ROME – An Italian couple who reportedly could not stand a toddler's persistent crying have been arrested for killing the child, his mother, grandmother and a neighbor in a gruesome case which has shaken Italy.
Prosecutors in the northern lakeside town of Como have told reporters that the couple, Rosa Bazzi and Olindo Romano, had confessed to the slayings, and that they would seek their trial for premeditated murder and other crimes, including setting the murder scene on fire to try to destroy the bodies.
Almost immediately after the Dec. 11 slayings in an apartment building in Erba, a small town near Como, many Italian media blamed the slayings on the toddler's Tunisian father, Azouz Marzouk, who had served a prison term on drug charges.
But then it emerged Marzouk was in Tunisia when his family was killed.
The lawyer for the accused couple, Pietro Troiano, told journalists in Como that a judge on Friday upheld the arrests and that a psychiatric examination will be sought for his clients.
The Italian news agency ANSA quoted Troiano as saying the couple denied they had planned the slayings and quoted them as telling the judge that they did not want to kill.
The killings horrified Italy. Youssef Marzouk, 2, had his throat slit. His mother, Raffaella Castagna, who opened the door to the alleged killers, who lived in the apartment below hers, was stabbed 12 times. The grandmother, Paola Galli, was also fatally stabbed, and a neighbor in the building, Valeria Cherubini, who apparently heard the commotion, was also slain.
Cherubini's husband, Mario Frigerio, who tried to come to his wife's aid, was attacked and left for dead. But he survived and after weeks in hospital, reportedly described the attack to investigators.
Italian state TV Thursday night, in announcing the couple's confessions, said the initial frenzy of reporting blaming the slayings on the Tunisian man showed that "prejudices endure" in Italian society against immigrants.
Instead, TV noted, the killers "were from among us," and several Italian dailies on Friday carried editorials denouncing such prejudice.
Investigators said that the slayings were motivated by a long feud between the Romano and the Marzouk family, apparently caused in part by the toddler's crying. They said that the boy's mother had filed a complaint which was to be the subject of a court hearing scheduled for Dec. 13, two days after the killings.