Don Giuseppe Rocco, the victim
In December 2019, Don Paolo Piccoli, the former church minister of Pizzoli and Rocca di Cambio (Abruzzo, Italy), was found guilty of the murder of Don Giuseppe Rocco and sentenced to 21 years and 6 months in prison. Don Rocco die on April 25, 2014, he was 92 years old, his death was ruled a homicide by strangulation and suffocation.
In Statement Analysis we assume that the speaker is “de facto innocent” and that he speaks to be understood. Therefore, from a “de facto innocent” we expect a reliable denial and we don’t expect to find in his language characteristic indicators of the statements of those who do not speak the truth. Basically we analyze the words that we don’t expect to hear or read (The Expected Versus The Unexpected).
What we look for in this interviews is for Don Paolo Piccoli to issue a reliable denial, to say “I didn’t kill Don Rocco”, not simply parroting back the interviewer’s words, but in the free editing process and we look for him to show the protection of the “wall of truth”.
The “wall of truth” is an impenetrable psychological barrier that often leads innocent people to few words, as they have no need to persuade anyone of anything.
A reliable denial is found in the free editing process, not in the parroted language and has 3 components:
1. the pronoun “I”
2. past tense verb “did not” or “didn’t”
3. accusation answered
A deceptive person will alter his denial to avoid a direct lie.
“I didn’t kill Don Rocco”, followed by “I told the truth” or by “I’m telling the truth” while addressing the denial “I didn’t kill Don Rocco”, it is more than 99% likely to be true. Also “I didn’t kill Don Rocco, I told the truth, I’m innocent” is to be considered a reliable denial.
We begin every analysis expecting truth, and it is the unexpected that confronts us with possibly deception. The context is the key to understand if behind one or more sensitivity indicators there is guilty knowledge.
Don Paolo Piccoli
In May 2018, before the first trial, a journalist interviewed Don Paolo Piccoli:
Journalist: Father, do you remember what happened on April 25, 2014?
It would have been better for the journalist to ask: “Father, what happened on April 25, 2014?” given that a subject can tell only what he remembers. However, this is still a good question that allows Don Piccoli to issue a reliable denial.
The journalist should have focused on what Don Piccoli was doing when Don Rocco was killed, not on what he did after the discovery of the priest’s corpse.
Don Paolo Piccoli: (…) and I was called by the chief maintainer uuu … who told me if I could go and say a prayer with Don Rocco, at first I didn’t understand, he says: “No, look, to Don Rocco, who” – he says – “is dead”. Uh, I stayed a little bit like this, I had a coffee, a moment to comfort me, I went back into the room, I put … I put on my dress quickly, unfortunately without … without putting on my shirt and went up to the room where I proceeded to … at first, to establish, as it is … as it is mandatory to do, the temperature of the corpse, being still warm, I proceeded, according to the general custom of the church, to give him the sacrament of Extreme Unction (Final Anointing) under condition and then the Apostolic Blessing.
Note this endless story. Don Piccoli could have simply replied: “On April 25, 2014 Don Rocco died and I gave him the sacraments”. He instead seasoned his answer with unnecessary information.
Note the veiled irony in this excerpt “and I was called by the chief maintainer uuu … who told me if I could go and say a prayer with Don Rocco, at first I didn’t understand, he says: “No, look, to Don Rocco who” – he says – “is dead”. It is possible that Don Piccoli pretended not to understand in order to take time to elaborate a reaction of credible surprise at the news of the death of Don Rocco.
Moreover, note that initially Don Piccoli speaks using the past “I was called”, “who told me”, “I didn’t understand”, but when he enters the specific he uses the present “he says: “No, look, to Don Rocco who” – he says – “is dead”. When someone is speaking of an event in the past, it is expected the subject to use past tense language. In Statement Analysis, present tense language is deemed unreliable.
Deceptive people often use the present counting on us to interpret and assume that they are speaking of the past event.
Note “I had a coffee, a moment to comfort me”. Why Don Piccoli did need comfort? It is like when in an emergency call the caller asks for help for himself rather than for the victim.
Note “I went back into the room, I put … I put on my robe quickly, unfortunately without … without putting on my shirt”, are unnecessary information that, later, will serve him to try to justify the presence of his blood on Don Pino Rocco’s bed sheet.
Note “I went up to the room where I proceeded to … at first to establish, as it is … it is mandatory to do, the temperature of the corpse, being still warm”, Don Piccoli feels the need to report that he touched Don Rocco’s corpse to establish if he was still warm, why? To describe a movement that could justify the presence of his blood on Don Rocco’s bed sheet or to postpone the time of the priest’s death?
In an other interview released to the newspaper “Il Piccolo”, Don Piccoli said: “The cassock, when you pull up your arm, reaches your elbow leaving it uncovered. I didn’t have a shirt underneath. The blood may have been released when I knelt down and leaned on the bed to get up. Or sprinkling holy water on the body and on those present, with the movement of the arm. However, I also approached Don Rocco to give him Extreme Unction on the forehead and to do it, as expected, I had to first touch the body temperature since we can give the (Extreme) Unction between two and four hours after the death. In all those moment I may have dirtied the bed.”
In the same interview, to the question: “How is this murder trial going on, Don Piccoli? How do you feel? “, Don Piccoli replied: “Stunned, there is a fury against me. I’ve been a priest for 25 years … they know me all over Italy, I’m close to cardinals. Do you think I go around at night to strangle priests to steal chains and favors? But I’m peaceful. “
Note how manipulative Don Piccoli is, he doesn’t issue a reliable denial but says “Stunned, there is a fury against me. I’ve been a priest for 25 years … they know me all over Italy, I’m close to cardinals” in order to leave the journalist to conclude that he couldn’t have killed Don Rocco without saying so.
“I go around at night to strangle priests to steal chains and favors” is an embedded admission.
The context is key, in this context “But I’m peaceful” sound like something a sociopath could say.
Journalist: What was the relationship between you and Don Rocco?
Don Paolo Piccoli: Well, it almost didn’t exist, maybe I uuuu … I met him 3 or 4 times, 3 or 4. I always took him to … to the perpetual.
Journalist: At first it seemed a natural death but then this perpetual says that something is wrong because Don Rocco’s chain is missing, do you remember ever having seen it or have you ever seen it?
Don Paolo Piccoli: I cannot say anything about the chain because I have never seen it or paid attention to it (…)
Don Piccoli need to persuade is unexpected, he could have simply answered with a “No”.
Journalist: The prosecutor says that you could have ripped off the chain from Don Rocco.
Don Paolo Piccoli: Yes, but to do what with it?
Note “Yes”. Don Piccoli answers with a question not to answer.
Journalist: You are accused of a very serious crime, that is, of having killed Don Rocco, what do you answer to this accusation?
The question is not necessary, if Don Piccoli didn’t kill Don Rocco, he had numerous occasions to say so.
Don Paolo Piccoli: Well, er … for which motive? That is mmm … I did not have (incomprehensible) … then it is not in my character, certainly not to get in rage with the elderly priests.
Don Piccoli replies with two pauses and a question to take time to answer and then he tries to convince the journalist of something that he is unable or unwilling to deny.
“for which motive?” is not an argument as a motive for murder is personal and subjective.
“It is not in my character, certainly not to get in rage with the elderly priests” is not a reliable denial. What does Don Piccoli mean by “character” and if it is not in his “character”, where is it?
Note the use of the word “to get in rage” instead of “kill” to minimize. Minimization is a distancing measure, it’s a common strategy used by guilty people to avoid of dealing with negative emotions (stress) by reducing the importance and impact of events.
Journalist: You were really back for a month.
Don Paolo Piccoli: Exactly, for exactly one month I came back after 8 months of illness, therefore I also came back in a very fragile way (…)
Note that Don Piccoli describes himself as “very fragile” to induce the journalist to assume he couldn’t have killed Don Rocco without saying so.
Journalist: In this story that sees you accused there is your DNA, there are tiny stains of blood on Don Rocco’s sheet.
Don Paolo Piccoli: (…) I have multiple pathologies and … there are these uhm … these blood traces that I am convinced I have left with the … with the movements I said before and therefore may be something come off in the circumstance, in this forceful action, in this … in this movement … that must be done by force with the arm to … to let holy water come out of the sprinkler.
Unfortunately, the answer has been cut. In any case, once again Don Piccoli was unable to issue a reliable denial. Instead, he tried to justify the presence of his blood on the old priest’s sheet; he weakened his oratory tirade with “I am convinced” and “may be” and he made himself ridiculous with the words “force action” and “forcibly” . Extreme Unction and Apostolic Blessing are symbolic practices that certainly do not require the use of force.
Journalist: Do you think someone wanted to hurt Don Rocco?
This question allows Don Rocco to issue a reliable denial.
Don Paolo Piccoli: Uh… I have no idea, I know he was a meritorious elderly priest.
“Uh” is a pause to think.
Journalist: So what do you think hisdeath is due to?
Don Paolo Piccoli: I don’t know … I am convinced that he die for natural causes.
Journalist: So you claim you are innocent?
An interviewer must be careful not to introduce new words or new subjects, the best interview is when the interviewed introduces his own words.
If Don Piccoli didn’t says “I’m innocent”, there is no reason to suggest to him to say so. Anyway, to say “I am innocent” is different from saying “I didn’t kill Don Rocco”, which is expected. When people say they are innocent, they are denying the conclusion that they are guilty not the action. An “innocent de facto” is someone who did not “do it” and is able to say “I didn’t do it” and eventually to add in the judicial conclusion “I am innocent”.
The question still allows Don Piccoli to issue a reliable denial.
Don Paolo Piccoli: I declare myself innocent, I declare myself, but then I also know well that the things of this world are very complicated and therefore we hope we can see the light.
At the time of this interview, Don Piccoli was still “innocent de iure”.
The expected: “I am innocent, I did not kill Don Rocco, I am telling the truth”.
Instead, Don Piccoli’s answer seems more a clarification, Don Piccoli is referring not to his “de facto” innocence but to his “de iure” innocence and he appears also pessimistic about the judicial outcome.
Journalist: What hurts you most?
Another question that allows Don Piccoli to issue a reliable denial.
Don Paolo Piccoli: But, I would say: confusion. There is a phrase from the old testament that says: “Not in commotione Domini” (read “Not in commotione Dominus”), the Lord is not in confusion and here there is a terrible confusion, a continuous … rubbing many things uuu … put together et cetera and then: if there is no Lord, who is in confusion? The devil.
Expected: “Being accused of murder, I didn’t kill Don Rocco, I’m telling the truth”.
Don Piccoli is a manipulator. He is the one who makes “confusion” (mudding the water) to try to convince he didn’t kill Don Rocco without issuing a reliable denial.
When Don Piccoli says “rubbing many things” he is referring to what emerged during the trial: his kleptomania and alcoholism.
In January 2020, after the first trial and sentence, another journalist interviewed Don Piccoli:
Don Paolo Piccoli: (…) I had sweatpants and a short-sleeved T-shirt, I quickly put on … the skirt, took the tools needed, the … the spool, the stole, the … the palmatory with the candle, the jar with the holy ritual oil and I went upstairs (…) I realized that it was warm, I immediately proceeded to give him the Apostolic Blessing, after which I proceeded to the Extreme Unction, therefore, having to also make very … very extensive gestures with my arm, I had to sprinkle with the pocket asperges several times, after that I knelt for a long time having to juggling f … for my unability, crawling both hands to say the prayers with the ritual in my hand, both me … both my forearms to support me on a good part of Don Rocco’s bed.
Unfortunately, the question has been cut and the answer is not complete.
In any case, Don Piccoli’s answer is a long oratory tirade, an endless story seasoned with unnecessary information.
Don Piccoli says “having to make gestures very … very extended with the arm, I had to sprinkle several times with the pocket asperges after which I knelt for a long time having to juggling f … for my unability, crawling both hands to say the prayers with the ritual in hand both me … both forearms to support me on a good part of the bed then of Don Rocco” to try to justify the finding of his blood on the sheet of Don Rocco’s bed.
Journalist: Didn’t you noticed this blood loss?
This is a “Yes” or “No” question.
Don Paolo Piccoli: But I’m sure I lost blood because I didn’t have a shi … I didn’t have a shirt of my robe, I didn’t put the cream on and all the precautions I normally took, so I certainly lost blood.
Don Piccoli is evasive and shows a need to persuade.
Journalist: Where in particular, would you like to show me?
Don Paolo Piccoli: Well, I can show you certain …
Journalist: Yes, the point where you could bleed.
Don Paolo Piccoli: The forearms, both of them …
Journalist: But… from above?
Don Paolo Piccoli: No, from above and below, when you scratch yourself, you scratch yourself at 360 degrees.
Note that Don Piccoli, not to lie, does speak for himself but says “when you scratch yourself, you scratch yourself at 360 degrees” in order for him to assume that Don Piccoli used to scratch himself at 360 degrees.
Don Paolo Piccoli: We have a situation … (interrupted)
The journalist, although interrupted, should have let Don Piccoli speaks instead of interrupting him in turn. It is not interesting what the journalist has to say, his goal should be to make Don Piccoli speaking. The more freely a subject speaks, the more information we can obtain.
Journalist: There are witnesses who claim that you were far from the bed and therefore you didn’t touch it.
Don Paolo Piccoli: But I kept going back and forth from this blessed desk, so I was also … and … even away from the bed in certain moments, after a second I was close to the bed, after another second I was again … again towards the desk.
Note “close to the bed” not “on the bed”. Here Don Piccoli doesn’t say that he touched the bed the day he gave Don Rocco the sacraments.
Don Paolo Piccoli: I positioned myself, this was more or less the bed. Let’s say, I left the book like this and made this very hard maneuver for me that I have arthropods (read arthroplasty) of the hip and, this bed was a little higher, and in this way, it is the one (interrupted)
The words “Let’s say” make “I left the book like this” weak.
The journalist interrupts Don Piccoli.
Journalist: In this area of the bed?
Don Paolo Piccoli: In this area more or less, yes aaa … swinging (interrupted)
The journalist interrupts Don Piccoli.
Journalist: The body … the body of Don…
Don Paolo Piccoli: And here (interrupted)
The journalist interrupts Don Piccoli.
Journalist: … of Don Pino Rocco was here.
The journalist interrupts Don Piccoli to say that Don Pino Rocco was positioned in the bed with his head on the pillow. What a shame.
Don Paolo Piccoli: … and here (incomprehensible) even … leaning the book on the body … leaning the book on the body, so here is the body, maybe I am … waiting and here is the photograph that the vicar has when he enters, the door was there, which … sees me … sees me kneeling with the … the spool and the black stole and with my hands on the bed because holding this book.
“Maybe I am …” is self-censoring.
Once again Don Piccoli uses words such as “swinging”, “leaning the book on the body … leaning the book on the body” and “with my hands on the bed” to try to justify the finding of his blood on Don Rocco’s bed sheet.
Journalist: And how do you explain, however, that there was also a blood soiling there?
Don Paolo Piccoli: That was done previously. Well, in the meantime, I had to pull myself up with … the effort that a person with hip arthroplasty can make, therefore also crawling, I repeat: the bed was higher. This was done at the beginning when I had to lean to get there and then clearly somehow get to give hime the Anoint.
Note “That was done previously” and “This was done at the beginning”. Passive language is used to conceal identity or responsibility.
Once again Don Piccoli uses words such as “I had to pull myself up with … the effort”, “crawling” and “I had to lean” to try to justify the finding of his blood on Don Rocco’s bed sheet.
Journalist: Should I ask you this question, did you kill Don Pino Rocco?
The answer to this question is in Don Piccoli’s prior answers: in order not to lie, Don Piccoli never issued a reliable denial.
Don Paolo Piccoli: No, it is not in my nature to be able to … hurt but then most of all in that way so cowardly. If I had done something I would certainly have done it in a theatrical way not … not so secret oooo compl … and above all complicated.
Don Piccoli could have parroted the journalist words, in that case we should have considered “No, I didn’t kill Don Rocco” not a reliable denial.
Note that Don Piccoli is unable to answer with a simple “No”, he is unable to say “No, I didn’t kill Don Rocco” not even parroting the interviewer’s words. He weakened his denial with 46 more words showing a need to persuade that an innocent de facto doesn’t have. There is no “wall of truth” within him.
What does Don Piccoli mean by “nature” and, if it is not in his “nature”, where is it?
Note “hurting” instead of “killing”. Don Piccoli does not want to confront the accusation to avoid of dealing with negative emotion (stress).
“but then mostly in that way so cowardly. If I had done something I would certainly have done it in a theatrical way not … not so secret ooor compl … and above all complicated” is a way to ridicule the accusations. He also contradicts what he just said.
Don Paolo Piccoli: But you must explain to me why, if we consider the college, the seminary, the priesthood, the canonical and anything else, I should have endangered 43 years of religious life … of religious life … and related sacrifices for objects of mmm perhaps a total value of 30 euros.
No, it is not the journalist who “must explain why”, it is Don Piccoli.
According with the prosecutor, Don Piccoli stole a pillow from the crime scene, a pillow that he allegedly used to kill Don Rocco.
Don Paolo Piccoli: The room was completely monitored so I don’t see how I could have done all these processions back and forth.
Don Piccoli is not only unable to deny the allegation but he falsifies when he says that the room was monitored. We know that, after the murder, for three days, Don Rocco’s room remained open and was not monitored.
During these interviews, Don Piccoli concealed the truth via missing information, in this case he showed us to be able to falsify, a rare and dangerous form of deception.
Don Piccoli has guilty knowledge of what happened to Don Rocco.
The “wall of truth” is not within him.
He is a manipulator, unable to take responsibility for himself, he showed lack of conscience, lack of empathy, remorse, guilt or shame, all sociopath traits.
Don Piccoli is a habitual liar with a high opinion of himself and of his own manipulative abilities that he tested, enjoying good results, until the day of his entry in the register of suspects for the murder of Don Rocco.
Ursula Franco, MD and Criminologist