It was Friday, the 6th of May, 2011. I sat in the front row of the courtroom, where they could see me. I wanted them to see me. I wanted them to see what they tried to do, but ultimately failed to do. And as they walked in, I gave them a look of utter contempt and anger. I sat at an angle that would make them look at me as soon as their asses walked through the door.
Mykhaylo, Ryan, Claire, Brandon, Aunt Kendra, Uncle Wayne, Aunt Tatiana, and many of my other relatives and friends were in attendance along with me. We watched as Giuseppe “Joseph” Buonfiglio, Anna Dina “Nadine” Buonfiglio, Charlotte Buonfiglio, Niccolo “Nicholas” Buonfiglio, Denise Buonfiglio, and Cecilia “Sissy” Vandenbroucke entered the courtroom at Toronto’s Old City Hall, smug as hell. They did not appear to be fazed at all by the reality of their situation. I wasn’t surprised. Throughout the month-long trial, they treated the whole thing like some kind of game. After the jury broke for deliberations, I even saw Charlotte talking to her friends about plans to celebrate, under the naive assumption that she was going to walk. If Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell had been watching, their heads would have exploded.
We were all present because the jury had come back with a verdict in the case of Crown v. Buonfiglio et al. It was the conclusion of over a year and a half of legal work, and during that time, the Crown dug up evidence to add to the kidnapping charges. They added eight counts of first-degree murder to the indictment, among charges including kidnapping and attempted murder. The murdered victims were Pietro Buonfiglio, Annunziata Buonfiglio, Raimondo degli Angeli, Maria Grazia degli Angeli, Evan Smart, and three innocent friends of Nonno Pietro and Nonna Annunziata: Girolamo Braschi, Pietro’s long-time friend; Maddalena Braschi, Girolamo’s wife; and Marisa Testaverde, Maddalena’s sister. Those three had died in the car crash that was later revealed to be a homicide.
The judge soon read out the verdicts. It took fifteen minutes to read through every single charge on the docket. It was the longest fifteen minutes of my life, but ultimately one of the most important. On every charge: GUILTY. I really don’t have a head for legal matters, but I was so relieved to hear GUILTY after every single charge.
As expected, the sextet showed indifference to the verdicts. I had long ago given up any hope that they would shed a tear or scream for me. With Mykhaylo holding my hand, I held myself together throughout those minutes. When it was all over, the judge passed sentence. Joseph, Nadine, and Charlotte were sentenced to life in prison without parole, and declared “Dangerous Offenders”. For their parts in the conspiracy, Niccolo and Denise received 20 years. Cecilia was sentenced to 10 years, on top of having already been convicted in a previous trial of fraud and embezzlement.
My kidnappers, Enver Berisha and Ilirian Martini, had pleaded no contest to the kidnapping in exchange for a deal of 5 to 10 years in prison. I gave the Crown my blessing to proceed with the deal. The arsonist who killed Nonno Raimondo and Nonna Maria Grazia had died while serving time in prison on an unrelated charge. In addition, the men that Charlotte hired to kill Evan plead out to first-degree manslaughter. I was reluctant to let them proceed with that deal, but after some thought, I let them go ahead.
Before they were sentenced, I made my victim’s impact statement. I didn’t have much to say to them, however; I had testified for two days and was exhausted afterwards. Still, I looked at all of them dead in the eye and said, “You are no longer my family. You never were to begin with. Real families never do what you did to me.” Okay, Cecilia was not technically family, but she had wormed her way into the Buonfiglio inner circle by virtue of her friendship with Charlotte, so there. Ryan gave his victim’s impact statement as well, followed by Aunt Kendra, Aunt Tatiana, and Uncle Wayne.
Then, they lead all six of them away. Again, there was no sign of empathy, no sign of human warmth, and no sign of anything other than indifference. The last thing that I remember, as they essentially walked out of my life forever, was thinking that they would be pulling similar shit in prison. I would not have put it past them.
It wasn’t until I stepped out of Old City Hall on that breezy May afternoon that I could finally say that I was free. A throng of reporters from across Canada and around the world greeted me. I carefully fielded question after question in English, French, and Italian. One reporter asked me what I was going to do afterwards. I chuckled and said, “I’m hungry. I need a burger.” That reporter was Italian. We ended up having burgers afterwards.
I haven’t been up to Kingston, where all of them are serving their sentences. (I hear that they’re closing down the facility soon, and where they’re planning to send the prisoners, I have no idea.) Ryan has, and from what he has told me, they’re still indifferent to the whole thing. But that’s not all. Nadine has had to sober up, and she hasn’t taken kindly to withdrawal. She’s been screaming at all hours of the night, so much that they had to put her in solitary confinement. Joseph has lost his license to practice law, but that hasn’t stopped him from giving crooked legal advice to people in the yard. Charlotte’s daughter, Savannah, was in foster care for over a year before the decision was made to give custody to Uncle Wayne and Aunt Elfriede. No one knows who Savannah’s dad is, but for now, it’s a moot point. Neither I nor Ryan was considered, but it was for the best. Charlotte spends her days and nights in a delusional stupor, thinking that she’ll get custody back. Other than that, she’s been trying to seduce the guards (even the FEMALE guards) into giving her more privileges, albeit with no success. Pissing her off even more is the fact that her now ex-boyfriend, Lionel, has become one of my friends.
Ryan and I have gotten a lot closer since he came back to Canada. We see a lot of each other, and have been making up for lost time. He is a financial consultant during the week, and on the weekends is a bartender at a gay club on Queen Street West. I still don’t go to bars on a recreational basis, however, and Ryan is cool with that. Still, I pop in every other weekend to chat with him, while he’s making Cosmopolitans and Harvey Wallbangers and Screwdrivers or whatever the hell they serve. And no, we haven’t had sex. Mykhaylo has brought up the prospect of a three-way with him, however.
I’ve also reconnected with other members of my family. Aunt Kendra still lives in Vancouver, but she visits me from time to time. Aunt Tatiana now splits her time between her Italian vineyard and Toronto, where she is trying to distribute her wines. They’ve come over to my apartment a few times, and we’ve had a lot of fun.
This brings me to Brandon. I’m still living with him rent-free, and we’re closer than ever. The events of the past year or so forced him to confront his own past, so he went over to Regina in the summer of 2010. When he came back, he had great news: his parents had apologized for everything that they did to him, and slowly but surely, they’re mending fences. I wasn’t offended that his family has a chance at reconciliation, while I put mine away in the slammer forever. Professionally, things have gotten a lot better for him. He received a promotion to Associate Chair of the English Department, which he honestly didn’t expect.
Claire is no longer my therapist. My new therapist is a guy named Christopher Calcaterra, who happens to be both Italian-Canadian and gay. He’s really nice and fun to be around. Since I started going to the CAMH, I have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. I knew what PTSD was, but Asperger’s threw me for a loop. But Christopher has been very helpful and I’ve been researching Asperger’s since. The authorities decided not to close Claire’s practice. While we don’t see each other on a regular basis, Claire calls me every week to check on me, and we even have dinner once a month.
Carolina is doing well, too. She still lives in the old house on Ascot and Nairn, and often invites me over for parties and such. While I will always have the painful memories of being subject to unimaginable abuse at that house, being friends with Carolina has allowed me to make new memories there.
Mykhaylo is still at York University and working at the CBC. In case you didn’t know, he is a production assistant for CBC Radio One. We’re still dating, but we don’t have any plans to move in together. We’re falling in love more and more each day. I no longer feel any guilt about loving Evan and Mykhaylo at the same time. Evan is still a part of my life, and Mykhaylo respects that. In a related story, after the trial, I received a phone call from Walton Smart, Evan’s father. He had heard about the verdict and offered his apologies for the way he and the rest of the Smarts had treated me and Evan. He even sent me a check for $75,000, the amount of money that had been in Evan’s bank accounts at the time of his murder. In Evan’s honour, I donated half of the money to the National Ballet of Canada. He would have wanted it that way.
And then, there’s Britney. I’ve had her for almost seven years, and not a day goes by that she isn’t just the most precious creature on Earth. Despite her age, she’s very agile and loves to play around. Even though I’m not emotionally strong enough to be a father, I feel that I’ve succeeded in raising Britney to be the best cat that she can be. Conversely, having Britney in my life has helped me to be the best that I can be.
My life is almost unrecognizable from two years ago. After years of one part-time job after another, I’ve found financial stability as a model. I’ve done both fitness work and portrait work. The jobs are frequent, they pay well, and I’ve been able to travel across the world. I still volunteer when I can with the 519 Centre. Plus, I’ve gotten back into competitive bodybuilding. I’m looking forward to eventually getting my pro card. I haven’t had any suicidal thoughts since Christmas 2009, I’m no longer crying all the time, and I just feel so fucking great. And I no longer feel guilty about feeling so fucking great. It’s healthy to cry and let your sadness run rampant, but it’s even healthier just to experience pure happiness.
I bet that you’re wondering what happened to the money that I found in my old home. I still have it, along with the million bucks that Brandon gave me. Joseph and Nadine tried to get back what they thought was theirs before the trial began, but they failed miserably. I paid off some bills and debts, and while I don’t like to throw cash around, let’s just say that on a few occasions, I’ve indulged in a bit of shopping.
I still think about my grandparents and Evan every single day. I don’t pray much, but every day I look up to the sky and quietly express my wishes to God, or Goddess, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the Sky, that they are happy and doing fine in the other world. They haven’t been down to visit me, even in my dreams, but I know that they’re looking out for me. Before the trial, I became a dual citizen of Canada and Italy. My grandparents never officially renounced their Italian citizenship, so that made things easier. The day that I got my Italian passport, I immediately thought of my grandparents. And whenever I see a ballet on TV or at the theatre, I think of Evan. I think of all of them every day. I hope that I’m doing all of them proud.
I still don’t drink wine, though.