NAuthorities are still investigating the horrific bloody act in the town of Altavilla Milicia, east of Palermo. On Sunday evening, the suspected perpetrator, 54-year-old mason Giovanni B., himself alerted the Carabinieri and called them to him. There, investigators found the man's four- and 16-year-old sons, who, according to the investigations so far, he strangled with an iron chain on Friday.

Matthias Rüb

Italian, Vatican, Albanian and Maltese political correspondent in Rome.

A short time later, the charred body of the alleged perpetrator's 41-year-old wife was found under a pile of dirt on the property near the family's home. The woman was allegedly killed by her husband a few days earlier. The 17-year-old daughter was found in a room of the family home, shocked and confused. A couple who are family friends of the mason were arrested on Monday and are suspected of inciting the murder of the man's wife and two sons.

“A family man like everyone else”

The background of the crime was an obscure exorcism ritual. As reported by Italian media, the surviving daughter said her father said he had to exorcise demons from the family and their home. The circumstances of the woman's death are still unclear. The man allegedly strangled the two sons with an iron chain. The body of one of the boys was reportedly still in chains when the carabinieri began to search the house.

Apparently, several animals were killed before or during the slaughter to drive out suspected demons. The carcasses of the executed animals were found near the charred body of the suspected criminal's wife.

Forensics at work

Forensics at work

Image: dpa

The pastor of the Altavilla Milicia Evangelical Church, where the mason's family had attended in recent years, denied any connection to the massacre. Although the family regularly attended the services of the Free Church, contact was lost after the church was temporarily prevented from holding services in 2020 due to pandemic protection measures by order of the authorities. During this time, the mason apparently came into contact with both the couple and a self-proclaimed preacher, healer and exorcist from Bari, Apulia, through social media.

This person was never connected in any way to the evangelical church of Altavilla Milicia, but “led a satanic sect,” according to a statement by the pastor of the Free Church, which was circulated by Italian media on Monday. The alleged perpetrator, who joined an evangelical church with his family in 2019, never said anything strange or raised a hand against his children until he left the Free Church during the pandemic lockdown.

Giovanni B. was “a family man like everyone else” who was “doing his job,” the pastor's statement said: “The accusers should be punished for their actions according to the laws of the land and the laws of God.” The Evangelical Free Church of Altavilla Milicia is apparently not yet the subject of a bloody crime investigation.