Several years ago, the Brooklyn Museum extended the bounds of good taste by exhibiting pulp magazine covers. For those too young, pulps supplied literary thrills and adventures from the late 1920s into early 50s. Labeled “pulps” because the editions guts were printed on coarse paper, the appellation could’ve extended to the covers as well.
Although glossy, the wraparounds didn’t bother teasing prospective readers about the contents. Rather, lurid covers promised all sorts of dicey situations filled with malevolence. Be assured rare was the denouement that promoted uplift and redemption.
Some chapters might’ve aspired to The Four Feathers, but none ever neared that level of daring-do.
The stories were turgid and churning. The covers reflected that assiduously. The Manhattan-based Society of Illustrators just wrapped up its own retrospective of pulp magazine covers. Dames in distress, gunsels, hop heads, fortune seekers, and space aliens were displayed.
Unlike our contemporary criminal chronicles which mine present-day fears, those long ago entertainments made no effort to hold mirrors against then-society.
Skip reflection or deep-seated introspection. Just the thing committed for the basest reasons. Which is why I’m so enamored with Argentine crime.
Outside of transgressions perpetrated against writers like Juan Terranova, most highly publicized lawbreaking in Argentina lacks sophistication. The planning and execution of those few rich larcenies aside, many of the screaming headlines advertise incidents heavy on malice-afterthought opportunism.
One sour moment of thwarted passion makes blood gush. Down Argentina way a great many exposed nerves stretch atop already sensitive skin.
The perpetrators’ impulsiveness makes reading El Clarin‘s police blotter and feature stories derived from those dispatches quite fascinating to this North American.
Forget burglaries. Unless the heist borrows heavily from Rififi it’s not worth following. Besides, second-story work in Argentina is so basic as to be primitive. From Column A we have intruders who swing across balconies with the greatest of ease; and from Column B invaders who smash through walls despite the apartments’ looted being situated in security staffed buildings.
Either way homeowners return to violated addresses and tricky inquiries with police and insurers because of discrepancies regarding the purloined items true values and rightful ownership. These are farces.
The crimes which hold my interest involve couples who’ve emphatically lost that loving feeling. The preponderance of bank jobs, drug wars and mob rubouts here in the States has numbed me to their depredations. About the last, John Gotti’s whacking Paul Castellano was flashy, and pardon the pun, well executed. But the most graphic, most Weegee-fabulous mob moment was gang boss Carmine Galante getting bumped off at Brooklyn’s Joe & Mary’s Restaurant.
Post mortem, New York Daily News photographer Mary DiBiase centered her lens above the 1979 execution. Whether by chance or crude stage setting, her frame was exceptionally composed. Right down to the cold cigar stuck between the dead mobster’s lips. It could almost have been a miscreant’s pieta.
Obviously my lowlife standards are high.
The Argentine response to infidelity, or better yet perceived infidelity, is so reflexive that the little stimuli required for jealousy bones to jerk kill bones astounds me. I actually follow the investigations and legal processes with an attentiveness near obsession. The motives are so simple as to be childlike.
Since these events have occurred in Argentina, I filter them through North American sensibilities. To me, it’s all clean cut. To the locals who prize all things Freudian and Jungian, nothing is simple. What isn’t deep-seated? Ulterior motives just aren’t wrapped in riddles but mummified. Then worshipped.
The most recent case gripping my curiosity demanded the cold-blooded sacrifice of a young mother named Morena Pearson. Pearson was found dead in her home’s vestibule. She’d been shot in the head. The father of her child, live-in lover/employer, nightclub impresario Daniel Bellini claimed the tragedy a suicide. All who knew Pearson and her paramour differed.
Pearson generally enjoyed life. She had no reason to die by her own hand. Her satisfaction made Bellini suspicious which led into an irrational kind of jealousy. No. Really irrational. There were no signs of forced entrance in the home they shared and her possessions remained undisturbed.
Being a lovely, outgoing woman (traits which initially beguiled him), one who danced at his establishment, quickly infuriated Bellini when those allures attracted other men. Attracted, not encouraged. Seems Bellini couldn’t handle her being cordial and flirty. Seems he also forgot that was her job.
Bellini made it tougher on himself and easier for the judges by incriminating himself. He had made himself scarce during a crucial window of the murder’s commission. Rather than raising reasonable doubt, or clearing him altogether, his alibi, such as it was, increased the flame under the frying pan. What tripped him up? His having forgotten which was Pearson’s dominant hand.
Had the shot been self-inflicted, evidence would’ve supported Bellini’s insistence. Instead, any gun having been fired from Pearson’s opposing hand refuted his claim. Bellini already had means and motive. But he committed a gaffe, one that revealed suicide as a homicide.
Judged guilty, the state gave him a 16-year jolt.
Sometimes the cut and dry takes on spectacle aspects. Nora Dalmasso was an entrepreneur in one of those long-term marriages everybody looks back upon and considers as close to ideal as possible. Mother of two, she lived in Rio Cuarto, a privileged Cordoba state enclave. That veneer failed protecting her over a weekend in November 2006.
While her husband Marcelo Macarron was away participating in a Uruguayan golf tournament, and after an evening with BFF’s, Dalmasso returned home to be victimized.
Next day, intuitive friends forced themselves into her address. They found Dalmasso naked and dead in her daughter’s bed. Forensics later determined she’d had vaginal and anal sex. To this day police can’t say whether relations were consensual or not. There’s plenty the police can’t say.
Before summoning the law a gaggle of friends and neighbors trooped through the victim’s home. Though well-meaning they contaminated the crime scene thoroughly. Some went so far as to restore Dalmasso’s modesty by covering her corpse.
What salvageable evidence gleaned crazily fingered three suspects: a laborer, Facundo Macarron the dead woman’s son, her husband Marcelo. Naturally the heaviest suspicion fell upon the laborer. So much so authorities arrested him on a hunch.
While lacking motive, he had means. Rube Goldberg means. With all he would needed to have gone through he ought have applied his efforts towards a bank vault instead of raping and strangling a vivacious 50-something wife.
After class conscious protests, the victim occupied an elevated status while the accused came from a humble background, and properly vetting him, the laborer was released. Who doesn’t believe the law granted his freedom grudgingly?
Semen traces exonerated the most desired suspect. However, the recovered DNA cast heat and light on Dalmasso’s son, Facundo. Unlike his sister and father, both purportedly outside of Argentina, Facundo was nearby the night of the crime.
Mind, the albumin wasn’t an exact match but it did bear enough markers to put him under the loupe. Incest and matricide. Innocent or not, the twin accusations exceeded twisted horror standards. Besides, authorities had more on Facundo than the workman.
Worse than incarceration, Facundo underwent what one may imagine to have been excruciating interrogations. Weren’t there sessions where investigators probably skipped any tact for the crudest questioning possible? Enduring those, Facundo also ran gauntlets of press and gawkers. Both groups doubtlessly convicted and condemned him for his unproven heinous deeds.
Determined to re-canvas and sharpen their suspects list, the police summoned every male who’d tramped through Dalmasso’s death chamber that discovery day. Including a priest who administered last rites. Authorities collected DNA samples from all. Through testing police intended to refine evidentiary parameters. They even culled a sample from the widower, Marcelo Macarron.
Maybe it shouldn’t have been so strange his sample matched the DNA recovered. After all Dalmasso was his wife. Yet questions nagged. Macarron had been in Punta del Este, Uruguay for days, hadn’t he? Then why did remnants of his lovemaking remain so, um, pervasive?
Probably more pro forma than anything else, police sifted Macarron’s movements during the crime’s occurrence. His presence was spotty. Sure. He arrived. He played golf. But in the crucial hours he was unaccountable. In the company of a dozen fellow duffers, not one of them could attest to his whereabouts that evening.
Let me interject. The above circumstances throw serious aspersions against Macarron but they may not be as sinister as all that. The last time I departed Uruguay, the nice people staffing the border improperly processed me. One glance at my Yanqui passport, and it was adelante into Argentina. Somewhere corresponding paperwork and barely legible stamps were missed.
That’s only negligence, at worst. Unintentional negligence.
How easy would it have been for Macarron to charter a plane for the short hop back to Argentina? Money wouldn’t have been an object. And like elsewhere, in the South American cone there are plenty of pilots who’d perform gray flights and officials who’d overlook them for a big cash payday.
Once across the Rio Plata, Macarron could creep undetected through familiar streets into his own home. Startle, then sate Dalmasso, or startle then assault his wife, and for reasons known only between spouses pull husbandly prerogative and kill her?
Maybe the Macarron-Dalmasso pair took lovers. Maybe after fruitful, prosperous lives together the couple came to an arrangement. Something to spice up what had become routine. An open marriage? For awhile let’s say this pact satisfied both partners. They remained emotionally bound but after a time her physical payout exceeded his. Or better, Macarron’s fantasy fell short of his new reality.
Isn’t that just the sort of turnabout which might prompt excessive pangs of inadequacy?
Conjecture aside, after almost five years mystery still veils Nora Dalmasso’s demise. Even with FBI assistance, the case remains open.