After a night of Halloween debauchery at a Roman club called the Atlantic, a group of young Italian-Americans—study-abroad students at the John Cabot University in Rome—sat at the kitchen table of an apartment near the Colosseum and dabbled, it seems, with a potent cocktail of drugs. Then they went to bed. An hour or so later, one of the men—identified by police as 20-year-old Alessandro Skepys Reid—got up and allegedly stabbed his friend Fabio Malpeso 25 times as Malpeso lie in bed.
Malpeso's sister, who was staying with her boyfriend, Andrea Rinaldi, in the apartment, woke to Malpeso's screams and called the emergency services. Rinaldi was slightly injured, apparently from trying to stop the attack. Malpeso remains in critical condition in a hospital in Rome after undergoing emergency surgery for a perforated lung. Reid was arrested for attempted murder and will face an Italian judge on Friday. Police say they found Ecstasy tablets, marijuana, and cocaine in the apartment.
The attack comes five years to the day after Meredith Kercher was brutally murdered in Perugia, Italy. The cases are as different as night and day—Kercher's body was found locked in her bedroom the morning after the murder, and police faced a shifting array of suspects, from Kercher's roommate Amanda Knox to African immigrant Rudy Guede. Police say Malpeso's assailant, in contrast, was caught in the act. But both cases underscore a growing problem with unsupervised study-abroad programs that end in tragedy. The Halloween debacle is the third case in Rome this past year involving foreign students, drugs, alcohol, and violence.
Kids studying abroad in Rome, Florence, and Perugia have earned a dubious reputation for public drunkenness and vulgar behavior to the extent that even university websites warn students against the dangers of Bacchic excess.
The Halloween incident in Rome is still under investigation, with detectives now trying to pin down a motive—if any—for the attack. According to the latest intelligence, the students left the club at around 3 a.m. and returned to the apartment to continue their party. Police at the scene told reporters that drugs and empty liquor bottles were found on the kitchen table. According to initial interviews with other students who were at the Atlantic with the young men, Malpeso and Reid spent the evening drinking and dancing. People who know the two guys say they were friends and had no obvious rift between them, which leaves drug and alcohol abuse as the likely reason things went wrong that gruesome night.
Rinaldi, who witnessed the brutal stabbing attack, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that it was like a scene out of a horror movie. Reid looked "possessed," Rinaldi said, as he picked up a butcher's knife from the apartment kitchen and started attacking his roommate.
Rinaldi said he managed to disarm Reid, who was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. "I still have that bloody blade in my mind," he told La Repubblica. "When I saw Alessandro with the knife in his hand, I thought he was messing around—but unfortunately it was not a joke.
"I thought Fabio was dead, there was a lot of blood," said Rinaldi. "Alessandro was saying that he was taking revenge for something. It seemed like he was possessed."