Crimes of passion


Things  are heating up here in an alarming manner, and I’m not referring to the Saharan heatwave that is currently sweeping the old Bel Paese and suffocating everybody’s capacity to think.

I’m referring to two  recent spectacular homicides with distressing similarities, the kind one hears that judges in Provence excuse because of the effect of the mistral.   Here, I’m not sure that the weather is considered an accomplice or not.   But the girls are still dead.

These two  tragedies demonstrate  the most effective way to  resolve your pain when your girlfriend breaks up with you.   Not a new approach, but it works:   You kill her, then yourself.  

Both of these recent calamities happened on the mainland (sorry, no romantic canals into which to throw the body), but just a few miles inland, and the Gazzettino has  been providing the details for days, even though virtually every element is pretty much out of the handbook.  

Roberta Vanin (left) and her body being removed from Bio-Vit, her store.

Roberta Vanin (left) and her body being removed from Bio-Vita, her store.

Spinea is  a small town in the Province of Venice about 10 miles from the Piazza San Marco, hitherto famous (I guess) for being the hometown of Federica Pellegrini, an Olympic  swimming medalist.   Spinea is like numberless other small towns on the mainland near Venice; what were once little villages stuck in the middle of fields of corn or wheat differentiated only by the belltower of their parish church, and now are larger settlements surrounded by roads, highways, and shopping centers, differentiated by nothing, not even their love-deranged inhabitants.   I’ve been there several times to visit some  of Lino’s relatives.

Now Spinea is stuck in my mind as the home of  a certain Andrea Donaglio, a 47-year-old professor of chemistry,  who was in love  and lived with Roberta Vanin, 43; they even owned and operated a health-food store.

Anyway, she broke up with him, moved out, found a new boyfriend.   He began to stalk her.   He kept phoning her.   He threatened her with a knife.     (And then people start with the “We never imagined he could do such a thing.”   Makes no sense in Italian, either.)   She felt sorry for him.   Her friends and family told her to get a restraining order against him.   She didn’t.

So July 7, we pay our one euro for the Gazzettino to read the lead story: “He massacred his ex with 20 stab wounds.”   (Later accounts raised it to 40, then to 60; it appears he used two knives, perhaps because the first one broke.   Oy.)   Then he tried to kill himself with a couple of stabs to the stomach, but he’s recovering.   Physically, I mean.

"Death of Romeo and Juliet," by John Millais (1848).  Even in iambic pentameter, the onlookers say pretty much the things they say today: "What a waste."

"Death of Romeo and Juliet," by John Everett Millais (1848). Even in iambic pentameter, the onlookers say pretty much the things they say today: "What a waste."

So if this catastrophe is the pebble thrown into the pool,  we now experience the ripples of the subsequent stories which go into all sorts of aspects of the situation from all sorts of points of view.   There is  the story about how the scene of the murder is now a sort of shrine, covered with flowers and notes and stuffed animals, then the story about the funeral and how many people were there — a thousand, anyway,   because everybody knew them.     The story about her as told by her friends, how wonderful she was.   The story about him as told by his friends (or relatives) about how desperate and unhappy he was.

The one really unusual part of this whole horrible tale is the fact that Roberta’s parents declared that they forgave Andrea.   This is as amazing here as anywhere else, and  I want us all to stop and reflect on that for a moment.  

Fabio Riccati and Eleonora Noventa.

Fabio Riccati and Eleonora Noventa.

A mere four days later, while all this was still boiling through the newspapers, another man decided to punish his girlfriend for leaving him.   (I thought romances were supposed to end in September.)   This happened at 9 in the morning on July 11  in a very small town, Asseggiano, a mere mile and a half from Spinea.

Fabio Riccati, 30 years old,  had found the first girlfriend of his life, and they’d been seeing each other for six months or so.   Eleanora Noventa, an only child, was evidently one of the sunniest and loveliest girls ever.   Unfortunately, she was only 16.   Maybe a tad young to have started up with him, but not too young to have realized she had to break it off.   On Saturday she gave him the bad news and whatever little presents he had bestowed on her.

On Sunday morning, Fabio waited for her out on the street, expecting her to pass by on her bicycle.   She stopped.   They exchanged some comments.   He pulled out a Magnum .357 and shot her three times, the last shot to the head.   Then he shot himself in the heart.    

I want to live somewhere where nothing ever happens.   Nothing.   Ever.   And I never liked Romeo and Juliet, either.

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  1. Emily D says:

    No matter how many times I hear about these unfortunate women, I simply cannot wrap my head around the mindset of their murderers. What could possibly make these men think they are entitled to take the lives of their former loves?

    I think in such cases they must become obsessed with regaining masculinity or control, and the only way they know of doing so is by killing those who rejected them. These men are pitiful, yes, but even more despicable, in that they are not able to cope with rejection, but instead choose to rob these women of the rich, full lives they surely would have led without these losers. If I believed in Hell, I’d say may these men rot there for all eternity.

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      Most psychologists would agree with you (though maybe not about the rotting-in-hell part). The summary seems to be that control is clearly a large factor in this dynamic, as well as seeing the women as a possession. Unfortunately, the summer has continued with stories of this nature. I’m hoping that when the cold weather comes, things will calm down.