed on the commission of some Masonic lodge.
Italian Authorities in the ’90 and 2000s had gradually passed from an investigation on a murderer on whom all criminological science pointed (and points) to the search of a large community of sinners, without ever reaching the real culprit. It is no coincidence that the only existing “procedural truth” to date is that no one was found definitively guilty as main responsible for the crimes charged to the Monster of Florence. «The serial killer, if he is alive, is still at large,» Cappelletti comments.
The crime of Via Scopeti
Cappelletti was a child when Nadine Mauriot and Jean-Michel Kraveichvili were killed in September 1985 in a plot at Via Scopeti in Falciani. «My friends and I were playing soccer – Cappelletti says -. I still remember the smell of mortadella coming out of the boy’s mouth who told us about the monster’s new and terrible crime.» He also affected the imagination of the little ones, the Monster. «He was a communicator, he liked to scare,» notes Cappelletti. «We children figured him out just like a being with tentacles and many heads.»
Cappelletti lists a series of circumstances that lead to reflection on the Carabinieri and police errors and on the real identity of the serial killer. Nobody was sentenced for six of his murders which are to be considered still officially unsolved. Only Vanni e Lotti, the accomplishes of the alleged Monster Pacciani, were condemned for the remainder. For this reason, the inquiry has never been closed. The latest news dated back July 2017, when it came to public attention that a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office led the Deputy Attorney of Florence Luca Turco and his team of investigators to keep an eye on a former French legionary, Giampiero Vigilanti, and some of his friends.
«The latest crime of the Monster – Cappelletti explains – is very important for investigations. In addition to being the last “official” crime of the serial killer, it is also the only double murder in which the perpetrator has hidden his victims, instead of flaunting them. Why?». This is not the only question concerning the anomalies of the Scopeti attack.
«Nadine Mauriot was a well-off woman in her thirties. Jean-Michel was younger than she. He loved adventure and played drums. They arrived at Via Scopeti on September 6, 1985, and decided to pitch a tent there. For what reason? Had they met anyone? What could they have visited there?»
The only two attractions quickly accessible – using the car – from the pitch where the French had pitched their tent were the American Monumental Cemetery and the house where Machiavelli wrote “The Prince”. Just a single day would have been enough to visit them.
«For no apparent reason Nadine and Jean-Michel stayed for three days in a dirty path, next to a busy road several kilometers away from Florence,» Cappelletti says: «Why?». The answer to this question may be the key to solving the case.
Flies and receipts
Cappelletti notes that none of the objects for the victims’ toilet, in the tent, and in the car, were found. «Any bottles of water or food are listed in the official reports. No toothpaste or toothbrush. They had no soap or deodorant, apparently» Cappelletti remarks.
The seven panties that the Carabinieri list among Nadine’s personal effects demonstrate that she was a clean woman. There was more than one panty for each day of her trip to Italy with Jean-Michel. Was it possible that she had forgotten the necessaire to wash herself and had not bought it? Unless a sensational oversight by the Carabinieri (or an investigative secret) the killer took away every possible element that could be traced back with certainty to the day of the murder. «It would be in agreement – explains Cappelletti – with the concealment of the bodies of the victims.»
The Monster’s cunning was confirmed by the fact that although a mass murder specialist, Professor Francesco De Fazio, had been involved for the first time just on the crime scene of 1985, the killer actually succeeded in the intent to deceive the investigators (and the “witness” Lotti). «A recent investigation by the journalist Paolo Cochi, based on the entomological experts’ observations has shown that the date of the murder of Scopeti is almost certainly wrong through the study of the meat fly larvae photographed on the corpses of the victims a few days after the discovery. Nadine and Jean-Michel were not killed on September 8 – as the prosecution and Lotti claimed in the Companions of snacks’ trial – but one or even two days before.»
«The hypothesis – Cappelletti concludes – is supported by their receipts found among the French’ personal effects. Many have been found, one for each day of their trip to Italy. The most recent attest their presence in Tirrenia, at the La Terrazza restaurant, on Friday morning, and then in Pisa. No receipt was found dating back to Saturday and Sunday». Perhaps because, on the morning of Saturday 7 September, Nadine and Jean-Michel were already dead.
«He came from America»
June 30, 2003. Many hooey about the Monster have been heard. Beta’s lies came to touch a pharmacist of San Casciano, Francesco Calamandrei. In those days, he was under investigation as a phantom “instigator” of the Companions of snacks. All charges would fall, but the final acquittal would not receive much publicity. In this context, in the prison of Pisa “Don Bosco”, the judicial police intercepts a conversation between Vanni, sentenced to life imprisonment for complicity in the crimes of the Monster, and his friend Lorenzo Nesi.
Vanni never mentioned the Monster in a courtroom. At the trial, he limited himself to professing his innocence and getting angry with the judges and prosecutors, appealing first to Mussolini and then to Jesus Christ. When he converses with Nesi, the former employee of the Postal office in San Casciano is already definitively convicted. He has no reason to lie. Speaking with his friend (who tries to make him admit that the Monster is Pacciani) Vanni at one point explodes with a: «But it wasn’t Pacciani!». Torsolo firmly defends Vampa. Nesi is surprised. Then the postman escapes information that had never been heard before. He says: «It was “black”, Ulysses, the American. It was he who killed all 16 of them, that ferocious beast». Nesi is baffled: «Grand hotel stories,» he says. But Vanni confirms: «It’s true: he came from America.»
The prosecutor Paolo Canessa should jump on the chair when he hears this recording. Who the hell is «the American»? As a flash, the investigators return to the double murder of Calenzano on October 22, 1981, to those days when the Italian chronicles are distinguished for the first time by the word “serial killer”. They remember the exclamation of an anonymous detective: «This is an americanata!».
Canessa asks Nesi to deepen. The postman adds nothing more. If he accused Ulysses, he did it because he did not know to be intercepted. When the prosecution asks Vanni about the mysterious American at the Calamandrei’s pre-trial, the postman just repeats the story.
In the aftermath of the wiretapping, the police team led by Michele Giuttari interrogates a Lotti’s acquaintance, Patrizia Ghiribelli, a prostitute, and believe that the American Vanni could have talked about was Mario Parker, an African-American gay fashion designer who stayed in the depandance of Villa “La Sfacciata” at Via Giogoli. «They called him “Uly”,» the very unreliable Ghiribelli says. Parker’s mother would resolutely deny ever hearing that nickname. Besides, Ulysses is not Parker – who died of AIDS in 1996 – and is indicated by the fact that neither Pacciani nor Vanni ever mentioned him when, from the grave, he could no longer scare anyone.
Years go by, the alleged “principals” of the Companions of snacks are acquitted, but there is still the view that the accusatory picture is more or less exact. The journalist Mario Spezi – chronicler of La Nazione who had followed the case of the Florentine maniac since the ‘80s – even ends up in prison, accused of “misdirection”. The vulgate, in the Italian bookstores, television, and press, wants the Monster and the Companions of Snacks are the same things. Only a few experts and citizens insist on refusing that official “truth”.
In 2016, Radford University calculated that most serial killers have above average intelligence and that 67.58 percent of them have a U.S. passport. It is a fact that the Monster was one of the few serial killers targeting secluded couples which represents a very rare case, if not unique, in a Mediterranean country. This was precisely the main problem posed to investigators by the Monster’s crimes. The criminologists who first dealt with the case stressed in unison that it was an enormous anomaly. Anthropologist Tullio Seppilli, interviewed at the time of the second double murder, ascribed it to an Anglo-Saxon origin. News about the maniacs who killed couples can be found by browsing the chronicles of the United States and the Nordic European countries. Not the Italian ones, with the exception of the Monster. What does a lovers’ lane killer have to do with Florence? No wonder then the interest aroused in investigators by Vanni’s enigmatic words of 2003 about the “American” murderer.
Vanni had said something new, but consistent with the anomaly found. Who could be “the man of the wood” who introduced himself to Pacciani as Ulysses?
The myth told Homer’s hero, king of the island of Ithaca, led the Greek troops to victory against the city of Troy thanks to a trick. With the help of the goddess Athena, “shrewd Ulysses” had conceived and built – Homer tells – a huge wooden horse for honoring the Trojan enemies. The Greeks simulated a surrender. The inhabitants of the city rejoicing of the apparent victory, brought the horse inside the walls, not knowing that it hid the Greek soldiers inside. Troy was destroyed. In the second volume dedicated to his exploit, the hero of Ithaca who has won the war faces his men a long journey dotted with misadventures to return home, persecuted by the anger of Poseidon, brother of Zeus and god of the marine abysses. Arriving home, Ulysses massacres the “princes” who threatened his beloved wife Penelope. Finally, the family is reunited.
It is not explainable how Homer’s work could have become part of the chronicles of the “Companions of snacks”, if not because the episode narrated by Vanni is true. What is puzzling about his story, in addition to the fact that it is congruent with the first impressions of the investigators and with the deductions of the criminologists, is that among the nicknames of the semi-illiterate who made up the group of comrades of “tours” (and not only “snacks”) of San Casciano – Vampa, Torsolo and Katanga – the name of Ulysses stands out as a cuckoo in a sparrows’ nest. It cannot be their invention.
In Vanni’s seemingly unrelated story, Ulysses would have handed the gun – the famous Beretta – to the “Prosecutor who matters” and then would have committed suicide, after the meeting with somebody, possibly Pacciani, in the woods and the confession to him that he was the authentic serial killer in Florence. Listening again to the interceptions, the questions raised over the years are roughly the following: Why hadn’t Pacciani ever talked about this story? For fear? About what? If Ulysses was dead, why had no one ever told the investigators anything?
Vampa must have realized that he had made the acquaintance with the most terrible, insane, and cunning man he had ever met in his existence, in that wood of San Casciano on the outskirts of Florence. This man embodied “the evil”, the peasant said. No one would have believed Vampa if he had told the story on their meeting, except for his friend Torsolo, to whom perhaps he did not tell the whole truth. What was Pacciani’s purpose? If you think that one of the shell casing marked by the Monster’s gun sent to the prosecutors would be enough to make Pacciani acquitted, it’s possible to assume that this could have been the farmer’s aim, to ask Ulysses to help him in exchange for his silence.
Everything would have gone smoothly, for Ulysses, in the end, if Vanni had not sung and he had not been identified. But even the American – with his smart mind – could not have known forty years ago that a law of his government would have forced the FBI and the American police offices to make public thousands of documents, pages and pages of investigations that dated back to his first years of activity in the 60s. He could not even predict the advent of the internet, thanks to which that information would be made immediately available to millions of people. Ulysses could not foresee that by the early 2000s, hundreds of websites would start sharing reports, publishing minutes and proceeding transcripts, such as, for example, the insufficienzadiprove.org site on the Monster case since years.
Ulysses wished, but could not have known, that his fame would become worldwide and that the book that in 1986 made an almost anonymous San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist, Robert Graysmith, would become a successful world film twenty years later; a film directed by the Golden Globe David Fincher which would have led thousands of people to become passionate about his puzzles and to follow in his footsteps.
Ulysses, “black”, the American, Zodiac all this could not have known. And he could not expect that, ironically, it would have been a postman to frame him.
A mask behind a mask
«Signed your truley: he plunged himself into the billowy wave and an echo arose from the suicides grave: titwillo, titwillo, tiwillo» is a stanza on a drowning taken from the “Mikado” by William S. Gilbert and Arthur S. Sullivan. It is in a letter that the serial killer known worldwide as “Zodiac” sent to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle on January 24, 1974. The excerpt from the “Mikado” follows the words “sincerely yours”. What did he mean by that? Nobody at the Chronicle nor the Department of Justice could know that the man who has been claiming his murders for six years by letter is about to say goodbye to American “scenes”.
Many things can be said about the Killer dello Zodiaco – as he is improperly called in Italy – except that he had not done the unimaginable to become famous. Starting from 1969, the serial killer who had stolen his signature and the Celtic cross from a brand of divers’ watches, “Zodiac”, sent a deluge of dark and sarcastic letters terrorizing the inhabitants of the San Francisco Bay Area with threats and sinister riddles published in local newspapers. «This is the Zodiac speaking» he announced himself in all his official letters, except the first and last ones. Misspelling and grammatical errors were part of his literary, sarcastic, and somber style. «Like I always said I am crack-proof,» the criminal joked in 1971, when no one had yet managed to decipher his identity. At the time, he claimed to have already killed 17 people. Surely he had attacked three couples and a taxi driver. Five were the confirmed dead.
When it all began, on July 31, 1969, journalists from the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner, and the Vallejo Times-Herald did not believe that the murderer who in his letters threatened to kill someone if they did not give him the front page, seemed unlikely. The self-proclaimed murderer had written: «To prove I killed them I shall state some facts which only I & the police know.» The killer demanded that the newspapers publish his ciphertext, otherwise he would «cruse around and pick of all stray people or coupples that are alone then move on to kill some more untill I have killed over a dozen people.» In the end, it was proved that the author of the letters did not lie about the claims. He was really the author of the attacks against two couples in Vallejo. In the three parts of code, he sent to the three newspapers – cracked by two teachers, the spouses Donald and Bettye Harden – the killer explained that he had «much fun» in killing human beings and claimed that his victims would serve him in «paradice». The last 18 characters of the text were not deciphered.
In late 1969, to prevent imitators from trying to steal his glory, Zodiac attached some evidence of his latest crime.
The climax of the confrontation between Zodiac and those who hunted him was reached on October 11, 1969, when in a rich residential area in the center of San Francisco, after shooting to death the taxi driver Paul Stine with a bullet in the neck, the killer took time to cut the victim’s shirt and slowly move away from the crime scene on Washington Street. Not even two minutes passed. A heavy built man with a paunchy stomach and thick-rimmed glasses stood out on his nose – and a face that was later referred to as “normal” by witnesses – was stopped by a police car with spread sirens.
An SFPD agent asked the man if he has seen an individual who looks suspicious, armed, running somewhere in the last five minutes. The man answered without hesitation something like: “Of course, he went over there.” What usually happens in the movies happened here: the policemen thanked the villain and followed his false indication. The “normal” man continued to walk slowly, disappearing in the Presidio military reservation, «never to be seen again.»
When Zodiac took off his reddish-brown wig, he still carried the bloody shred of Paul Stine’s shirt, which he would later send to the Chronicle. The anecdote is Zodiac himself to report it. The police confirm the episode. The SFPD agents justify themselves explaining that «the description received from communication was that of a negro man.» Since then it has been a pursuit that is not ended yet.
To gain the front page, Zodiac goes even further, threatening to blow up a school bus with a bomb. Then, around December 20, someone who says he is Zodiac phones the lawyer Melvin Belli’s home asking for him, but he is not there. «I can’t wait – the killer explains to Belli’s secretary – today’s my birthday.» He raises the level of the challenge inviting the “pigs” of the SFPD to decipher the 13 symbols with which his name was composed. His unique “fingerprints” left on the correspondence are his sarcasm and perfidy, strange misspelling like “cid” instead of “kid” together with words in which the presence of the hyphen and a missing double consonant (disap-eared, dif-icult, discon-ect) is contextual.
To find Zodiac, many government agencies are called to cooperate in the case, the lives of hundreds of people are probed. It is very likely that Zodiac has a background in the army. His ciphers? Except for the first one, they have not found any solution. The killer left no many traces or clues at the crime scenes that could lead to his identification, apart from his partial handprints, bootprints 12 inches long. However, he was seen in Vallejo, San Francisco, and on Lake Berryessa. Eyewitnesses disagree just on his hair color. They told the police he has light brown almost blond, dark brown, reddish hair. He is described as a robust individual, about 5’ 8’’ tall, and with a big stomach.
In 1974, the sheriff’s office of three counties and two police departments, the Department of Justice, Paul Avery, reporter of the Chronicle, and cartoonist Robert Graysmith are on the trail of Zodiac. He has got what it wants: fame.
Since 1971 the Bay Area killer had already become “Scorpio” in a film by Inspector Callaghan, Dirty Harry. Hollywood already had it as an archetype of the enigmatic serial killer. Cunning, intelligence, and cold-bloodedness made him counterbalance the cowardice and wickedness of his crimes. He was the perfect “villain”.
A personality full of poisonous spines, that of Zodiac, who had shown few nuances of humanity: the passion for challenges and for books, for example. His latest body count stands at 37 claimed victims. In the spring of 1974, he still sent two sarcastic letters, signed as anonymous “citizen” and “friend”. The super-wanted murderer disappears. He is not dead as well as in jail. He did not regret but just changed the nation.
Two killers, one person
When on the morning of September 15, 1974, at the Fontanine di Rabatta, a pitch thousands of kilometers away from the American west coast, the Carabinieri found themselves in front of the bodies of Stefania Pettini and Pasquale Gentilcore, nobody knows yet that the perpetrator of the crime is a serial killer. The holes of the .22 handgun that the man used to shoot the teenagers are so small as to make one think of an awl. Stefania survived to bullets and was tortured ninety times with the tip of the blade. Then she was killed with four stab wounds. The violence used against her is such cruel as it was a crime of passion. But it turns out that, of those stabbed, most are superficial. It is in a state of acute psychosis that the killer pierced her body several times with the blade. After killing Stefania, he left her body naked on the lawn, with her legs apart and a vine shoot in her vagina. The maniac folded her clothes, as if they were those ones collected in the laundry that day by Pasquale, and left them a few meters away from the body.
That killer seven years later will become the “Monster of Florence”.
«I spray them like it was a water hose,» Zodiac wrote on August 4, 1969, to the San Francisco Chronicle. Like Zodiac, the Monster shoots the male victim before the female one. If things went as the investigators reconstructed, the Italian serial killer would also have had the opportunity, in 1985, to demonstrate that he did not shoot “at random” but that he “wanted” to shoot like that. In fact, he centered in the dark and from several meters away Jean-Michel Kraveichvili, the young French victim, while he was running away.
The style of shooting is not the only similar thing that is shared by the two serial killers. By opening the book Zodiac by Robert Graysmith, in the final pages dedicated to the modus operandi of the Californian killer, you can see how difficult it is to distinguish them. You can read in fact – in English, because the book has never been translated into Italian – that the American serial killer preferably killed secluded couples, on weekends or public holidays, before midnight, on new moon nights, with .22 or 9 mm handguns. In his kit, he had also a knife and a torch. What does the Monster do? Use a kit identical to that of Zodiac and do the same things, target the same victims, in the same way. The only exception is the genital mutilation of female victims by the Monster. But it is not really an exception, it will turn out.
At the Fontanine in Mugello, as well as at Lake Berryessa and Riverside in California, the attacks also tell the same story: the two killers inflicted numerous stab wounds of a few centimeters deep on the female victims. The three reports – which have so far never been compared – on Chery Jo Bates, Cecilia Ann Sheppard, and Stefania Pettini’s deaths all speak of numerous “superficial” cuts. Many of the wounds on American victims have a depth of no more than one or two centimeters. As for Pettini, De Fazio goes so far as to compare the dozens of superficial stab wounds inflicted by the murderer as an attempt to «test the resistance of the flesh.»
The Monster would start mutilating the girls’ bodies since 1981. It is unknown whether Zodiac, as such, ever mutilated a victim. It is not known. If anything, it is true that the Monster has fulfilled the threat that Zodiac made, in Riverside, in a letter dated November 29, 1966, sent to the local newspaper and to the police chief: «But I shall cut off her female parts and deposit them for the whole city to see». Finally, Zodiac and the Monster prefer to use military boots in their crimes. Perhaps, however, no one would have ever suspected that the Monster was more than a perfect imitator of an American serial killer, if Ulysses had managed to resist the temptation to communicate to everyone that the Monster is really him, Zodiac.
The water theory
It was one of the first oddities that investigators noticed in the crimes and missives of Zodiac. In Graysmith’s book, it is cited as the “theory of water”. The former Chronicle cartoonist notes that the serial killer was obsessed with water. For example, he always killed or may have killed near places that recall it: Lake Herman Road, Lake Berryessa, Wash-ington street near Lake Street, Lake Tahoe, Riverside.
Graysmith does not go further, but it turns out analyzing the letters that in all there is an important reference to water (see the complete list here TLN): the Zodiac watch brand, famous at the time in the United States for its diving products such as the Sea Wolf; his play of words, «Like I have always said I am “crack-proof”» he says alluding to the word “water-proof”; the sarcasm about his mental insanity, «help me, I am drownding»; the storm that ruined his plans for the school bus bomb, «I was swamped out by the rain»; the glass of water that he would have denied to his slaves in the afterlife, «they pleass me for water»; the police enemies nicknamed as the villains of the Beatles’ “Yellow submarine” movie, the “blue meanies”; his method of shooting, «all I had to do was spray them as if it was a water hose»; his final signature which is a mention of a drowning in the “Mikado” by Gilbert & Sullivan with which he concludes his official correspondence with the Chronicle: «He plunged himself into the billowy wave…».
The fact that in 1974 the man nicknamed Ulysses – the source of inspiration for all sea wolves – who recently arrived from the United States committed a double crime in a lovers’ lane near the Sieve river, in a place called Le Fontanine, it is indicative. Even the term “black” used by Vanni (who seems to have confused it with the color of the skin), in Greek, means “water”.
EDIT: At the time of writing this article (2018) the issue of the weekly from which the Monster extracted the clippings to compose the address on the envelope sent to Silvia Della Monica had not yet been discovered by researcher Valeria Vecchione with the help of Paolo Cochi (2020). It would be found out that the single full word pasted on the envelope referred to a water-themed title and that the last few letters of the envelope had been cut out of the same title. The Z and E of “acque” (waters).
While a dozen agents were on his trail, the last thing Ulysses could have had in his mind to do in Florence in 1974 was to flaunt the fact that a serial killer had just arrived from America. Stopping to claim his crimes for some time was only a sign of shrewdness, not mental health. Perhaps, ten years later he decided that the double crime of 1985 was the last one for the same reason. In the United States, Graysmith’s book had just come out, which had brought Zodiac’s “deeds” of the 60s to renewed fame. In 1986, Ulysses knew that Italian investigators had asked for FBI advice. He was wanted for too many murders, searched by too many detectives, and too much famous. If it had occurred to someone to put the two cases together – as it happened in the end – it would have been a problem for him.
Maybe Ulysses stopped and stopped killings. Or maybe he stopped being recognized. He certainly continued to play with his “enemies”, as he did in his only official letter, that of September 9, 1985, addressed to the deputy district attorney in Florence Silvia Della Monica.
On September 8, 1985, Ulysses decided to communicate with the investigators by post for the first time. If known in depth the Zodiac case, at that time almost dismissed, in the United States, and studied the composition of the address on the envelope sent to Della Monica, what the forensic psychiatrists of the University of Modena and the agents of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit glimpsed would have been the unmistakable trace of the “Californian” serial killer.
On the envelope are the postage stamp (Castello di Serravalle, 1980), the recipient’s name and address. There are four lines made up of clippings of capital letters from a weekly. Here is the text:
Della Monica Silvia
Procura della Repubbli-
ca 50I00 Firenze”
The translation reads: “Dr. Della Monica Silvia, Public Prosecutor’s Office 50100 Florence”. The content is a fragment of Nadine Mauriot’s subcutaneous tissue in cellophane covered by a folded card. In those three lines and in that 2-centimetre-square flap of flesh, there are all the main features of the Zodiac correspondence: a mistake in a double consonant, a hyphene, and an accompanying proof of the crime. Indeed, four. Because in the letter to the lawyer Melvin Belli of December 20, 1969 there is also the title of “Mr”, which is missing from all those sent to the police and the press. If Zodiac’s fingerprint is water, and his signature is modus operandi, this is his literary style.
«But there is more glory in killing a cop than a cid because a cop can shoot back,» Zodiac wrote on his letter sent on April 20, 1970. A cid can’t shot him. Maybe the killer meant kid. Or maybe just “cid”, that is “Criminal Investigation Division” agent, the investigative unit of the U.S. Army, like the 5th CI battalion, a detachment of the Military Police that until 9 June 1969 was based in Camp Darby (Pisa).
The second solution could suggest that Ulysses was just a “cid”, who was «an interim person with respect to the police mechanism and therefore always perfectly aware of everything that moved in that environment,» as the attorney Filastò has always claimed.
If true, the “man in uniform” theory with a dual personality would justify in part how Ulysses was able to deceive two entire nations for half a century. Alone he managed to mock the Italian and American police, the Carabinieri, Prosecutor of Florence, secret services, CIA, NSA, FBI, and – of course – his work colleagues and his family. It would be useful, however, at this point that some of his “compaesani” would take him by the hand and ask him to admit that the “game” is over.