The Monster of Florence
Over the course of the next eight years, investigators questioned more than 100,000 people in hopes of gaining a lead. During the early 1990s, they began to focus on Pietro Pacciani, a 68-year-old semi-literate farmer who enjoyed hunting and taxidermy. Intriguing to investigators was the fact that Pacciani had been arrested in 1951 for the murder of a traveling salesman, whom he had caught sleeping with his fiancée. After stabbing the salesman a total of 19 times and stomping him to death, Pacciani raped his corpse. He was quickly convicted and sentenced to serve 13 years in prison for his crimes. Following his release from prison, Pacciani married and settled down to raise a family. Nonetheless, he was again jailed between 1987 and 1991 for beating his wife and sexually molesting his two young daughters.
In addition to his criminal background, unknown sources reported that Pacciani was involved in an occult group with three other men, Mario Vanni, Giovanni Faggi and Giancarlo Lotti (who were all known as peeping toms because of their nocturnal ramblings). Pacciani and Vanni were also alleged to have participated in black masses, which used female body parts at the house of a supposed wizard in San Caciano. Nurses at a clinic, which had previously hired Pacciani as a gardener, also came forward and claimed that he told them a doctor presided over satanic ceremonies he attended.
Although the head of Florence's detective force, Michele Giuttari, believed Pacciani was too sloppy to have planned the crimes, he was arrested on Jan. 17, 1993.
Pietro Paccianis trial began almost a year later in November 1994. Prosecutors were dead set on proving he was one of Europe's most prolific serial killers and asked that the trial be televised. The public relished the opportunity, and almost everyone became a compulsive viewer. A Florentine newspaper also went so far as to open up a "Monster hotline" so that readers could telephone in their opinions.
The packed courtroom drew swarms of spectators, but for all the drama, there was an alarming lack of evidence. At one point during the trial, a police guard collapsed, the evidence proving too gory for him to stomach. From day one, Pacciani had claimed his innocence and continued to do so during his trial. Nonetheless, although the evidence against him was largely circumstantial, he was convicted of committing seven of the double murders and sentenced to life in prison. When the verdict of guilty was pronounced, Pacciani was dragged from court howling that he was "as innocent as Christ on the cross."