FRASCATI, Italy -- The owner of the property where 6-year-old Alfredo Rampi fell in a well and died was charged today with negligent homicide as rescue workers, having lost their race against time, undertook the grim task of recovering the boy's body.
Alfredo was declared dead Sunday, 87 hours after he fell into the artesian well, and judicial authorities said several more arrest warrants could be issued in the case.
Police arrested the owner of the property, Amedeo Pisegna, and took him to Rome's Queen of Heaven jail after charging him with negligent homicide.
Vatican Radio today eulogized the boy, saying 'Little Alfredo, through his tremendous sacrifice, has left us all a marvelous gift because through him, we have all become better, more good, more human. He has made an entire people realize the inestimable value of human life, especially that of those who are weakest and undefended,' the radio said.
Late Sunday, engineers began testing the earth under a rescue shaft drilled during the week to determine the type of rock they would have to penetrate to reach the body of .
A commission of civil defense officials decided the boy's body would be retrieved by drilling the rescue shaft to the level where it is trapped and then digging horizontally into the well.
Authorities issued an official declaration of presumed death after electronic sensing devices sent deep into the well shaft revealed no sign of life where the boy had been wedged in a 1-foot-wide space since Wednesday.
The communique was official confirmation of what was learned Saturday morning when a cave explorer reached the boy by being lowered head-first down the well shaft and reported no signs of life.
The unsuccessful attempt to save Alfredo, who had a heart condition and talked to his would-be rescuers and his mother and father until five hours before the last-ditch attempt Saturday morning, created a storm of criticism throughout the country.
'Idiots. Shameful buffoons,' a small group of onlookers shouted at rescue workers.
A front-page editorial in the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera said the marathon rescue efforts, complete with volunteer dwarfs, contortionists and a teen-ager, took place in a circus-like atmosphere reminiscent of a Federico Fellini film.
Alfredo's mother, Francesca Rampi, was chief among the critics.
'Certainly, errors were made and the lack of logical organization was obvious,' said the grief-stricken woman, her eyes red from lack of sleep and crying. 'I hope the sacrifice of Alfredo's life will at least serve to awaken public opinion.
'Nobody should ever have to risk going through the tragedy of my Alfredo,' she said, her voice breaking with emotion in the interview on national television.