Italian rocker gets 30 years for satanic killings

BUSTO ARSIZIO, Italy - The leader of Italian heavy metal rock band "Beasts of Satan" has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing the group's singer and two women in Satanic ritual murders.

Andrea Volpe, who hid his face from cameras as he entered the courthouse, had hoped for a lighter sentence after leading authorities to the victims' bodies and confessing to cult killings that have horrified the Roman Catholic country.

One of his accomplices, Pietro Guerrieri, thought to be the cult's "gravedigger", was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

"We got justice," said Lina Marino, the mother of Chiara Marino, who band members stabbed to death under a full moon in 1998. She was 19.

They apparently believed that the petite brunette was the personification of the Virgin Mary.

Fabio Tollis, 16, a singer in the amateur rock band, was dating Marino at the time and took a fatal hammer blow to the head after trying to stop her killing.

Volpe, a guitarist, was also convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Mariangela Pezzotta last year. She was shot in the mouth and her body mutilated.

The Satanic killings sparked fears in Italy of a spread of devil cults, and the Vatican last week started a course for Roman Catholic priests on Satanism and exorcism in response to what the Church says is a worrying interest in the occult, particularly among the young.

Prosecutors had only asked for a 20-year sentence for Volpe, reduced for collaborating with authorities. His confession was key to cracking the case, and Volpe, they said, appeared to truly regret the killings.

"If he had not admitted everything, nobody would have been able to convict him for the death of Fabio and Chiara, " prosecutor Antonio Pizzi told La Repubblica newspaper.

"The fate of those two (teenagers) would still be shrouded in mystery. Maybe the bodies would never have been found. "

Including Volpe, 10 members of the cult are linked to the case, which is also scrutinising the suicide of another member, Andrea Bontade.

One accomplice, Paolo Maccione, was acquitted of criminal association on Tuesday but will face murder charges in a juvenile court since he was a minor at the time of the murders.

Defence attorney Flavio Violo said he would appeal the sentence of Volpe who has said he fears satanic killers may seek revenge against his family for spilling details of the secret death cult.

"It's been terrible telling my parents that I was a killer. Then I was terrified that someone would do something bad to my father and my mother," Volpe told La Repubblica.

"The Beasts have powerful friends."

- REUTERS

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