A heinous crime
1937: Torre is shaken by a brutal double murder.
by Florindo Cirignano
Part One: The Massacre
Antonio and Maria De Angelis Iarrobino were an elderly couple who lived above the bridge of Palatelle. They were both over eighty, and in their long married life had eight children: six sons, all of whom lived in the U.S. , and two daughters, both married, of whom only the eldest, Maria Grazia (known widely as Zà Piccola[The Little Aunt]) lived in Torre.
The elder Maria, despite her advancing age, reportedly retained a young and coquettish demeanor, and would flaunt heavy gold jewelery, thought to be gifts received over many years from her children in America. It is said that during the feast of San Ciriaco, she was seen wearing three or four necklaces, earrings and several expensive gold rings.
This display likely did not go unnoticed, especially in those years of famine preceding World War II. At that time Torre was beset by a gang of thugs, led by a farmer originally from Montemiletto called "Pillirino," a mighty man with two huge, bushy mustaches.
The thieves were of little importance, mostly stealing animals in barns or burglarizing some isolated farmhouse when the owners were away working in the fields. After every job they brought the proceeds to a very remote farmhouse in the district of Torre, where the spoils were divided or a few pirated animals were cooked by the owner, followed by carousing and drinking for the night. Their field of action extended to a radius of twenty kilometers from Torre. They were only chicken thieves; today journalists would call them oafish thugs. It takes very little, however, when you have figures such as these to make a quantum leap.
Unfortunately, one day someone (some accounts say the idea came from within the family of the victims) suggested raiding Maria's jewelry collection.
They apparently tried once unsuccessfully. One of them slipped into the house, but did not notice the presence of Maria herself, who threw ashes from the fire in his face. Temporarily blinded, he took flight.
After some time, they tried again with more determination. The Iarrobino home had a terrace, where they placed large oak planks to ripen. One night, the bandits stationed themselves near the house, and waited patiently until there was no sign of activity. While some guarded the entrance door and windows, two or three others went onto the balcony to force a trapdoor from which they could enter the house.
No one knows what woke Antonio, someone said his dog began to bark furiously, others claim it was his ass who perceived the presence of strangers, and began kicking furiously in the stable. This detail we will we will never know!
The eighty-seven year old man appeared at the door to see what was happening. As he walked past the doorway, from the terrace above dropped a heavy plank, which probably killed him instantly.
Immediately Pillirino crept into the house and then into the bedchamber. The racket woke Maria, who, when she saw the intruder in her room, began to scream. He was immediately upon her, grabbed her by the neck, (she a frail woman of almost ninety years) and choked her. Before she died, she managed to deeply scratch her murderer's cheeks and pulled out a tuft of his huge drooping mustache.
The neighbors who found the bodies of the two claim that poor Antonio remained crushed by the heavy board. Recounts Ngiulinella Staffone who was then seven years old, "I went blindly on into the room and saw Maria dead, her head leaning against the head of the bed and only then the police sergeant ...... ushered me out, while pointing out that, in entering the house barefoot, I had stepped in the blood of the old man". Gianninella, also a little girl herself at the time, remembers that Maria had the thumb of her left hand in her mouth, like a child who sucks his finger to fall asleep. Hardly C.S.I. and N.C.I.S.! Not only did the police not think of preserving the crime scene, but they also allowed these children to witness such horrors.
The double murder, of course, sparked a public outcry and a huge alarm in the small community. Almost immediately, scratches had been noticed on Pillirino's face; the hair in Maria's dead hand dead was compatible in color and length to his moustache, so the police started looking for him.
Part Two: The End of The Chase
Pillirino, hunted by the police, immediately took flight. He moved from location to location, hiding in barns and abandoned houses. He trimmed his distinctive mustache, but did not go far, preferring to stay nearby where he could get money from his buddies. He hid nearly two years, but the effort began to take a heavy toll on him.
One day disguised as a gypsy, he went to a fair in a neighboring town hoping to pass a message to a former accomplice. Pillirino was tired of the vagabond life, he wanted to be back in Torre, protected by his cronies. The two agreed to meet at the next fair to discuss the situation. No one knows exactly what happened, but some say the second encounter took place at night in the remote countryside of Torre.
At the pre-arranged time, the villians convened at the agreed-upon place. The accomplices urged the fugitive to leave Torre permanently so that nobody could prove their participation in the crime. "You have brought this cross to bear upon yourself," they reportedly said. "The police are searching only for you and if they find you in these parts they will know someone is helping you and will widen the investigation."
Pillirino stood his ground, seemingly threatening to give up the names of all if he was taken into custody. At this point, his former friends flung themselves upon him, but, sensing their intentions, Pillirino fled. There was , by several accounts, a long and desperate chase through the dark countryside of Torre. Pillirino, heart bursting in his chest, apparently thought his only chance of survival was at the home of another of his “former” buddies, one Gennaro, not far from the land that he had once cultivated.
The door was opened and there was the hospitality he long sought. Gennaro's wife, Colette, was in the last month of pregnancy and her husband, awaiting the first labor pains to call the midwife, almost never left the house. Pillirino remained there three days before his former comrades found his place of refuge.
One evening they took up positions around the house and when the owner came out, grabbed him and said in no uncertain terms that if he did not show Pillirino the door, they would set his home afire.
The poor man, terrified, told Pillirino that he must leave, that soon his wife would give birth and he could not continue to remain there. Many women would come to assist with the birth and to see the newborn.
Pillirino begged to be allowed to stay, but Gennaro was adamant. And so, Pillirino, with an anguished heart, and hunted like an animal, did not even make it twenty feet before he was surrounded by his fellow nefarious companions. He screamed, and defended himself desperately. It was said almost all in the countryside heard him on that placid night in May.
Quickly, a hood was placed over his head and he fainted. They stripped him and threw him into a well. When he struck the icy water he regained consciousness and continued to piercingly scream until he drowned.
The next day a farmer went to get water into the well to dissolve copper sulphate for his grape vines, and saw him in the well. The police were called and Manulli, the Police Superintendent of Montemiletto, unable to hoist the body with hooks (to avoid piercing the flesh), entrusted to Alfonso Cafasso the task of descending into the well and placing a sling under the body. When this was brought up, all the spectators were shocked by the enormity of his penis, which, through the spasms of agony, had remained fully erect.
Part Three: An Unusual Finale
You'd think the story ends here ... but it does not. Perhaps you will find these next circumstances incredible. Skepticism is understandable, but I can assure that every person over the age of fifty living in Torre can attest this is a true account.
No one was ever convicted for the murders of Antonio and Maria, nor for that of Pillirino. Although the latter was considered by all sources to be responsible for Maria’s demise, it is more difficult to ascertain who was accountable for Antonio's and the villian's deaths.
And so, few years passed. One hot afternoon, A*** was working alone in his field. Heat, fatigue and searing dust produced in him an atrocious thirst; he had not brought along a bottle of water and seemed ready to faint.
He went to the well of a neighboring farm, dropped the bucket with the pulley and pulled up water which he drank greedily. As you have likely guessed, this was the very well where Pillirino had been drowned.
The very same night he began to feel ill. As the days went by he began to have convulsions and fits of fainting. Then, inexplicably, A*** apparently began to speak in the voice of Pillirino. Sometimes he spoke an unknown language and appeared to converse with someone who answered him in the same language.
This was identified as a case of possession. In addition, the poor man suddenly developed the gift of foresight. He knew in advance who would come into the house and what happened in the countryside. He told people where they could find items that they had lost, could even guess the sender of letters that they had received.
In this regard, there is the testimony of my late grandfather, postmaster of the town, who one day had a traumatic experience. (see http://www.torrelenocelle.com/spiriti/postino.htm ).
In the increasingly rare intervals between one crisis and another, he was able, somehow, to make an almost acceptable living.
One day A*** went into the country to knock on the door of Zà Piccola who now lived alone in the house where the murders took place. Zà Piccola saw him from the open window, but without opening the door, asked what he wanted. The possessed man, speaking in Pillirino's voice, revealed the names of all his accomplices, the very same men who had murdered him.
Zà Piccola, frightened and intimidated, told him to go away or she would beat him with the broom. But visibly angry, Pillirino continued to speak through the possessed man: "While I slaughtered your mother she screamed 'My baby, my baby,' calling you, wanting you to be there. I wish you were there, I would have strangled you as well.”