I’m having to relearn my Italian– not just the language but the way of thinking– and since I am still doing so this series of articles will go slowly. But I think I am in a position already to caution those who follow here to be careful of what has already been written in English. It is not necessarily wrong: but it is very brief. As such, the English accounts of Il Mostro di Firenza are often factoids.
During the crime spree, Italians obsessed on the case. Italy had not known a serial killer. Italians don’t do such things. In a land of warm hearts, incredible artistic expression and beauty, Italians simply cannot conceive anyone being bred that is capable of doing what The Monster did, and did for so long.
Finally, even the many tangents of the investigation came to dead ends. New investigators came onto the case and wanted to start all over. They didn’t believe the satanic cult theories, the picnicking companions theory, and even the pista Sarda– the Sardinian Trail, the one theory considered to be the most sober of the lot.
They had the right attitude. It was time to start over.
The Sardinian Trail is a convoluted conspiracy theory in its own right, despite looking bland compared to the others. It is based only by the fact the same .22 caliber Beretta used by Il Mostro (1974-1985) was used to kill the first couple in August 1968. Investigators and later authors (especially in Italian) considered the odd chance that Il Mostro came along and picked up the discarded gun and then started his own crime spree in September 1974. This entire line of thinking was required because Italian police were certain they had apprehended and jailed the murderer of 1968– Stefano Mele, the uno stupido husband of the woman murdered. It was a crime of revenge– the husband killing his wife and her lover. Italians could understand that.
But the advent of Il Mostro using the same gun required a rethink. Some thought that Il Mostro must have been a shadow at the crime scene– some voyeur pervert already at the scene. He saw it all and then picked up the discarded murder weapon and later started his own crime spree, in total and complete imitation– hot summer nights, couples making love in a car.
At first, when the same Beretta was used on another loving couple in September 1974, no connection seemed to have been made to the 1968 attack. When the same Beretta was used on a couple in 1981, it jogged memories. The cases were put together. And depending on your point of view, the biggest mistake may have already been made– the attempt to connect this serial killer somehow to the family circle of Stefano Mele, the convicted killer in 1968. Since he was in jail in 1974, and now in 1981 a feeble, simple minded man under the care of nuns, he could not be the crafty night ripper Il Mostro. But someone had access to the same gun and decided to murder couples in the same way. He had to have been a participant in 1968 and inspired to then become Il Mostro years later. This is the standard Sardinian Trail theory anyway.
The shadow theory was inconceivable. It required one to believe that someone totally unconnected to the crime (except as a witness; or came along afterward before the police arrived) picked up the gun and decided to kill couples on hot summer nights in the same manner with an entirely different motive.
The Sardinian Trail was conceived whereby several family members were present and engaged in a gang revenge in 1968. One of them kept the gun and decided to become Il Mostro. This theory at least gave investigators a group to work with through the process of elimination.
Very few wanted to believe that Mele was falsely convicted. This would introduce the worst theory imaginable, even worse than the shadow theory: that Il Mostro had no connections to any circle whatsoever, and that the double murder of Barbara Locci and Antonio Lo Bianco in 1968 was actually his first random murder. If true, then any and every other trail followed thereafter has been a trail that followed a red herring.
I’m not going to recite the standard summary of the 1968 murders. I’m going to recount them on the evidence existing in Italian literature, and note patterns.
August 21, 1968– hot August night
Barbara Locci was cheating on her husband with salesman Antonio Lo Bianco. They had been to the movies with her 6 year old son, Natalino, and then drove to a lovers’ lane in Signa, a small hamlet in the environs of Florence, Italy. While her 6 year old son slept in the backseat, they fooled around in the passenger front seat. Its backrest was leaned back all the way. She was laying on top of Lo Bianco, when someone silently approached the car, a white Alfa Romero (its windows down), on the driver’s side and fired a .22 Beretta pistol through the front window.
The killer shot Lo Bianco first– three times on the left side. Locci bolted up and turned to the passenger side door to escape. She was then shot 4 times. Was the killer surprised at this time to discover there was a 6 year old child in the backseat, now awake? Natalino had no real memories except waking to see his mother’s dead face.
The evidence is confused. We don’t really know when Natalino left the car. He was later found down the road at the doorstep of a farmer’s house.
But the scene within the white Alfa Romero was a curious one. When discovered by police, the right turn blinker was found engaged. Locci was dressed and seated in the driver’s seat, head leaned to the left. Lo Bianco was dressed and still reclined in the passenger seat. A gold chain had been removed from her neck, but there was no other sign of theft. Locci’s purse was open. There was 24,000 lire inside. Her shoes were under the seat.
When the killer shifted her body into the driver’s seat, it must have hit the turn signal down– which would start the right blinker.
The police deduced it was a crime of passion. Her husband Stefano Mele was charged. He denied it and blamed other lovers. No one believed him. He went to jail.
Case closed, so it would seem.
September 14, 1974
19 year old Pasquale Gentilcore and his 18 year old girlfriend Stefania Pettini are necking on a dirt road in a field in Rabatta, near Borgo San Lorenzo, hamlets on the northwest of Florence. The next morning one of two farmers find a grisly scene. Stefania is spread eagle behind the blue Fiat, mostly nude. She is mutilated with over 90 shallow knife marks and the branch of a grape vine is found inserted into her reproductive area. In the driver’s seat is found her boyfriend, shot to death.
The police forensic investigation is intense. From our vantage point, it uncovers a disturbing chain of events. The Fiat’s passenger seat backrest it down. Gentilcore was shot 3 times in the back, from the left (top) of the shoulder going in an arc to the right. He had been shot in the heart and lung. Pettini had been shot in the right arm, abdomen, and right leg.
From the .22 shell cases, it was easy to rework the scene. The two were making love in the reclined passenger side seat. Gentilecore’s back was mostly to the driver’s side. Pettini’s back was to the passenger side. The killer approached from the driver’s side and shot through the driver’s side window, shattering the glass and hitting Gentilcore in the back first and then Pettini on the right side and abdomen as she recoiled in surprise.
The killer walked around and removed Pettini from the passenger side door (which he left open), drug her behind the car, and mutilated her.
The most curious act is that the killer positioned Gentilcore in the driver’s side seat. He was found sitting (wearing only underwear), with his hands clasped under his left thigh. (According to crime scene photos, his hands were not clasped under his left thigh; though I do not know if by this time his body had been moved.) Why? Having opened the passenger side door, the killer could easily remove Pettini without having greatly disturbed Gentilcore’s body. Why bother to put him back in the driver’s seat?
The above circumstances are highly suggestive of the 1968 double murder. Locci and Lo Bianco had been repositioned, with Locci set back (not too believably) in the driver’s seat. The killer shot the man first at both crimes. Money wasn’t stolen here either. The difference was that Locci wasn’t removed from the car and mutilated. But then, here with Pettini there wasn’t a 6 year old kid in the backset to take the killer by surprise.
There is much more evidence at the crime scene, but right now we are concerned with the comparative evidence suggesting the killer’s detailed actions and whether the sequence of events suggest a pattern. Just above, it does suggest that the killer of Locci and Lo Bianco was one and the same with the killer of Gentilcore and Pettini. The police didn’t think of the 1968 murders at this time, probably because they weren’t on the books as unsolved. But in 1981 the mutilations were so gross that the 1974 case popped to mind, and with this the police looked further back in time. The same .22 Beretta was found to have been used at all three of the double murders.
There is another pattern. Locci and Lo Bianco had gone to the movies just before they went to the lovers’ lane. Pettini and Gentilcore had been at Teen Club, a disco. The first 1981 victims had also been at a disco– Club Anastasia. Of future victims, one couple would also last be seen at the movies.
The pattern indicates that the killer stationed himself at hangouts used by young couples– movie houses, discos– and followed likely couples to lovers’ lanes. He wasn’t staking out lovers’ lanes on the random chance a perfect couple would come along. The difference with the 1968 killings, if they are related, is that the killer may not have noticed they had a 6 year old kid with them in the backseat.
The 1968 murders also happened on a Wednesday night. Most of those following would be on a moonless Saturday, Sunday or Friday night. All will be in Summer of early Fall.
We will get to the next victims in future posts.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.