LAW & CRIME

Magnetized: Conversations with a Serial Killer

Catapult. Jun. 2020. 192p. ISBN 9781948226684. $23. CRIME
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Over one week in 1982, 19-year-old Ricardo Melogno killed four cab drivers on the streets of Buenos Aires. After shooting his victims while they were in the driver’s seat, Melogno smoked cigarettes in the backseat until he was sure they were dead, then walked to dinner. Busqued (Under This Terrible Sun) condenses 90 hours of interviews with Melogno into a coherent dialogue. Melogno, no criminal mastermind, details his childhood, his crimes, his incarceration in prison and institutionalization in a psychiatric hospital, his struggles with reality, and his experiences with prison-based religion. It’s a fascinating profile, with details of young Ricardo embracing Santeria to escape his abusive mother’s spiritualism. His murders were truly as senseless as they seemed; Melogno acted on a compulsion he’s unable to articulate. Diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses, he bounced around the Argentinian penal system, where he remains even though his sentence has been served in full (because of his mental illness, he is considered too dangerous to release). Busqued provides additional context with newspaper clippings and an interview with Melogno’s former psychiatrist.
VERDICT Not as lurid as the title suggests, this is a chilling look at a prison system unable to meet the needs of mentally ill inmates.

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