On Monday night, John Cabot University celebrated its 40th anniversary with a gala at the New York Athletic Club. Brooks Brothers CEO Claudio del Vecchio and Valerie Salembiier of Town and Country magazine were honored, and soprano Krista Adams sang arias. It was an evening of toasts to the American university in Rome, an evening that the university hoped might supplant the brutal and seemingly senseless stabbing of one student, allegedly by another, that dominated the headlines less than two weeks before.
After clubbing and drinking for hours on Halloween night, two John Cabot students returned with friends to their off-campus apartment overlooking the Colosseum. Then, in the early hours of the morning, while Fabio Malpeso slept, his friend and roommate Alessandro Skepys Reid allegedly stabbed him 25 times. Mr. Malpeso’s sister and her boyfriend, who were also staying in the apartment that night, came to his aid. Mr. Reid, an Italian-American with dual citizenship, said he cannot remember, or explain, why he may have stabbed his friend.
Mr. Malpeso, who was in critical condition after the incident, is recovering quickly and is expected to leave the hospital soon, University President Franco Pavoncello told The Observer. But the strangeness of the event, coming five years to the day after the Meredith Kercher murder and, much like Kercher case, involving two young students—victim and accused—entangled in a brutal stabbing with mysterious motives, made international headlines.
Mr. Pavoncello said that the university had decided to go on with the gala, which had been planned months in advance, in the hopes that it would restore a sense of normalcy.
“We felt that, given the circumstances under which the event happened, with the student recovering and almost out of the hospital, we should go on with it,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “If we had been talking about a death, it would have been very different. But we thought that this was a sign of hope for these two kids, to close the chapter and move on.”
He added that the fact the event had occurred off-campus also influenced the university’s decision. “The very marginal implication of the university in terms of the event itself, we thought it could be a way to move on and turn the page on this very sad affair,” he said. “Had it happened on campus, or in a residence hall, it would have been a very different matter.”
Mr. Pavoncello said that the event had been a shock to the university community as well as to the families of the two students—an American from New Jersey and an American-Italian with dual citizenship. It may have also come as a shock to the students themselves, friends and widely considered “very nice kids.” Someone who witnessed the attack told an Italian newspaper that Mr. Reid behaved as though he were possessed. And perhaps he was, by a cocktail of drugs and alcohol: police reportedly found ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana in the apartment, according to The Daily Beast.
“I think this is an outlier event; this is not the kind of thing people are going to say, ‘Oh my God, maybe I should try to avoid getting stabbed 32 times,'” said Mr. Pavoncello. “It is a freakish event, on the night of Halloween, with nightmarish outcomes, one gets up in the morning and attacks the other.” It was not the kind of event, he wanted to emphasize, that had anything to do with the university, or security, or the safety of the city, but was the kind of tragedy that occasionally stems from thousands of young people living and interacting with one another.
As for the gala, he said that it was “very festive” and “really a way of bringing this university which is really a gem first and foremost for its own students, a place that changes completely the way they look at things.” Rome, he added, was a very safe city, especially by American standards.