Monday, February 08, 2010

The Sad Case Of Sonia Marra #1: Summary Of The Known Facts Up To The Charging Of A Suspect

Posted by catnip



[Above: Sonia Marra is at center here - we have many more photos to be added]


This annotated summary below of the known facts of Sonia’s case up to the charging of a suspect is the first of four posts here on TJMK.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting on on the release of the suspect. Then there will be two posts by my fellow Italian-speaker Tiziano, who has translated many of the media reports.

Sonia’s case is of special interest to us here because violence to women happens rarely in Perugia, and a year prior to Meredith meeting her fate, this case placed a cloud over the town.

And there are two other reasons why it is of interest.

  • It reflects the caring and discretion which is for the most part to be found in the Italian media - nobody here has been demonized.
  •  
  • It reflects the extreme caution of the Italian judiciary, which has released the prime suspect when the evidence did not stand up.

These facts are drawn from a number of Italian sources, and you will find all of them below listed the fold (“MORE”) at the bottom of this post.

The known facts

Sonia Marra disappeared on 16 November 2006 in Perugia (n1). She was 25 years old (n2).

Her body has never been found (n3) and nor has her phone (n4)  which was switched off on the evening of her disappearance and was never switched on again (n5).

Despite really intense investigations, there has never since been any trace of her (n6).

Her ex-boyfriend Umberto Bindella was arrested (n7)  at 6pm on the 18 January 2010 (n8) on suspicion of her murder - he is now released again, see below.

Her family raised the alarm when they were no longer able to make phone contact with her (n9).  Her mother called her that night, as she did every day, but her phones were off (n10).

Alarmed, she called her other daughter Anna, who lives in Rome with her boyfriend Paolo (n11). They both tried all night to call her, but were unsuccessful. (n12).



[Above: Sonia’s amazing sister Anna who moved to Perugia and incessantly fanned interest]

On the morning of the 17th, Paolo went to her apartment in Perugia (n13). He was unable to enter, seeing as there was a strong smell of gas coming out. (n14).

At this point, Sonia’s cousin called the Fire Brigade, who gained entry. (n15). The place was all in order. There was no trace of Sonia at all. (n16).

A (young woman) neighbour in Sonia’s building (n17)  saw someone on the stairs (n18) matching Bindella’s description. (n19).

According to a witness, on the night of the disappearance, at around 8pm, a car parked underneath her apartment. (n20).

A man got out of the light-coloured car and headed towards Sonia’s first-floor apartment. (n21).  He opened the door with keys, without forcing the lock.(n22).

Noises were heard from inside apartment, then the man exited, got into the car and left. (n23).

Sonia was from Specchia (n24) in the Lecce district (n25) of southern Puglia (n26) and she was studying in Perugia (n27)  at the University of Perugia (n28)  at the Faculty of Medicine (n29) training to become a biomedical lab technician (n30).

She was living alone in an apartment in the Elce zone downhill to the west of the historic town centre (n31) not far from the railway station (Meredith would have passed very close by at times) and the central police station.

She was formerly with the Theological School in Montemorcino, where she had got to know Umberto (n32).  She was doing volunteer secretarial work there (n33)  and they both lodged there for a time (n34).

The family’s lawyer is Alessandro Vesi (n35)  who is representing them during the investigations as “persons injured” (n36).

They never gave up the search for Sonia and the hope of finding her alive (n37).  But Vesi says: “The ray of hope of ever seeing Sonia again is diminishing ever smaller.” (n38).

“There is no way that this [arrest of Bindella] can ever be spoken of as a victory.” (n39).

“For the family, it was gut-wrenching to hear the word ‘murder’ tied to Bindella’s interview, and thereby also to Sonia’s disappearance. They were still hoping she would be found alive.” (n40).

“His arrest now has thrown them into deeper despair.” (n41).

According to the family, the young man would be “considered innocent until the last definitive appeal” (n42).  “Certainly, his arrest is a strong link in the investigations, but we have to wait for the conclusion of the proceedings.” (n43).

Umberto Bindella, 31 years old (n44) with no previous record (n45), is from Marsciano (n46). He had been under investigation since November 2009 (n47).

He was charged with: wilful murder (n48) and hiding a body (still not found) (n49) and suppressing evidence (a mobile phone) (n50) and aggravated theft (of a phone) (n51) with a view to misleading the investigation (n52) by making it more complex. (n53).

He denied all the allegations (n54)  and his lawyers were confident of accompanying him home after a review hearing (n55) which was two hours long (n56) before the GIP Claudia Matteini (n57).

The public prosecutor is Giuseppe Petrazzini (n58). The Chief Prosecutor is Federico Centrone (n59).

The precautionary custody arrest order, requested by public prosecutor Giuseppe Petrazzini and signed by the GIP Paolo Micheli, was carried out by the Carabineri of the provincial command and by the Postal Police (n60).

The order mentioned the possibility of evidence tampering and flight risk. (n61). The arrest was confirmed by his lawyer (n62) as well as by the carabinieri (n63) and the TV program “Has anyone seen them?” (“Chi l’ha visto”) (n64) which has featured the case for a while now. (n65).

The TV program is held in high regard by viewers and is presented by Federica Sciarelli, 51 (n66)

Sonia’s family were said to be “surprised” by Umberto’s arrest (n67). The news had thrown them into deep consternation (n68). They had up until then hoped to welcome their daughter back with open arms. (n69)



[Above: Sonia’s hometown at the south-east corner of Italy, south of Sollecito’s hometown]

The Case made against Bindella 

Bindella was the last person to have seen Sonia alive in Perugia (n70). He was interviewed various times previously (n71), in fact 4 times previously (n72). At the last interview, he admitted he was an old partner of hers (n73).

He was interviewed for 3 hours by the Public Prosecutor on 26 November, accompanied by his parents (n74). He was then interviewed as a suspect (n75) and was the only suspect ever (n76).

He had been interviewed in the past as “a person informed of the facts” (n77). His status changed last December (n78).

He has always denied having a relationship with Sonia or being involved in her disappearance (n79). He was only “a passing acquaintance”, “only a friend” (n80). The investigators thought he was lying (n81).

He says they met at the ex-forestiera at the ex-seminary (n82).

His lawyers are Daniela Paccoi (n83)  from the “Foro di Perugia” (n84)  and Silvia Egidi (n85).

The Public Prosectutor thought the picture against Bindella was clear. (n86).  So did the GIP (n87).

Investigators hypothesised there was a (brief) romantic relationship (n88).  Sonia was particularly fond of him, they think. (n89).  They not only knew each other but there was a relationship going beyond mere friendship. (n90).

That in fact he was her boyfriend. (n91) which he denied (n92),

Just before she disappeared, she bought a pregnancy test kit (n93)  (which Bindella says he bought, at her request) (n94) and she had booked a visit to the gynecologist (n95) though she never turned up. (n96).

Triggering the murder prosecutors believed was the news that Sonia might probably be pregnant (n97) and this degenerated into a murder (n98).

It was Bindella who, from the first, informed the investigators that she was having problems because she knew she was pregnant. (n99). He wasn’t ready for the responsibility and so prosecutors believed decided to kill her. (n100)

“I don’t know anything about a possible pregnancy for Sonia,” he told the magistrates at the initial interview. (n101)

But contradicting his assertion were two phone calls with her at the time when she was arranging an appointment with the gynecologist to confirm the pregnancy. (n102)

Phone contact was also made via SMS (n103), just before 8pm, the hour of her effective disappearance. (n104)

The phone records triggered the investigation which led to the arrest (n105)  after their analysis by the Postal Police of Perugia (n106)

The phone records established contact between Bindella and Marra, as well as with other people who, when interviewed, provided details useful to a reconstruction of the facts (n107)

As it turned out, she was not pregnant, but perhaps the news arrived too late. (n108).

In November, the Perugia Prosecutor’s Office ordered searches of the area around Montemorcino, where there are deep ravines where it is suspected Sonia’s remains might be found. (n109).

The day after the disappearance, before Binderlla was told about her disappearance, (n110),  “I’ve made a right mess of it,” he is understood to have told a police officer friend. (n111). “This is bigger than you or me.” (n112).

There are also doubts about his attendance at an Enlglish course on the night Sonia disappeared. (n113).

The prosecutors’ theory is pure fantasy, said his lawyers. (n114). Thjey said that Bindella, “from the first day, on his own initiative told the investigators that Sonia asked him to but a pregnancy test kit and he did so” (n115).

The prosecution was not certain there actually was a murder and, if there was, that Bindella did it, even if the elements of the case hint at an undeniable involvement. (n116).

Bindella was a bit demoralised by his arrest, but clear-headed and determined to assert his innocence. (n117). His lawyers immediately requested his release. (n118).

His lawyer Paccoi, flanked by her colleague Silvia Egidi, said:  “Bindella has answered all the questions put him, furnishing elements which he considered useful for demonstrating his innocence.” (n119).  “My client doesn’t understand why he was arrested.” (n120)

“He supplied further particulars regarding his movements prior to the student’s disappearance.” (n121). “In particular, the first two weeks of November, a period which Sonia had described to various people as ‘idyllic’.” (n122)

“But Bindella was not in Perugia for a week during that period, and we have documented proof.” (n123). “In particular, he was in Bologna for exams, and then in Pisa with his mother.” (n124)

“Other investigative leads were not fully followed, especially the possibility of other visitors.” (n125).  “Bindella is absolutely respectful of the law, even the road rules, to say nothing of criminal law.” (n126)

Paccoi says that there is no mystery about the remark made to the friend. (n127).  Bindella was explaining that the carabinieri were looking for him because he knew Sonia. (n128). He actually said: “What a mess! A friend of mine has disappeared.” (n129)

Even the witness doesn’t remember whether the phrase was “I made a mess” or “It’s a mess” (n130). “Lots of witnesses have modified or rectified their statements as the net drew in” (n131)

“This led in turn to a colpevolista-slanted investigation. (n132). “But I am totally convinced of his innocence, and he is the first innocent that I am defending.” (n133)

“There is no motive” (n134)  “It is a case of getting existing facts mixed up.” (n135).  “If there is no new evidence, it [the arrest] is a profoundly unjust act.” (n136).  “There is no reason at all why my client should remain in prison.” (n137)

Bindella’s lawyer is of completely the opposite opinion (n138).  “It’s a given fact that there was no pregnancy.” (n139).  “The test was negative; a nursing sister made mention of it.” (n140)

“It is obvious there is nothing new here and we therefore hope to establish that in the rights review hearing, which will probably be Thursday morning”, and further, “It is a given fact that there was no pregnancy and it is not even up for discussion.”  (n141)

Sonia’s sister Anna transferred to Perugia three years ago to look for her sister (n142).  She says: “finding her alive is only a slim hope now” (n143). “More realistically, I’m waiting to be told where her body is so we can bring her home” (n144)

“Sonia wasn’t expecting to end up where she probably did.” (n145).  “Sonia was in love with Bindella” (n146). “Just before she disappeared, Sonia was strange, she told me there was something that wasn’t working for her” (n147)

But “she didn’t have any reason to leave home.” (n148)

Commentator Federica Sciarelli:  “There is sadness, yes, but it transforms itself into anger, because in a lot of case, the research into the disappearances were not well done, often leaving dangerous people still on the loose. I’m always astounded by the number of women and girls who have vanished.”

“But call them for what they are: murder with the hiding of bodies. Take the recent case of Sonia Marra, the girl who went to Perugia to study and who called her mother every night: you think it’s possible that she could disappear without leaving even the slightest trace?” (n149)

FOOTNOTES AND REFERENCES BELOW



[Above: The beaches near Sonia’s hometown of Spechia]


Notes And Bibliography

Numbers refer to the articles quoted from at bottom here.

n1—2,7,8,11,14,15,16,17,21,22
n2—5,7,8,12,14,16,18,19,2
n3—3
n4—18,19
n5—18,19
n6—7
n7—2,7,12,13,16,17,20,22
n8—16
n9—5,8,1
n10—7
n11—7
n12—7
n13—7
n14—7
n15—7
n16—7,14
n17—9,10,1
n18—9,18
n19—9,18
n20—7
n21—7
n22—7,10
n23—7
n24—2,5,12,16,17,18,2
n25—5,18,19,21
n26—6,7,10,14,15,22
n27—12,13,1
n28—2,14,1
n29—7,12,13,16
n30—2,14,1
n31—2,5,7,17
n32—2,5,8,14,15,17
n33—5,8,2
n34—15
n35—5,7,8,16
n36—7
n37—5,8,
n38—7
n39—7
n40—7
n41—7
n42—7
n43—7
n44—2,6,8,12,14,16,17,21,2
n45—6,14
n46—2,8,11,14,15,17,18,21,2
n47—2,16
n48—2,3,5,6,8,10,11,13,14,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,2
n49—2,5,6,8,10,11,13,14,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,24
n50—2,14,16,17
n51—4,5,6,13,14,20,2
n52—14
n53—20
n54—3,5,6,8,9,10,14,21,2
n55—10
n56—21
n57—21
n58—14,16,20,23
n59—14,16,2
n60—5,6,7,8,11,12,16,20,2
n61—18,19
n62—7
n63—7
n64—15
n65—15,16
n66—25
n67—7
n68—14
n69—14
n70—2,6,17,20
n71—5,8,10,19
n72—20
n73—20
n74—12,14,1
n75—2,8,15,16,1
n76—15
n77—2,7,8,17,2
n78—7
n79—2,3,10,15,17,18,19,20
n80—2,10,14,15,16,17,18,19
n81—3,10
n82—16
n83—2,5,7,16,17,21,2
n84—16
n85—5
n86—9
n87—10
n88—5,6,7,8,10,12,18,19,2
n89—18,19
n90—14,24
n91—9
n92—9,12,15,17
n93—5,8,14,18
n94—18
n95—5,8,14,18
n96—5,8,14,18
n97—2,5,8,9,10,12,14,16,17,18,19,22
n98—5,9,12,14,16,18,2
n99—22
n100—2,17
n101—2,17
n102—2,15,17,18
n103—3,5,8,9,18,19
n104—20
n105—4,11,1
n106—4,11,18,19
n107—4,11
n108—2,17,1
n109—2,17
n110—9,10,1
n111—5,18,19,22
n112—9,10,1
n113—10
n114—22
n115—10
n116—20
n117—21
n118—21,22
n119—23
n120—23
n121—23
n122—23
n123—23
n124—23
n125—23
n126—23
n127—9,18
n128—9,18
n129—22
n130—22
n131—22
n132—22
n133—22
n134—18,22
n135—9,18
n136—7,14
n137—22
n138—9
n139—9,18
n140—9,10,1
n141—10
n142—18
n143—9
n144—9
n145—9,18
n146—18
n147—18
n148—18
n149 – 25

Articles Quoted

1 - “La scomparsa di Sonia Marra, svolta nelle indagini: arrestato l’ex fidanzato”  (The disappearance of Sonia Marra – breakthrough in the investigatoins: ex-boyfriend arrested ) [ Corriere del Mezzogiorno   ] 20 January 2010

2 - “Sonia Marra, svolta nelle indagini sulla studentessa sparita: arrestato l’ex”  (Sonia Marra case: breakthrough in the investigations – ex arrested ) [ Corriere dell Mezzogiorno   ] 19 January 2010

3 - “Scomparsa Marra: Bindella accusato di omicidio volontario”  (Marra disappearance: Bindello accused of wilful murder ) [ ANSA   ] 19 January 2010

4 - “Perugia: indagini per arresto assassino Sonia Marra partite da tabulati telefonici”  (Perugia: investigations for Sonia Marra murder arrest begin with phone records ) [ Libero   ] 19 January 2010

5 - CASO MARRA: EX FIDANZATO RAGAZZA ACCUSATO DI OMICIDIO VOLONTARIO (Marra Case: Ex-boyfriend accused of wilful murder ) [ AGI   ] 19 January 2010

6 - “Scomparsa Sonia Marra, arrestato un uomo a Perugia, sarebbe stato l’ultimo a vedere viva la ragazza”  (Sonia Marra disappearance: man arrested in Perugia, he was the last to see her alive ) [ ANSA   ] 18 January 2010

7 - “Studentessa scomparsa a Perugia, arrestato l’ex fidanzato – L’ordinanza di custodia confermata dal legale dell’uomo”  (Vanished Perugian student, ex-boyfriend arrested – Custody order confirmed by man’s lawyer ) [ Corriere   ] 18 January 2010

8 - “Caso Marra: arrestato l’autore dell’omicidio – Dovrà rispondere di omicidio volontario e occultamento di cadavere”  (Marra case: murderer arrested – to answer charges of wilful murder and disposing of a body ) [ Notiziario   ] 20 January 2010

9 - “SONIA MARRA: UMBERTO BINDELLA RESPINGE TUTTE LE ACCUSE.” (“Sonia Marra Case: Umberto Bindella denies all charges ) [ Terni in Rete   ] 19 January 2010

10 - “Una confidenza ad un poliziotto amico ha convinto il Giudice che ha fatto arrestare Bindella”  (A remark to a police friend convinced the judge who arrested Bindella ) [ Tam Tam   ] 19 January 2010

11 - “Umbria/ Perugia, arrestato presunto omicida Sonia Marra” (Sonia Marra’s alleged killer arrested ) [ Wall Street Italia   ] 19 January 2010

12 - “Caso Marra, arrestato l’ex della ragazza scomparsa”  (Marra Case: Vanished girl’s ex arrested ) [ Paese Nuovo   ] 19 January 2010

13 - “Perugia, studentessa scomparsa nel 2006: arrestato ex” (Student disappearance of 2006: ex arrested ) [ Blitz Quotidiano   ] 19 January 2010

14 - “SONIA MARRA : ARRESTATO UMBERTO BINDELLA” (Sonia Marra Case: Umberto Bindella arrested” ) [ Terni in Rete   ] 18 January 2010

15 - Matteo Berlenga, “Arrestato un marscianese per la scomparsa di Sonia Marra”  (A Marchianese arrested for Sonia Marra’s disappearance ) [ Tam Tam   ] 18 January 2010

16 - “SCOMPARSA DI SONIA MARRA, IN MANETTE L’EX FIDANZATO”  (Sonia Marra disappearnce: ex-boyfriend in handcuffs ) [ Lecce Prima   ] 18 January 2010

17 - “Sonia Marra, svolta nelle indagini sulla studentessa sparita: arrestato l’ex”  (Sonia Marra case: breakthrough in vanished stduent investigation: ex arrested ) [ Corriere dell Mezzogiorno   ] 19 January 2010

18 - “Sonia Marra: contatti telefoni con Bindella prima della scomparsa”  (Sonia Marra case: phone contact with Bindella before her disappearance ) [ Chi l’ha visto   ] 19 January 2010

19 - Daniele Bovi, “ Caso Marra, tra Bindella e Sonia diversi sms prima della scomparsa. All’amico poliziotto: ‘Ho combinato un gran casino’”  (Marra Case: various texts between Bindella and Sonia before her disappearance. To police friend: “I’ve made a mess out of it” ) [ Umbria Left   ] 19 January 2010

20 - Samy Dawud, “Sonia Marra: arrestato un ex fidanzato”  (Sonia Marra Case: an ex-boyfriend arrested ) [ New Notizie   ] 18 January 2010

21 - “CASO MARRA: BINELLA RIBADISCE SUA INNOCENZA DAVANTI A GIP” (Marra Case: Binella maintains innocence before the GIP ) [ AGI   ] 21 January 2010

22 - “Ragazza scomparsa a Perugia, ex fidanzato si dichiara innocente”  (Vanished Perugia girl: ex-boyfriend says he is innocent ) [ Reuters   ] 21 January 2010

23 - “CASO MARRA: BINDELLA RIBADISCE SUA INNOCENZA DAVANTI GIP (2)”  [ AGI   ] 21 January 2010

24 - “Perugia: studentessa scomparsa nel 2006, un arresto”  (Perugia student vanished in 2006: an arrest ) [ Secolo XIX   ] 18 January 2010

25 - ALBERTO ANILE , “Federica Sciarelli: «Fare la detective è la mia passione»”  (Federica Sciarelli: “Doing detective work is my passion ) [ Sorrisi   ] 11 January 2010

26 - “STUDENTESSA SCOMPARSA: ARRESTATO RESPINGE ACCUSE DAVANTI GIP”  (Vanished student: arrested man denies charges in front of GIP ) [ Melito Online   ] 21 January 2010


Posted by catnip on 02/08/10 at 05:05 PM in Other legal processesItalian related


Comments

Just shows you how two people can be on completely different wavelengths;  Sonia told her sister she was in love with Bindella. Bindella says they were merely friends. (How many women ask a male “friend” to purchase a pregnancy testkit for them???)

She very likely was in love, or infatuated, feared she was pregnant, and he had no time, patience or compassion for her hopes and tears. Was he shown to be worried or disturbed by her unexplained disappearance? Why deny any intimate relationship, however brief (say, perhaps, an intense 6-day fling ala AK/RS…) if you have an ironclad alibi for your whereabouts on the night of her disappearance? Unless you hired an assistant.

I’m sure Giacomo Silenzi must have realised he would be questioned, but, by accounts I’ve seen, he didn’t shrug off Meredith’s death or lie about having been involved with her.

Tell me, Italian readers, is abortion absolutely out of the question for Italian women, even in the 21st century?  I’m not being crass or judgemental—I believe in a woman’s right to choose her fate, especially if the wrong choice can end in her suicide or murder because death is seen as the only way out of an inconvenient pregnancy.

Posted by mimi on 02/10/10 at 04:15 PM | #

Hi Mimi. In the couple of times I heard abortion ever raised in Italy it was generally to the effect that it is widely available and less controversial than in the US. Sonia was from the far south of Italy and it is perhaps possible she was more traditional.

It does puzzle me why she would have asked Bindella to buy the kit regardless of what their relationship was. She may unwittingly have performed a provocative act there and set him raging. Matters might have escalated before he ever found out the test was negative.

There are various online reports where Sonia is briefly shown in videos. In those she looks lively, smart, and charismatic. Another great loss and another fine family troubled forever.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/10/10 at 10:16 PM | #


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