Ricky again, or still


I’m sorry to start the year this way, but not nearly as sorry as the people who are involved.

Riccardo Torta — “Ricky” — if you’ll cast your minds back, spent 16 years in prison and a psychiatric hospital after killing an agent of the Finance Police on May 31, 1973.  They had confiscated his boat because of his trafficking in illegal cigarettes, so he was angry.  He spent the next two decades telling people he never meant to do it, he didn’t know why he did it, it was just a joke.

Now it’s 2016.  He’s been living in Mestre for 20 years in an apartment by himself, and by all accounts not keeping up with his meds.

He has become very, very big, tall, heavy, which could make him scary, except that the neighbors know him mainly as a sort of strange person but who’s usually keen to lend a hand — you know, the gentle giant.  He sometimes does the shopping for Nelly Pagnussat, 78 years old, a little old lady on the second floor of his building.  She also lives alone, although she has married children.  She sometimes fixes him something to eat.  Just setting the scene.

Friday evening around 8:00 PM he rings her doorbell.  She lets him in — after all, they’re friends.  He even calls her “aunt.”

He kills her with a hammerblow to the head.  Then he takes a chainsaw and dismembers her body.  He puts the pieces in four big black plastic garbage bags.

Here are some sea otters.

Here are some sea otters, if this helps.

Meanwhile, Nelly’s daughter is concerned because her mother hasn’t answered the phone for two hours, so she and her husband go over.  They, and a neighbor (an 83-year-old lady.  Nice!) enter the apartment and find Ricky standing there, with the bags and the dripping chainsaw.

The daughter’s husband says, “Where is my mother-in-law?”  Ricky replies, “She wasn’t feeling well.”  Then he runs out and barricades himself in his fourth-floor apartment.

Every person in uniform in Mestre descends on the block, which is cordoned off; the tenants of the building are requested to leave, and the gas in the building is turned off, just in case he might have discovered some matches meanwhile. SWAT teams in heavy assault gear climb the stairs and position themselves outside his front door.  A psychiatric specialist begins to negotiate with him,

After three hours of talking through the door, he gives himself up and they take him away. He’s in prison on suicide watch.  The newspapers are like pots boiling over.

Three days ago, Ricky went to the hospital for his therapy (I presume pharmacological). He had been under increased observation during the past year, but recently had seemed no longer to suffer from hallucinations. True, the neighbors knew he was more than a bubble off plumb — he would sometimes wander around his apartment terrace nude, or occasionally throw a bucket of urine off the balcony. Also, really loud music at night.

The hospitals for the criminally insane have been closed by law for several years, the plan being to house mentally ill prisoners in small “communities.”  But the Veneto Region is way behind in opening these facilities; a few weeks ago, Emilia-Romagna, the region next door, registered a complaint because former inmates from the Veneto were being sent to the facilities there.  But in Ricky’s case, what is there to be said?  He’d served his sentence and he was out, like anybody would be.

Forty-two years of good behavior have been noted, but wherever he goes next, I’m assuming he won’t be coming out again.

Good-bye to his for Ricky.

Good-bye to all this for Ricky.  Or whatever morning looks like in Mestre.


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Categories : Events


  1. Mary Ann DeVlieg says:

    Words fail me at trying to describe the state of the world, whether in Mestre, Syria or the aptly named Malheur Nature Refuge. The sea otters were much appreciated.

  2. Caterina B says:

    Yeah, you could not have made this story up! It is pretty sad, though.
    Where in the world did you get the title for your blog? Actually, this story makes
    the title totally understandable. I imagine you have already explained the title but I
    had not discovered your blog until, oh, maybe a year ago? I have tried going back
    and reading old posts but can’t find any explanation.
    I have spent lots of time on Google maps “walking” around in Venice. I think maybe
    I would be somewhat able to navigate the city if I ever traveled there.
    But… I know that Venetians would like it if we stopped coming there and just let the city live in peace. I think that’s a very good idea.
    I hope you will continue to find “fodder” for future amusing stories. Thanks!