Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Satanist sent to prison over murders

GRISLY The leader of the rock group `Beasts of Satan' was sentenced to 30 years in jail for the ritual killing of two fellow band members and the shooting of his fiancee

AFP , ROME

In a case that has shocked a nation concerned about a rising fascination with the occult, an Italian court on Tuesday sentenced the leader of a heavy metal rock group called the "Beasts of Satan" to 30 years in jail for three gruesome ritual murders.

Andrea Volpe, 27, a self-confessed devil worshipper and drug addict, was convicted of the ritual stabbing and beating of fellow band members Fabio Tollis, 16, and Chiara Marino, 19, in 1998, and the shooting of Volpe's 27-year-old former fiancee, Mariangela Pezzotta.

Volpe and Piero Guerrieri, another band member who was sentenced to 16-and-a-half years in prison, were also accused of driving a fourth person to death by suicide in a grisly high-speed auto wreck.

A third defendant, Mario Maccione, was acquitted.

All three had chosen to be judged under an accelerated court procedure that offered lower sentences in exchange for curtailed evidence. Volpe could otherwise have received life in jail. Nevertheless, the court at Busto Arsizio near Milan imposed a heavier sentence on Volpe than the 20 years demanded by the prosecution.

Prosecutor Antonio Pizzi said the sentence was "just."

Lina Marino, the mother of one of the victims, said, "we have obtained justice for Chiara. Volpe must now spend 30 years in prison."

Five other members of the Satanic group were scheduled to go on trial from June 21.

The snake-owning Volpe dresses in black clothes studded with patches bearing images of the devil with a ram's head and the number 666.

According to a parliamentary group studying the problem, hundreds of satanic cult groups pullulate in Italy, with more and more young people involved. A Roman Catholic college in Rome recently began offering a specialized course in Satanism and exorcism for priests and seminarians.

Pope John Paul II has repeatedly told Catholics that Satan exists as a real force of evil in the world.

Marco Strano, an Italian police official who specializes in diabolic sects, said Satanism was sharply on the rise in Italy, but that it was difficult to quantify the problem.

"The Satanists increasingly carry out their rites in private houses," he said.

The affair came to light last year when Pezzotta's body was discovered in a Milan suburb. She had been shot in the face and buried in a garden close to Milan-Malpensa airport. The corpses of the two teenagers were then found buried in a wood close to the airport.

Tollis and Marino were probably killed by blows from a knife and spade, according to a witness statement.

They were last seen on June 17, 1998 coming out of a Milan bar popular among heavy metal fans.

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