The killing of 17-month-old Tommaso Onofri apparently because he was crying too much haunted the nation and prompted some politicians and citizens to call for the death penalty.
For a month, Italians had hoped for the safe return of curly-haired Tommaso, snatched from his home on March 2. Hopes were crushed when his body was discovered late Saturday.
"Our objective was always winning the child's freedom, and that was a hope that didn't leave us until the end," Bologna Prosecutor Enrico Di Nicola said yesterday. "Today it is with regret that we must say that we feel a moral defeat because of what happened."
Authorities guided by one of the suspected kidnappers located the boy's body on Saturday night under some dirt near a stream close to his home in the countryside outside Parma in northern Italy.
Police said the two suspected kidnappers and the female companion of one of them were being interrogated in a Parma jail on Sunday night.
Italian news agencies reported that investigators had identified a fourth suspect a master mason accused of aiding and abetting a crime.
Mr di Nicola said two of the suspects are accused of participating in a murder.
According to newspaper reports, suspects Mario Alessi and Salvatore Raimondi have been accusing each other of killing the child shortly after the kidnapping.
Raimondi has claimed that the two abducted the child and took off on a scooter. He said he dropped Alessi and the child off by a railway crossing, where they were supposed to be picked up by Alessi's girlfriend, who also is a suspect.
"I heard of Tommaso's death the next day from Alessi," Raimondi allegedly told investigators, according to comments published in Rome daily La Repubblica. The newspaper did not cite sources.
However Alessi, a construction worker and convicted rapist, said the two of them "did everything together". He said they got spooked when they saw a police car light in the distance, and Raimondi slammed a shovel in the boy's face, killing him, La Repubblica reported.