Cogne homicide

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The so-called Cogne case (known in Italian as Delitto di Cogne) involved the death of three-year-old Samuele Lorenzi on 30 January 2002 while sleeping in his parents' bed in his family home in the mountain village of Montroz, frazione of Cogne, in Aosta Valley, northern Italy. The cause of death was found to be a blow to the skull. The murder weapon has never been found.

In July 2004 an Italian court sentenced Samuele's mother Anna Maria Franzoni to 30 years in prison for aggravated murder. However, on 27 April 2007 the Corte d'Assise d'appello in Turin reduced the penalty to Franzoni to 16 years of jail for homicide. Franzoni always refuted the charge, asserting that an intruder had killed her child in the few minutes she left home to accompany her older son Davide, then-six years old, to the school bus.

Details of the case[edit]

Mrs. Franzoni, Samuele's mother, testified she went out for a while, at 8 a.m. to accompany the elder son (Davide, aged 6) to the school bus stop, just a few hundred meters from home, leaving alone her youngest son. Back home a few minutes later, Franzoni claimed she found Samuele lying in the bed, covered by a comforter and gasping in a pool of blood. The victim, a three-year old child, was sleeping in his parents' bed and had not attempted to escape. The woman ran to the window to attract the attention of a neighbor, to whom she shouted, "My baby's head has exploded", then called 118 (the Italian emergency telephone number) requesting assistance because "My child has vomited blood and stopped breathing."

Shortly after, neighbor psychiatrist Ada Satragni arrived on the scene. The doctor believed Franzoni that the child's skull would have "exploded", stating that a cerebral aneurysm may actually increase the intracranial pressure, causing the explosion of bones. A few days later, Dr. Satragni released an interview in which she proposed that perhaps Samuele, aware of being home alone, had desperately burst in tears and that "The violent crying might have caused the opening of the head." At the time, Dr. Satragni devoted herself to wash the dying child and then carried him out, in front of the house, despite the cold weather and without any caution to protect his head or neck. Another neighbor, Mrs. Daniela Ferrod, noticed that, for the entire time, Mrs. Franzoni remained motionless and silent, without saying anything or even trying to touch her son. Upon arrival of the helicopter that would carry Samuele to the ER, neither Mrs Franzoni nor her husband (Stefano Lorenzi, surveyor, 31 years), who had been informed of the tragedy by phone, followed their child.

A few minutes later, the couple was told that the baby had died before reaching hospital. At this point, Mr. Lorenzi fell to the ground in panic, sobbing and screaming, while his wife began to ask him: "Shall we have another baby? Will you help me to conceive another one? Then we will go away from here...." Witnesses claimed that Mr. Lorenzi appeared annoyed and upset and did not answer.

Doors and windows were closed and did not seem to be forced. Nothing valuable was missing and there were no traces of strangers. Traces of blood were concentrated only in the master bedroom where the murder took place and there were none elsewhere. Neighbours did not notice anything unusual. The following day, the couple was summoned by the police in Cogne and here Mrs. Franzoni started saying some bizarre words. Franzoni said to a policeman who tried to console her, "There are even mothers who kill their children, yes, there are ..." and shortly after, she said "You know, sir I do hope that [my son] has been killed." The policeman asked to explain such an odd statement, but she quickly digressed.

The same day, again at the police station, Mrs. Franzoni had a discussion with her husband, arguing that the door was locked as usual, and nervously commenting: "The door was locked, I have locked it, and I know very well what I do or don't do". At this point, her husband suggested: "Do not say so, baby, because this doesn't help you." Franzoni later said she did not lock the door before leaving and that it was not in her habit to do so.

A couple of weeks later, Mrs. Franzoni and her husband went to Monteacuto Vallese, a small village near Bologna, hometown to Mrs. Franzoni. There, during a telephone conversation with a friend, the woman, referring to Samuele's death, said: "I don't know what happened to me" and then immediately corrected herself "Ehm... I don't know what happened to him."

Franzoni almost immediately began releasing interviews to newspapers and TV programs, initially showing desperation for the tragedy she faced, and later stating that she wanted "to be known", so that people would not think she was the kind of mother capable of killing her own child. Soon after her child’s death, Mrs. Franzoni released an interview to an Italian TV channel, Italia 1. Despite her perfect make-up and smart dresses, she appeared upset and cried desperately, but, as soon as cameras went off, Franzoni quickly dried her tears and calmly asked a journalist: “I cried too much, didn't I?”, and did not seem as sad as she pretended to be. At the same time, Mrs. Franzoni, her husband and his family began to indicate several people living in Cogne as potential killers of their son.

At first Mrs. Franzoni pointed her finger against a young couple of friends, whose baby daughter had recently died after a premature birth; Franzoni alleged that the woman had told her "You should face the death of your son as well," the evening before the murder. Later, Franzoni changed her mind and accused the neighbor that first ran to help her and Samuele on the morning of January 30, Mrs. Daniela Ferrod. She said that Mrs. Ferrod was "as evil as a witch" and "jealous of my family and my happiness", suggesting that Mrs. Ferrod used to "spy" her and that probably she killed Samuele as an act of revenge, motivated by jealousy and envy. Later Mrs Franzoni changed version again and, during summer 2004, with her husband and her lawyer (Carlo Taormina, a former member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies) filed a lawsuit against another neighbor, a 35-year-old bachelor called Ulisse Guichardaz, who was also Mrs. Daniela Ferrod's brother-in-law. Mr. and Mrs. Franzoni-Lorenzi heavily slandered Mr. Guichardaz, describing him as a sexual maniac and arguing that Mrs. Franzoni was terrified of him. This man had an alibi. Lawyer Taormina contradicted himself several times about the identity and possible motives of the murderer. Firstly, the prominent lawyer argued that the crime was dictated by "a sort of revenge against the victim's mother" and that the motive was of "sexual nature", but later he claimed that the murderer was a voyeur who sneaked into Mrs Franzoni's house to rape her. Lawyer Taormina stated several times that he knew the name of the murderer and he was willing to reveal it, something that never happened.

The murder weapon was never found, despite extensive researches. Medical examiner found several traces of copper around the wounds on the child's head and this suggests that the murder weapon was made of copper. The victim had suffered at least 17 blows, which devastated his forehead and face.

  • Police discovered that a few hours before the murder Mrs Franzoni suffered from a serious panic attack, and felt so bad that she pushed her husband to call the emergency doctor. It was not the first time that she faced panic attacks, but she had always minimized, denied having any problems.
  • According to the Police, Mrs Franzoni had a violent outburst against her son and beat him to death. Then she covered her wounded child with the comforter, hid her pajamas (completely drenched in blood and brain matter) between the sheets, washed, dressed normally and walked to school her eldest son.
  • Several close friends recalled that Mrs Franzoni seemed worried about her younger son's health because, according to her, "his head was too big and too hot".
  • Shortly after Samuele's birth, Mrs. Franzoni faced post partum depression, separated from her husband and came back to her parents' home with her two babies. However, after a few months the couple reconciled and by the time of the murder, they seemed to be happily married.

One year after Samuele's death, Mrs. Franzoni gave birth to another child, a boy named Gioele.

On 21 May 2008 the Court of Last Resort confirmed the decision of the Appeal Court and Anna Maria Franzoni was arrested. She is now in jail, facing a new trial for defamation against her neighbors. Her parents never phone or go and visit her in jail, her husband makes monthly visits with both sons, Davide and Gioele.

Media exposure[edit]

Mrs. Franzoni, from 2002 to 2008 - when she was finally jailed - took part in numerous TV shows: in such shows, Mrs Franzoni always appeared well dressed and made-up, aggressive in supporting her innocence. On several occasions, Mrs Franzoni stated that the judges and the prosecutors unfairly persecuted her and that they knew she was innocent, but would never admit it nor would they seek out for the "real killer". Because of these allegations, Mrs. Franzoni was also charged and found guilty of defamation against the Chief Prosecutor of Aosta.

On December 2006, Franzoni wrote a short book entitled The Truth in which she once again protested innocent, describing her family life as incredibly perfect and unproblematic, presenting herself as a doting mother, a happy wife and a devoted catholic, surrounded by cruel and jealous neighbors. Curiously, Mrs. Franzoni wrote she had no idea who could the murderer be and that she never blamed or accused anyone.