Friday, February 12, 2010

The Sad Case Of Sonia Marra #3: The High Standard The Italian Media Have Maintained Throughout

Posted by Tiziano


As with the many hundreds of Italian reports we’ve read on Meredith’s case, the reporting on Sonia Marra’s case has been objective, compassionate, and full of detail.

The tendency to demonize suspects and defendants that seems not uncommon in the UK and US tabloids and on the US TV crime talk-shows has never surfaced in the Sonia Mara case - even though in one respect there might have been some reason: the strange alternative theory of the crime (our next post) involving a drug-dealing priest.

This is quite a high-profile case in Italy for at least three reasons. Sonia disappeared right out of her apartment - she was not in a high-risk place. Sonia’s sister Anna has worked tirelessly in Perugia to keep some public attention on Sonia. And a TV network program and website that tracks hundreds of cases of missing people in Italy has done an excellent job.

This is a sampling of the articles up to where Sonia’s boyfriend or fiance Umberto Bindella was arrested; he was subsequently released again when the judge found the evidence inadequately conclusive. 

1. Translated from a permanent fixture on The RAI Website

The Sonia Marra Disappearance

Sonia Marra is a 25 year-old girl from Puglia who lives in Perugia and is a student in the Faculty of Medicine of this city. 

On November 61th, 2006 her mother called Sonia [from the south-east tip of Italy] as she did every evening, but her mobile phones were turned off.  Alarmed, the woman rang her other daughter, Anna, who lives in Rome with her fiancé, Paolo. 

The two began to ring the young woman from Puglia again and again throughout the night, without however succeeding in tracing her. 

On the morning of November 17th,  Paolo went to the apartment in Perugia where Sonia lived alone. He could not get in. However since there was a strong odour of gas coming from the house, he called the fire brigade, and they broke a window and went in.

There was no trace of the girl in the apartment.  According to a witness, the evening of the disappearance, about 8.00 PM, a car stopped below the dwelling of Sonia.  A man got out from a light-coloured car and went towards the girl’s apartment on the first floor of the premises. 

He opened the door with keys without forcing the lock.  Noises were heard from inside the house; then this individual went out, got into the car and went away.  Many investigations have been made, but there is no trace of the girl.

A murder investigation has been opened on the disapearance.

2. Translated from the RAI Internet site:

An Arrest In The Sonia Marra Case

Perugia, 18/01/2010

In the matter of the investigation into the disappearance of Sonia Marra, a warrant for the arrest and detention on remand of Umberto Bindella was issued during the afternoon. This was confirmed by the man’s lawyer, Daniela Paccoi, to the Italian TV programme and website “Chi l’ha visto?” [“Who has seen him/her?”] 

A civil servant, 31 years old, from Marsciano, Bindella is said to have had a brief romance with the girl, who is from Specchia in the province of Lecce.  He had already been interviewed a few days after the disappearance [of the girl] as a person informed about the facts.

His status had then changed at the end of last November, when he was investigated for murder and the concealment of the student’s body. The Carabinieri of the Perugia contingent and the Communication Police had returned to him after examining the phone records of the girl. 

The investigators also accuse him of the theft of the victim’s mobile phone in order to impede the investigations.

“Chi l’ha visto?” has dealt with the disappearance of the student from Puglia, Sonia Marra, which took place in the Umbrian capita in November 2006, on several occasions.

3. Translated from Terni In Rete

Sonia Marra Case: Umberto Bindella Denies all Accusations

19th January, 2010 at 23.51 Hours by Adriano Lorenzon

Sonia’s sister:“finding her alive is just a heartfelt hope”

According to the Public Prosecutor in Perugia, the parameters of the accusations against Umberto Bindella are quite clear.  Bindella was Sonia Marra’s fiancé.  This relationship is one which the civil servant from Marsciano continues to hotly deny, despite the fact that it is confirmed by numerous phone contacts, and above all, SMS between the two, according to the investigators. 

Furthermore, Bindella is said to have confided in a policeman friend the day after the disappearance of Sonia Marra, a disappearance about which he could not yet have known.  According to the evidence of this police officer,  Bindella is said to have referred to a “mess and something much bigger than you or me”. 

In support of the prosecution theory there is also the evidence of a tenant in the building where Sonia Marra was living.  The woman described a man, seen on the stairs, a description which corresponds to that of Bindella, according to the investigators.  According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, an argument between the two fiancés about the possible pregnancy of Ms Marra degenerated into a murder.

Umberto Bindella’s lawyers disagrees completely.  Accorrding to Silvia Egidi “it is an established fact that there was no pregnancy.  The test was negative, as stated by a nun.”  According to Daniela Paccoi, another defense lawyer, there is no mystery about the confidence made to the police officer friend. “Bindella knew that the carabinieri were looking for him because he knew Ms Marra.”  Paccoi concluded, “This is tortuous explanation of recognised facts.”

Sonia Marra disappeared on November 26th, 2006.  From that day, her family has followed the unfolding investigations in the hope that they would end up in Sonia’s being found alive.  Today Sonia’s sister Anna spoke out, referring explicitly to this hope. 

“Finding her alive,” said Anna, “is only a heartfelt hope.  More realistically, I am waiting to find out where her body is, so it can be brought home.  Sonia did not foresee that she would end as she probably has.”

4. Translated from La Nazione Umbria

Sonia Marra’s Disappearance

Perugia, 19/01/2010

There were several telephone calls and SMS texts between Sonia Marra and Umberto Bindella in the days that preceded the probable death of the student from Puglia, in November 2006.

And ‘the findings from an examination of phone records of the two like those conducted by the postal police in any investigation has led to the arrest of the thirty-one year old Marsciano employee on charges of murder and concealment of a corpse (not yet found).

The mobile phone of the twenty-five-year-old of Specchia (Lecce) has never been found. But the findings showed that it was turned off on the afternoon of her disappearance and was never turned on again.

In the investigation conducted by the Postal Police and the Carabinieri, coordinated by the prosecutor of Perugia, it has been suggested that Bindella had a romantic relationship with Marra. In particular, the student - the investigators believe - was particularly infatuated with him.

According to the reconstruction in the charge accusing Bindella, the disappearance and murder of Sonia Marra could be linked to a discussion about a possible pregnancy of the young student. Among the elements of the accusation against Bindella is a statement quoted by a policeman friend of his:’‘I’ve made a big mess.’’

The order is for remand in custody assuming risk of escape. Bindella, already interrogated in the past by investigators, has always denied any responsibility in the disappearance of the young woman. He also claimed that he had a romantic relationship with her but it was simple knowledge.

One of the central points of the reconstruction in the charge made on the basis of investigations conducted by police is a confidence picked up by a policeman friend of Bindella whereby the employee, the day after the disappearance of Marra, made reference to ‘‘something bigger than you and me.’’ And at that moment the young man - argued the prosecution - could not yet know that the student was no more in touch.

Another element is the description given by one of the tenants of a man seen on the stairs of the building where the couple lived for investigators that corresponds to the employee. The assumption is that accusations between the two there was a discussion related to a possible pregnancy of Sonia Marra, based on a test purchased by Bindella and a gynecological examination booked by the young woman but never sustained.

According to the lawyer Silvia Egidi, one of the defenders of the arrested man Bindella ‘It is a fact that there was no pregnancy. The test’‘(which our client has always spontaneously admitted to having purchased for the young woman) was negative and this includes confirmation by a Sister’‘.

Hence, no motive is seen by the defense and also no mystery about the phrase said to his policeman friend. “Bindella knew’’ explained lawyer Paccoi, that the police were searching for him because he knew Marra….

Anna Marra, Sonia’s sister who more than three years ago moved to Perugia to follow the investigation into the disappearance of her sister, says Sonia was in love with Bindella. “In recent times before her disappearing Sonia was strange, she told me that something was not being reciprocated.’’

Sonia, explained her sister,’‘had no reason to leave home that day. She did not expect to meet the end that she probably did.’‘

.
5. Translated from Corriere

The Sonia Marra Case

From our correspondent Francesca Mandese in Specchia

“We hope that Sonia is still alive.” After the arrest of the ex-fiancé expectations have grown in Specchia. Sonia’s brother and sister Giacomo and Anna say “We want to know the truth.”

The marra house is two storeys, a white and pink cottage.  In the early afternoon hours it appears to be empty, with the shutters closed and the doors bolted.  Inside, however, there is deep suffering, such as you would never wish to experience. 

Donato Marra, the father, Lucia Valente Marra, the mother, and brother Giacomo, the only one of the four children still at home; have left the phone off the hook so that they don’t have to talk about Sonia, who disappeared three years ago and who was perhaps killed by a fiancé who now even denies having mixed with her, other than as a simple acquaintance.

There is nobody in the streets of Specchia, a little town in the south of Salento.  There is not even anyone in Via Marconi where at number 23 the Marra family lives. 

At the ringing of the doorphone Giacomo himself responds, looking out from the doorway, but he says that his parents don’t want to talk to anyone.  “They found out yesterday evening [about the arrest], the lawyer Alessandro Vesi from Perugia rang us. He told us to remain calm, not to get alarmed, because, even if they have arrested that man, Sonia’s body has not been found and therefore nothing is certain yet.”
 
There are four children in the Marra family, the oldest, Piero, is 38, married; then there is Giacomo, 36, who still lives with his parents, Anna, 34, who since November 2006, the moment that Sonia disappeared, moved from Rome to Perugia to look for her sister, who today would be 29 and who was studying in the Umbrian city to become a bio-medical laboratory technician. 

The only one to know about the affair between Sonia and Umberto Bindella, the 31 year-old civil servant from Marsciano accused of murder, concealment of a corpse and suppression of evidence (the girl’s mobile phone has never been found) was actually Anna.

“My sister always talked to me about him.  She was in love with Umberto Bindella,” the woman repeated again yesterday.  “In the time just before she disappeared” Anna explains further “I felt that Sonia was out out of sorts.  She told me that something wasn’t going well for her.”  According to Anna, Bindella “was the second boy-friend in Sonia’s life.” 

Anna explains further, “I met him after my sister’s disappearance - she continues -and I spoke to him.  He told me that hers was a friendship like many others.  Sonia had no reasons to leave home.  There was no expectation that she would end up as she did.”

But they don’t want to talk about that end in the Marra household.  “We hope that she is still alive” says Giacomo “that she is being held somewhere against her will.  This is the last hope that we can hold onto.  Certainly, in these three years the thought that she could be dead has also come to us, but we have always relegated it to the back of our minds.”

Giacomo confirms that, as his father declared on a TV programme, the family wants to know the truth and wants justice.  “We are not people who like showing our feelings - he says further - we don’t even have many photos of Sonia because she would run off when she saw a camera.  My parents are really exhausted.” 

And even his reddened eyes betray suffering and pain, even if hope has not yet left this clean and tidy, silent house. Thus, after a brief chat Giacomo says good-bye and goes back inside to his parents Donato and Lucia, in expectation of a phone call which will reduce the anguish and placate the pain.  A phone call which perhaps will never come.

6. Translated from La Nazione Umbria

Anna, Sonia’s sister:“She was in love with him”

Sonia’s sister Anna moved from Puglia to Perugia in November 2006 to follow investigations on the lost student.

A young man from Marsciano, Bindella, has been arrested & accused of murder

“My sister talked about him all the time. She was in love with him…. In the time just before she disappeared I felt Sonia was acting strange. She would tell me that something wasn’t going well for her.”

The Marra family’s lawyer Alessandro Vesi said that “Of course Bindella must be considered innocent and will remain so until there is an eventual finding of definite guilt.”

On behalf of his clients. the Marra family, the lawyer then thanked the Perugia Prosecutor’s office, in particular Giuseppe Petrazzini and Federico Centrone, for their assistance to the the relatives of the missing student.

Vesi said Bindella’s arrest did not automatically imply guilt but adoption of this measure does mean that the prosecuting magistrate and the judge have absolutely important elements. He spoke of the news “hurting the morale of the family because it reduces the hope of finding her [Sonia] alive”

Anna Marra:said Bindella was only the second important man in Sonia’s life. Anna met him after her sister’s disappearance and spoke to him. He told her that it was just a friendship like many of his others. He went places with her and he knew many details about Sonia’s life.

Anna believes that her sister had no reason for leaving her home. Anna concluded by saying that that her sister’s end was not expected.

7. Translated from the Umbria Journal

Marra Case - a Crucial Week Begins for Umberto Bindella

24/01/2010 at 19.14 hours

The week about to begin will be decisive for umberto Bindella, in prison accused of the murder of Sonia Marra, the student from Puglia who disappeared in Perugia on November 16th three years ago. 

His legal representatives have presented a request fro the lifting of remand in custody invoked by GIP Paolo Michele, and an application for his release from custody has been put to the review court. 

Thus these are crucial days for Bindella, arrested a week ago for the murder and the concealment of the corpse of the young woman from Puglia. 

The legal representatives Daniela Pacconi and Silvia Egidi are certain of the innocence of the young man and convinced of the inconsistency of the clues pointing to the involvement of their client

And subsequently Bindella was released by the judge for lack of enough conclusive evidence as Catnip has posted below.


Posted by Tiziano on 02/12/10 at 04:36 AM in Other legal processesItalian related


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Where next:

Click here to return to The Top Of The Front Page

Or to next entry The Sad Case Of Sonia Marra #4: And Finally The Story Of Sonia’s Still-Unresolved Case In Pictures

Or to previous entry The Sad Case Of Sonia Marra #2: Summary Of Known Facts To Release Last Week Of Prime Suspect