Theory of the Crime v. Evidence

Crime shows like CSI, Law & Orderr, and even Elementary portray detectives as working solely from the evidence.  If you talk to a detective, evidence is rarely where the investigation starts.  Once they have a body or bodies, they create a theory about what happened.

Only after test results start coming in does evidence start to play a role in the investigation, unless of course the victim wrote the name Jack Ripper in their own blood.  At that point, they investigate Jack Ripper and hope the evidence supports the five hour interview with Jack.  If it doesn’t they move on to other things, like why did the victim write Jack’s name in their own blood as their last act before dying?  And as evidence comes in to support or exclude aspects of the theory, the theory is revised.

It’s hard to understand exactly why a Theory of the Crime is important.  The Monster of Florence case that I mentioned a while ago though does a fairly good job of highlighting both the theory of the crime and the evidence of the crime not lining up.  It’s actually one of the problems with the case.

The first murder was in 1968.  It was a woman and her lover, the woman was married.  She had also stolen 600 Lyra.  The husband didn’t care about the running around, it is said he actually encouraged it.  Being married didn’t seem to be his thing or at least being married to Barbara Loche wasn’t his thing.  The reason this case gets included with the Monster of Florence case is important and somewhat peculiar.  Barabara’s husband Stefano Mele (maybe spelled right, I don’t remember) confessed to the murders of Barbara and her lover sighting jealousy.  He shot both of them multiple times.  He says after the murders he threw the gun away in an irrigation ditch.  The police never recovered it.  Stefano Mele served his prison time, but at times, he claimed there were others involved in the murders and that it was actually about the stolen Lyra (Italian currency) than her affair.

When the Monster of Florence murders started, Stefano Mele was in prison.  The police and press received tons of letters during the initial years of the case, some reporting to be from the Monster of Florence.  Others making accusations against others as being the monster of Florence.  However, one letter that was received was simply a clipping of a newspaper article regarding the murders of Barbara Loche and her lover and mentioning the gun.

This was weird, but okay.  They found the shell casing from the murder of Loche and they connected the Monster of Florence murders to that double homicide.  There was a strange indentation, an imperfection with the firing pin of the gun used in the Loche murder and the same immperfection was in the shell casings of the Monster of Florence murders.  Essentially, the same gun was used to kill Loche and her lover that was being used in the Monster of Florence killings.  But Stefano Mele was in prison and no one knew what had happened to that gun.

Police had suspected at least one other person involved with the Barabara Loche murders, a Sicilian thug named Salvatore Venci (maybe, I’m not good at spelling Italian names from memory).    So they theorized he had taken the gun.  However, they didn’t go after Salvatore in the beginning, they went after his brother Francisco.  For the record, Italians just generally assume all Sicilians are thugs (in this case, the Venci brothers fit the stereotype and they are all thugs).  However, there was no real evidence to connect Salvatore or Francisco to the murder of Barbara Loche.  There was Stefano Mele’s retracted and then renewed statements that they were there with him and that it was Salvatore that insisted Barbara’s betrayal required death.

However, Stefano didn’t say who had taken the gun away from the Loche crime scene and as the police would later learn, the Loche murder was some sort of Sicilian clan killing (I don’t understand Sicilian society enough to really understand this concept, but I think it was basically an honor killing).  And while Stefano had actually hooked his wife up with some of her boyfriends, his father was not happy about Barbara’s many boyfriends.  So he was nearly as likely to organize an honor killing as anyone else in Barbara’s life.

And with Stefano not really talking, the suspect pool for the Monster of Florence murders grew to anyone that might have been involved in the Loche murder.  In the mid-1980s, the police decided there wasn’t a “monster” but a group of them and that the Monster of Florence murders were being committed by at least 4 individuals.

This is when the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit first volunteered their assistance with the Monster of Florence case.  We know this division of the FBI as the profilers of serial killers in the US and they didn’t think the evidence supported a group.  While the Monster was killing couples, shooting them, most of the female victims were sexually mutilated by having their vaginas cut out, thankfully post-mortem.  The bodies of the women were dragged several meters (there are 38 inches in a meter so just over 3 feet per meter for my American readers who don’t want to do the math while reading this riveting post).  Dragged, not carried.  That is important.  The majority of the women were pretty and petite.  A group of men could easily have carried them.  So why were they dragged from the vehicles to where they were mutilated?  With four men, carrying them would have been faster and easier.  But all of them were dragged about 10 meters from the vehicles and they were dead when dragged.  There was no evidence of multiple people.  There were some sort of witnesses to the crimes, people that happened to be close enough to hear the gunshots in the cases and none of them saw a gaggle of men standing around.  And the removal of the vagina was nearly identical in all the cases, which suggests the exact same person did it every time.  Now the knife he used seemed to vary from time to time, which was odd, but does not completely exclude a single killer, whereas the change in knives was believed by the Italian police to prove that different people did it.

In other words, to FBI profilers, the killings were the work of one person, obviously male, and someone who hated women.  The sexual mutilation was not about sexual sadism since the victims were dead when the vagina was excised from their bodies, profilers interpreted the removal of the vagina to indicate a deep seething rage aimed at women.

The Italian police disagreed.  Pointing out that the dragging could be done to lead investigators in a different direction and that the same cutting method could be because one person in the group taught the others to do the mutilations.

This case is one of the few serial killer cases where there is too much evidence to narrow it down to a single suspect.  Also there are a lot of suspects and at one time, nearly every butcher, surgeon, and chef was worthy of investigation.

The other theory is that the killer is not Italian, which is why some suspicion landed on Douglas Preston, and Thomas Harris who was in Italy for the trail of one suspect that was eventually released because the Monster of Florence killed while he was in custody, Harris was in Italy researching for the Hannibal Lecter trilogy and he drew heavily on the Monster of Florence case for some of Hannibal Lecter’s backstory, Harris was questioned by the Italian police who wanted to know why he was interested in the case and trial and even his whereabouts at the times of some of the crimes (he was at home in the US for the majority of them).  The Italian police occasionally say things like this is more of an English or American crime, Italians do not do this to each other and they have investigated Ex-Pats from both the UK and the US living in Italy as being the Monster of Florence.

As someone with a slightly unhealthy interest in serial killers, I tend to agree with the FBI profilers, the Monster is most likely a single individual somehow connected to Stafano Mele and possibly dead by now.  Some have suggested the lack of capture or willingness for the Italian police to investigate theories other than the one about it being a group is part of a conspiracy because they know who the Monster of Florence is and he is a wealthy and powerful man whereby it would be much easier for the Italian police to make a case against a Sicilian thug or an American living in Italy than the real Monster.

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