Pietro Pacciani: Was he the Monster of Florence?

From 1968 to 1985, eight young couples were mutilated and murdered in Italy. Because of the scale of the atrocity inflicted and the region of the country where the killings took place, the perpetrator was dubbed the Monster of Florence. The story of a murderer prowling Italy inspired the creator of Silence of the Lambs, and the question of whether the right man was put in charge of the crime remains relevant today.

The Italian city of Florence evokes numerous associations, mostly tourist ones, as for decades this picturesque corner of Italy has attracted crowds of tourists eager for a successful vacation. Florence also has a dark page in its recent history, which locals and tourism marketing specialists would prefer to forget long ago.

The killer’s first victims

According to investigators’ findings, the first murder attributed to the Monster of Florence happened on August 21, 1968.

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A pair of lovers – Antonio Lo Bianco and Barbara Locci – were gunned down in their car in cold blood during a moment of amorous pleasure. When the killer reached for his gun, Barbara’s baby was sleeping in the back seat. The toddler, however, did not drop a hair from his head.

The next morning, police officers knocked on the door of Stefano Mele, the husband of the murdered woman. The man was not overly concerned with the news of his wife’s death. He admitted to the investigators that Barbara had been cheating on him and even named her lovers as potential perpetrators of the crime. After some time, he changed his testimony. He pleaded guilty and said that he had killed Barbara out of revenge. Although at times his explanations did not add up to a sensible whole, he was arrested and charged with double murder.

The trial lasted two years. Stefano Mele, partially declared insane, heard a sentence of fourteen years in prison.

A series of brutal crimes

Six years later, on September 15, 1974, while Stefano Mele was in prison, a pair of teenagers were murdered in Borgo San Lorenzo: 19-year-old Pasquale Gentilcore and Stefania Pettini, a year younger. The perpetrator was not caught.

Another crime happened in 1981. On June 6, 30-year-old Giovanni Foggi and his partner, 21-year-old Carmela Di Nuccio, were killed. It seemed that the police might have more luck this time. Before the couple’s corpses were found, a young man was hanging around the area and talking about the murder. A suspect was arrested, even charged, and then released when The Monster of Florence struck again.

Five more bloody assaults occurred between October 23, 1981 and September 7, 1985. The killer not only murdered but also abused his victims. This is evidenced by the brutally mutilated corpses. The last of the murders was particularly bestial. The perpetrator killed a couple sleeping in a tent in San Casciano, then cut out a section of the woman’s breast with a knife and sent it to a judge investigating a series of murders in Florence.

The trial of the Florence Monster

Investigators followed up on many leads and interviewed thousands of people, but nothing came close to solving the mystery of the series of murders. Several years after the last murder, the following man appeared on the police radar Pietro Pacciani. The 68-year-old was arrested in January 1993. The illiterate farmer had an extensive criminal record, matching the profile of the killer.

In 1951, he murdered a salesman whom he had caught in an intimate situation with his fiancée. Pietro became enraged and stabbed the man nineteen times. He spent thirteen years behind bars. His troubles with the law did not end there. Although he started a family after regaining his freedom, he was imprisoned again between 1987 and 1991, this time for beating and sexually abusing his wife and two daughters.

The trial of the Florence Monster began in November 1994. The man was accused of committing all sixteen murders, only the first robbery on August 21, 1968 was not proven. He received life sentences for each of the murders.

An account worthy of Hannibal Lecter

Defender Pietro Pacciani’s attorney filed an appeal two years after the first verdict, and the court, as new evidence and more suspects emerged, decided to revisit the case. The frail, ailing farmer did not live to see the new trial, however. He died on February 22, 1998.

Instead, the court brought charges against three other men suspected of involvement in the couples’ murders. New evidence suggested that at least two people carried out every other attack. Mario Vanni received a life sentence, Giancarlo Lotti was sentenced to 26 years in prison, and the third defendant, Giovanni Faggi, was acquitted.

Does this explain definitively who was behind the brutal murders in Florence? Perhaps. But there is another version of events, described two decades ago in the Guardian. According to the investigators’ findings, cited by the journalists, the killers may have been merely following orders from a wealthy occult group.

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