Went down in history as the ‘Strangler of Women’, and is considered the earliest serial killer in Italy of whom detailed and accurate records exist.
Born in Bettanuco, Bergamasco region, in 1849, Vincenzo Verzeni measures 1.66 m. (5ft5), weighing 68 kg. (150 lbs), robust like the workers in the fields. He’s a calm and quiet boy, who keeps to himself: always friendly and seemingly innocuous.
Mr. Verzni comes from a problematic family background: a violent father, who in his frequent drunken rages beats his wife and son; obsessed with saving money, almost allergic to expenditures.
In this environment Vincenzo is completely incapable of cultivating interpersonal relationships of any kind with girls his own age and due to his enormous fear of his dominant father he lives entirely in a world of his own.
His anger, fed by his frustrations and resentments, suddenly breaks free, causing panic throughout the Bergamasco countryside during a period lasting from 1870 through 1874, completely eluding the police in all their efforts to capture him.
His first victim was Giovanna Matta, 14 years old, who was on her way to reunite with her family in Suiso, when she was attacked by Vincenzo Verzeni. She never reaches her destination and disappears mysteriously at that point.
Her body surfaced four days later, horrendously mutilated. Giovanna’s murder is followed up by other equally ferocious crimes. Vincenzo s captured thanks to two witness statements, and is put on trial.
He killed only two women, and attacked six more. Most of his victims were related to him, and he failed most of the time because of some passer by. He always managed to get away without being recognized.
The court only found him guilty by a one vote majority, of the two murders and of the attempted murder of four more women.
He was arrested over the testimony of a woman he attacked the night previous to his second killing.
He intended to take Giovanna Motta to his house to cook her flesh, but panicked and hid the body under some straw, where her mother found her.
He never touched or even looked at his victims genitals, as he was completely ignorant of how to have intercourse. He derived all his pleasure from strangling them, and sucking.
Doctor Cesare Lombroso is called upon because of his expertise in the field of psychiatry. The expert decides Vincenzo is partially insane.
The trial at the assizes court of Bergamo is very short, but because thecourt lacks unanimity, Vincenzo is sentenced to forced labor instead of to the firing squad.
Doctor Lombroso quotes Vencenzo during the trial, as saying, “I have really butchered some of the women, and I have tried to strangle a few more, because I take immense pleasure in these acts. The scratches found in the thighs weren’t the product of my nails, but of my teeth, because after the strangulation I bit her andsucked the blood that dripped out, which I enjoyed very much.” That’s how the young man explains his modus operandi.
Doctor Lombroso maintains that Vincenzo comes from a family affected by retardation, and he in particular was affected by necrophilomania or an insanity for monstrous or bloody love affairs.
On April 13 Vincenzo Verzeni is locked up inside the judicial mental hospital of Milan, just outside the town of Porta Vittoria il Senavra.
On July 19 he slips into an impenetrable muteness.
He undergoes numerous sessions of ‘cura morale’, which incorporates the most cruel treatments in modern psychiatry: boiling glue burns, electric shocks, total isolation, total darkness, ice showers poured on his head from a height of 3 m. (10 ft.), alternated with ’surprise baths’ in hot water.
At four in the morning on July 23, nurses find Vincenzo Verzeni dangling against the wall, naked except for his slippers, tied by the neck to a rope attached to the bars in the window.
The nurses seek to administer first aid, cutting the rope, but even the medic, who was rushed to the scene, can’t do anything for him, except pronouncing him dead.
Doctor Cesare Lombroso is considered the father of modern criminology> He paved the way for the scientific analysis that in time led Americans to define the term ’serial killer’ as a murderer who commits at least two murders at longer or shorter intervals.
The serial killer acts out of exhileration, out of a psychological need (of a sexual nature), and more or less consciously sees his acts as a challenge.