By Grace Capuzzo.

“Normally there is confusion at the site of a crime scene; normally there is blood,” says Italian criminal journalist Mario Spezi as he describes the first crime scene of the most infamous serial killer in all of Italy.

“Besides one small shot in the head and a black space where the girl’s privates had been, you would’ve thought the couple was sleeping,”

Il Mostro, or “The Monster of Florence,” the titular person of Spezi and Douglass Preston’s bestselling novel, gruesomely murdered 14 couples from 1974 to 1985.

Fox 2000 recently acquired the rights to the film, which will star George Clooney as Douglass Preston. The movie will be filmed in Italy and is scheduled to be released in 2013.

Up until 1974, many thought of Florence as an idyllic haven, thriving with rich culture and art combined with mom and pop shops around every worn cobblestone street.

“[Serial Killers] existed in more modern societies like America and Great Britain and of course in our literature,” says Spezi.

The monster targeted couples that would drive to the outskirts of the city to make love in their cars in privacy. He would swiftly shoot the couple in the head, always using the same .22 Beretta gun, and drag the female out of the car, always cutting out her genitals and often defacing other sexual organs.

Having little relatable experience and the city in a panic, police and the public started to accuse doctors, priests, gynecologists, butchers, and even the town drunks. Many were thrown in jail, without evidence, sometimes simply for their ability to wield a knife.

“The incompetence was not normal, even for Italian standards,” jokes Spezi.

According to Spezi, the only method the police had for seeding out the innocent was the continuation of murders, even when “the monster” was locked away in jail. This led to the belief, that it was the “members of a very ancient satanic sect, who were comprised of noble family members in Florence.”

“In Italy, when there is a murder with no direction, they always think it’s a satanic sect,” says Spezi. “No one wants to believe it’s a lone man; it’s more exciting that way, it sells more newspapers.”

 

At the time, Spezi was a criminal reporter for La Nazione, the most influential newspaper in Tuscany. He often didn’t sleep; every hour was a working hour, competing with other journalists to get a little closer to unmasking the monster.

In 1992, the police arrested a Tuscan farmer named Pietro Pacciani, whom Spezi believes to have been arrested solely to save face.

“The police were sure no more murders would be committed, but they needed to convict someone,” he says.

After the prosecutor claimed they had no evidence to hold Pacciani, they released him and arrested two men in 1996, Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti, believed to be accomplices of Pacciani, whom Spezi describes fondly as “the village idiots; not capable of committing the crime that was so clearly the work of one man.”

However, they were held accountable for 20 years. After they were also proven innocent, other suspects were brought to light, but there was no proof or evidence to convict any of them.

The killer was never found because, according to Spezi, “The police didn’t want to find him; that would mean admitting to their many mistakes.”

When American writer Douglass Preston moved to the outskirts of Florence in 2000, he became riveted with the tale and joined forces with Spezi to continue their own research.
Their persistence led them to the front door of Antonio Vinci when two of Vinci’s acquaintances told Spezi that he kept a safe house with six locked iron boxes, possibly containing evidence relating to the crime.

The police wired Spezi’s phone and raided his house, confiscating more than a decade’s worth of research and throwing him in jail for 23 days.In response to their research, Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini banned Preston from Italy indefinitely and accused Spezi of being the monster because of his tremendous knowledge of the case.

“I was not allowed to see anyone, including my lawyer, for 6 days,” says Spezi. “I was considered highly dangerous. My lawyer had to go to the judge to decide if I had to stay in jail or not and, strangely enough, the ‘judge’ was the same person who had arrested me.”

“The system is completely corrupt,” says Spezi. “It’s only about how they can help themselves; they are untouchable, and no one can tell Mignini to go away.”

When Spezi asked the film’s screenwriter Chris McQuarrie (Valkyrie) how he was planning on making a thriller movie without knowing the ending, he said that he “wasn’t interested in making another serial killer film.”

He said the film was going to instead, “Focus on the story of two friends, who don’t believe the results of an investigation and how the Italian criminal justice system reacted.”

In short, “they would begin with a monster and finish with another one.”

George Clooney also wants to change the end of the film to include the Amanda Knox case and tie the two together, with its binding factor being Mignini, who also served as the chief prosecutor in Knox’s trial.

After half a lifetime of investigation, Spezi claims to have “tapped over his boxes of research,” mentally and physically packaging everything up, adding that he will “only unwrap them if the monster himself wants an interview.”

It’s still up in the air as to who will play Spezi in the film, but if he had his way, Dustin Hoffman would top the list, even though he admits, “he doesn’t look like me and he’s not Italian, but he’s smart and would be a good choice.”
When asked about George Clooney’s involvement in the film, Spezi jokes that Clooney probably said, “Mario [Spezi] is too handsome, I will play Preston.”