ROME—No one heard the cries of 7-year-old Daniele Paitoni when he was allegedly stabbed to death by his father on New Year’s Day. According to Italian police, Davide Paitoni, 40, made sure of that by stuffing a rag down his son’s throat and covering his mouth with gaffer tape so his screams couldn’t be heard.
A single stab wound through the child’s jugular vein ended the boy’s short life, after which the father reportedly stuffed him in a closet with a letter blaming his estranged wife, Silvia Gaggini, 36, for the boy’s horrific death.
Investigators explained that the letter, in which he apologized to his son “from dad,” was saturated with the child’s blood, and was written in a way that would imply he intended to take his life or force police to shoot him. The incident allegedly took place in Paitoni’s father’s home in the northern Italian city of Morazzone near Varese. Paitoni then left a voice message for his father that said, “Don’t open the closet. I’ve hurt Daniele,” according to police.
But before Paitoni’s father could come home, he reportedly called his wife on New Year’s Day afternoon to come fetch their son, telling her when she arrived to look in the closet for him. She thought he was hiding there, she told police. She assumed he would jump out to try to scare her. Instead, his body rolled onto the floor at her feet.
Paitoni then allegedly tried to stab her before she escaped and ran to get help. By the time police arrived, Paitoni was gone. After a manhunt, he was found near the Swiss border and taken into custody after a brief standoff with police in which he sliced his hands and arms and threatened to kill himself with the murder weapon. Police found cocaine in his track suit pockets.
He has been arrested and charged with the murder of his son and attempted murder of his wife with the aggravating factors of cruelty and premeditation.
Investigating magistrate Giuseppe Battarino wrote in a 10-page order that Paitoni had promised his son a snack before attacking him, based on evidence including blood splatters found near a table with snacks in the home where the incident took place.
According to Battarino, after killing the child and stuffing him in the closet, Paitoni called his wife, lying to her when he told her, “We’ve had a beautiful day.” The investigator noted that as Paitoni went after his wife, he told her their son had done nothing wrong, that she was to blame, and that he killed him only to “punish” her for leaving him.
“The coldness is a sign of premeditation,” Battarino wrote, justifying the aggravating factors applied to the charges which, if convicted, will assure a life sentence without parole. “He wanted to punish the wife, to make the woman suffer in a way that is typical of gender-based violence and the assertion of his dominant role.”
The heinous case, which has rocked Italy, could have been prevented. Paitoni was on house arrest after allegedly attempting to murder a colleague at the warehouse where he worked last month and, by law, should not have been allowed to host his son without supervision. He was also accused of violently abusing his wife, who had not yet filed for separation but who lived in another residence. Their son lived with her and had gone to see his father as part of a joint custody agreement they worked out privately through their lawyers rather than a judge.
Italy’s Justice Minister Marta Cartabia has opened an investigation into how a man being investigated for attempted murder with a string of accusations by his wife could have been left alone with their son. The investigation was opened after Cartabia was petitioned by Veronica Giannone, secretary of the Childhood and Adolescence Commission and member of the Justice Commission.
“If the laws do not go well they must be changed quickly,” Giannone said in an open letter to the minister. “Otherwise all institutions become complicit in these horrors.”
Daniele’s funeral is scheduled for Friday in the school where he was a student. The mayor of Morazzone wrote in a Facebook post that the city would hold a day of mourning in the child’s honor.
One of the comments on the post was a joint letter from the teachers at the school. “With those dark eyes and your sweet smile, with your sympathy, your being witty and funny, unstoppable like a hurricane but at the same time sweet like the snacks we ate together in the oratory, you had the ability to make all of us love you, you have always conquered our hearts. We love you! Ciao, Dani.”