In between 1968 and 1985, an unknown serial killer stalked the rural lovers’ lanes outside of the Tuscan city of Florence. His trademark weapon was a .22-caliber pistol. His M.O. involved creeping up on unsuspecting couples who were either sleeping or making love inside of parked cars or camper vans. The male was always dispatched with multiple gun shots, while the female victim was submitted to post-mortem mutilation that was always sexual in nature.
Known as the “Monster of Florence,” this lust killer has never been apprehended. Several men have been suspected of the crime. One was even tried on trumped up charges, but no one has yet taken the rap for this string of murders.
Overall, the Monster of Florence case helped to pull back the rotten lid on Italian society. The suspects pulled in front of the police provided a Bosch-like painting of rural Tuscan life, with peeping Toms, sexual sadists, and irredeemable alcoholics leading the pack. From an investigative standpoint, the Monster of Florence case also exposed the Italian judicial system as corrupt and easily given to outlandish conspiracy theories involving black magic, Satanic cults, and the like.
15. The First Murders
Although it is not entirely rare, the Monster of Florence’s crimes came in two distinct waves. The first four murders occurred between 1968 and 1974. The rest of the murders occurred between 1981 and 1985, with the killer taking all of 1983 off. Such time gaps are part of what make this case fascinating.
The first murders occurred on August 21, 1968. The victims, 29-year-old Antonio Lo Bianco and 32-year-old Barbara Locci, were shot dead while having sex in a parked car outside of the Tuscan town of Signa. The murder weapon was revealed to be a .22-caliber Beretta.
The most ghoulish fact about this double murder is that Locci’s son, six-year-old Natalino Mele, was asleep in the backseat during the murder. It was the gunshots that woke him up. The killer then carried the young boy to a nearby farmhouse and dropped him off. Along the way, Natalino told police that the killer hummed a popular tune. Natalino’s description of the killer proved to be of little consequence during the later investigations.
14. The First Suspect
The first major suspect in what would become the Monster of Florence case was Stefano Mele. An immigrant from Sardinia, Mele was Locci’s husband. As with almost every murder case involving infidelity, Italian police officers initially suspected that Locci and Lo Bianco had been murdered by a jealous partner. Armed with this knowledge, the police immediately interviewed Mele.
A paraffin-glove test found that Mele had recently fired a gun, specifically a handgun. Mele quickly broke down and confessed that he had been at the crime scene that night. Mele also admitted that he had participated in the murder.
13. The Sardinian Connection
Even as early as these first two murders, Italian investigators noticed something unusual about the whole affair. Namely, Lo Bianco, Mele, and Locci were all natives of Sardinia. Back in her home village, Locci was known as “Queen Bee” due to her habit of sleeping around. To mainland Italians, Sardinia is considered backwards, clannish, and awash in blood feuds.
Reporter Mario Spezi, who would go on to become the expert on all things Monster of Florence, found out through interviewing Mele that he was not alone that night in August 1968. As it turned out, Mele and other Sardinian immigrants had killed Lo Bianco and Locci as part of a clan killing (known in Sardinia as delitto di clan) in order to scrub Mele’s reputation from the shame of cuckoldry. When the murders started happening again in 1974, police suspected that one of the clan killers of 1968 had found out that he liked killing too much.
12. A New Method
The second double homicide attributed to the Monster of Florence occurred on September 14, 1974. The victims were 19-year-old Pasquale Gentilcore and 18-year-old Stefania Pettini. Like Lo Bianco and Locci, Gentilcore and Pettini were ambushed while making love in a parked Fiat just north of Florence.
Both victims were shot multiple times by a .22-caliber handgun. However, Pettini actually died of over 96 stab wounds. Police would later find her nude body spreadeagled outside of the car with numerous wounds to her genitals. A grapevine had been inserted into her vagina and the killer had dumped out the contents of her purse all over the crime scene. It was now clear after this assault that the killer was motivated by sexual lust and a desire to humiliate his female victims.
11. “Tribes” Of Voyeurs
The newspaper La Nazione was the first to break the news that the shell casings found at the Gentilcore/Pettini crime scene were .22-caliber “Long Rifle” rounds for a semi-automatic Beretta handgun. The newspaper also found out about a disturbing subculture alive and well in the hills surrounding Florence.
Namely, men calling themselves “Indians” would creep around known lovers’ lanes in order to watch young couples having sex. Some of these voyeurs used high-tech equipment like video recorders with night vision attachments and suction-cup microphones to record their illicit activities. These Indians actually had the hills of Tuscany divided between themselves, with “tribes” maintaining order so as to guarantee that no outsider used another tribe’s spot. Wealthy Indians were also known to pay guides that would take them to the best viewing locations.
As if this wasn’t weird enough, the Indians themselves often fell prey to a subculture of rural thieves who shook the Indians down. Some of these crooks would also blackmail the Indians. It seems that Gentilcore and Pettini had been murdered in a known Indian territory, thus convincing the police that one of these voyeurs had been their killer.
10. The 1981 and 1982 Murders
1981-1982 was the most active time for the Monster of Florence. In that time he managed to murder six people.
The first victims were 30-year-old Giovanni Foggi, a warehouse worker, and 21-year-old shop assistant Carmela De Nuccio. This engaged couple spent their last night on Earth visiting De Nuccio’s family and enjoying a few dances at a disco in Mosciano. During the early morning hours of June 6, 1981, a local farmer reported hearing both a loud bang and the sound of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” being abruptly turned off. The next morning, an off-duty police officer found Foggi’s Fiat. The driver’s side window had been smashed, and the killer had shot Foggi once in the head. As for De Nuccio, police found her some ways away from the car. She had been shot several times before the killer had used a knife to remove her entire pubic area.
On October 23rd, 24-year-old Susana Cambi and her 26-year-old fiance Stefano Baldi were found by an elderly couple who decided to inspect the couple’s abandoned black VW Golf. Inside they found Baldi dead from four gun shots. The killer had apparently either shot through the driver-side window or broke the window open before firing. Cambi’s mutilated body was found some thirty feet from the car. Like De Nuccio, her genitals had been removed.
The final homicides of this awful year occurred on June 19, 1982. Paolo Mainardi, 22, and Antonella Migliorini, 20, were an engaged couple who decided to make love one night in the open air despite Migliorini’s fear of the Monster. Not long after ending their romantic session, Mainardi became aware of someone sneaking up from behind the car. He accelerated the car in reverse, but the killer managed to shoot Mainardi in the arm. In the chaos, Mainardi accidentally crashed the car into a ditch, thus making it impossible to move. For a brief moment, the killer stood exposed in front of the car’s headlights.
9. The Sardinian Connection, Part II
By 1981, it was clear to the Florentine authorities that a serial killer was on the loose in their city. Investigators decided to start backwards. Namely, they returned to the 1968 double homicide and the idea that the Monster of Florence may actually be a clan of Sardinian men.
Three Sardinian brothers became the center of the police investigation. The reason? Francesco, Salvatore, and Giovanni Vinci had all once been lovers of Barbara Locci. Therefore, police suspected that they had enough reason to not only kill Locci, but to also bear a vendetta against all women.
On June 21, 1982, the Italian carabinieri (military police) found a car parked in the woods not far from the Monster’s last murder. The car belonged to Francesco Vinci. After providing the police with puzzling, somewhat unhinged testimony, Francesco was arrested that August. He would not be released from custody until the Monster struck again.
8. The 1983 Murders
While Francesco Vinci languished in an Italian jail cell, the Monster of Florence killed two German tourists named Horst William Meyer and Jens Uwe Rüsch on the night of September 9, 1983.
Both bodies were found in a Volkswagen Samba not far from the town of Galluzzo. Both men were fine arts students who were vacationing in Italy in order to celebrate Meyer’s new academic scholarship.
Unlike previous crime scenes, the Monster only shot these two men and did not mutilate their bodies. Police believe that the Monster mistook Rüsch for a woman owing to his slight build and long blond hair. Inside of the bus, police found gay pornographic magazines, one of which was likely torn up by the killer.
7. The 1984 Murders
On July 29, 1984, the Monster returned to his brutal ways with the murder of Claudio Stefanacci, 21, and Pia Gilda Rontini, 18. Stefanacci was a law student, while Rontini was a barmaid. On the night of their deaths, both had slunk off in Stefanacci’s Fiat Panda and had retreated to a wooded area outside of the town of Vicchio. As with earlier Monster murders, the killer shot Stefanacci and Rontini to death before mutilating Rontini’s body. This time though, rather than just remove Rontini’s entire pubic area, the killer also cut off her left breast.
At the crime scene, police found a handprint on top of the car and a partial knee print on the car’s side. These two clues revealed that the Monster was right-handed, wore gloves during his murders, and was at least 5-foot-9-inches tall. With this information, the “Anti-Monster Squad” and the carabinieri’s Investigative Group of Serial Crimes (GIDES) put up a $290,000 reward for any information.
6. The Final Murders
The last double homicide that has been officially blamed on the Monster of Florence occurred between September 7 and 8, 1985. The victims were two French tourists named Jean-Michel Kraveichvilli and Nadine Mauriot. The pair were in Italy to enjoy a late summer camping trip.
The Monster first killed Mauriot by breaking into her tent and stabbing her to death. Kraveichvilli was killed a few yards away after he tried to escape. The following day, police investigators found .22-caliber Winchester shells not far from the crime scene. They also discovered the hideous truth that the Monster had removed Mauriot’s entire pubic area and had also removed her left breast.
5. The Letters
Beginning in 1982, anonymous letters began appearing at police headquarters in Florence. The first letter used words clipped from La Nazione to spell out: “Take another look at this crime.” The crime in question was the double murder of Lo Bianco and Locci in 1968.
Three years later, after the Monster’s last official murders, prosecutor Silvia Della Monica received an anonymous letter. The letter once again featured letters cut out from newspapers and magazines. However, this letter contained a far more gruesome find than its processor. Inside of the envelope was Mauriot’s left nipple.
4. The Wrong Guy
After investigating the monster crimes for so many years without anything to show for it, the Italian police were under serious pressure to solve the case in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By 1994, many in the judicial system believed that they had found their murderer and his accomplices.
The man at the center of this arrest was an alcoholic farm laborer named Pietro Pacciani. Pacciani was a well-known hunter, former partisan fighter, and taxidermist who lived in a small village outside of Florence. Pacciani was also known to be over-sexed, and many believed that he was one of the infamous “Indians” of Florence. Back in 1951, Pacciani gained violent retribution against his adulterous girlfriend, who was then just sixteen, by surprising her and her lover outside of Vicchio. Pacciani pulled the male out of the parked car, smashed his head in with a rock, then stabbed him to death. Pacciani then raped his girlfriend next to the man’s corpse. Pacciani also engaged in necrophilia with the corpse of his victim. Between 1974 and 1981, Pacciani was in jail for raping his daughters.
Despite his past history, Pacciani was not a viable suspect given that the last male victim, Kraveichvilli, was a champion sprinter. At the time of this murder, Pacciani was a portly 58-year-old man. Pacciani was also only 5-foot-2-inches tall, much shorter than the Monster.
Pacciani’s arrest and trial also featured three other men — Stefano Mele, Mario Vanni, and Giancarlo Lotti. Lotti, whose nickname was “Village Idiot,” claimed that he had killed the German tourists, while Vanni and Pacciani killed the others. It is believed that Lotti made his false confessions because he was homeless and wanted to spend nights in jail.
3. The Writer — The Monster?
In 2001, journalist Mario Spezi came under police scrutiny after he publicly slammed the ideas of GIDES investigator Michele Giuttari, who believed that he had found evidence that the Monster crimes had been the work of a Satanic cult (more on that later).
In revenge, Giuttari and others claimed to have found evidence that Mario Spezi and famous American thriller writer Douglas Preston were the Monster. Spezi had his phone lines tapped and was forced to suffer the indignity of carabinieri officers carrying away all of his files on the Monster as part of a sham investigation.
2. The Satanic Cult Theory
The man most responsible for the idea that a secretive Satanic cult was responsible for the Monster murders is former GIDES inspector Michele Giuttari. In the early 2000s, Giuttari gained international fame when he published a novel entitled A Florentine Death. Prior to this turn in his career, the Sicilian Giuttari had been an anti-mafia investigator in Calabria.
Beginning in 2001, GIDES investigators began piecing together a Satanic cult theory after someone in Tuscany found a strange black triangle out in a field. Although Spezi claimed that the object was nothing more than a common doorstop, Giuttari began claiming that the object pointed to a ring of rural occultists who murdered in order to commune with Satan. Giuttari and others made a big deal out of the fact that almost every Monster killing was done on a moonless night.
Three years later, 60-year-old Francesco Calamandrei had his home searched and had his pornography collection seized by police. He and thirteen other men living in rural Tuscany were rounded up as part of this Satanic cult theory. As it turned out, Calamandrei had been twice accused of being the Monster by his jealous ex-wife. Calamandrei had also already been diagnosed as mentally ill.
The Satanic cult theory enjoyed a second afterlife during the Amanda Knox case, when prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, a friend and former colleague of Giuttari, accused Knox of killing British college student Meredith Kercher as part of a Satanic sex ritual.
1. The Monster Unmasked…?
In his book with Douglas Preston, Mario Spezi laid out the reason why he believes that he has unmasked the Monster of Florence. First of all, Spezi compiled what criminal analysts have said about the Monster’s appearance, his habits, and his hangups.
In 1989, the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit concluded that the Monster of Florence was sexually impotent, in his early forties in 1985, a manual laborer of average intelligence, and someone who either owned a car or had easy access to a car. FBI criminologists concluded that the Monster was more than likely a petty criminal with a record, although he was unlikely to be a convicted rapist. The Monster also had a pathological hatred of women, was sexually immature, lived close to all of the crime scenes, and ritually mutilated his female victims in order to “possess” them.
Spezi added that the killer was likely one of the Sardinian men involved in the 1968 double homicide. After all, the same .22-caliber weapon had been used in that earlier crime, and all subsequent Monster murders used the same type of ammunition. By narrowing down the suspects, Spezi believes that Antonio Vinci, the son of Salvatore Vinci, is most likely the Monster. Vinci, who is still alive and works in Florence, was known to have a hot temper (he once threatened his father with a scuba knife), and received a divorce in 1985 over claims that he could not consummate his marriage.
Spezi would later meet Vinci face-to-face, where the suspect apparently exposed himself to Spezi in order to show that he was not impotent.
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