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Beyond the Headlines: Investigating the Femicide of Claudia Iacono

A calm Tuesday afternoon seemed like any ordinary day. After another successful day at Salon Spa Deauville, Montreal businesswoman and beauty influencer, Claudia Iacono was headed home.


Yet, on May 16, 2023, the atmosphere of Salon Deauville was anything but beautiful. At approximately 4:30 p.m., the crisp spring air was broken by the sound of at least five brazen gunshots and a loud crash. A man on foot fled the crime scene, while Iacono’s body laid lifeless in the driver’s seat of her car. Painful screams filled the air. “No, that’s my sister! Stop!” yelled out Melissa Iacono, Claudia’s youngest sister.


Moments later, Montreal police arrived on the scene. SPVM spokesperson Sabrina Gauthier confirmed the unthinkable. “The victim was hit by bullets, her vehicle was in motion and collided with the building," she said, she was pronounced dead on the scene.


In the wake of the tragedy, the media desperately tried to explain why Iacono was the victim of such a heinous attack. Who was the woman killed in a public parking lot, in broad daylight?


The 39-year-old was a devoted mother of two, Sonny James and Gineva, and a loving wife to Anthony Gallo, who she frequently showcased on her Instagram page @claudia_deauville. She came from a big family of four sisters and is survived by both her parents.


Iacono purchased Salon Spa Deauville in 2009 and has since worked hard to make it into one of Montreal’s top-rated hair salons. “Over the years, Salon Deauville has become synonymous with excellence and has established itself as an industry leader and innovator in Montreal,” said Iacono in a 2018 interview. She appeared in several interviews before her death to provide her insight as a beauty expert and entrepreneur.


She was fondly remembered by her Deauville staff team for her love and dedication to her employees. “Claudia and her staff are like my children,” wrote Elisa, a salon administrator, on the salon’s website.  


Iacono also worked as a fashion designer and was the owner of Sonny’s Bistro, a Californian-inspired Asian fusion restaurant.


The media storm following her death unfortunately lost sight of all this. A greater emphasis was put on Iacono’s distant connection to known-Mafia figure Moreno Gallo.


Gallo, 68, was an Italian immigrant and prominent figure Montreal Calabrian Mafia. In 1974, he was convicted of fatally shooting a drug dealer sitting in his car. He was released on parole in 1983 until his deportation from Canada in 2012 when the RCPM acquired video footage of him illegally exchanging wads of cash with Mafia figure Nicolo Rizzuto.


In 2013, Gallo was killed in Acapulco by a gunman. His murder did not come as a shock as he was seen as a traitor to the Rizzuto crime family in the last few years of his life. According to the Toronto Star, Gallo earned the pejorative nickname, “Turkey,” for attempting to fill the power vacuum left behind following Nicolo Rizzuto’s death, subsequently challenging his son, Vito Rizzuto’s succession in line.


Since his death, however, little mention of Gallo was made in the news. This all changed immediately after Iacono’s murder. Mafia's leader's daughter-in-law shot dead read one article published by the Toronto Sun. Daughter-in-law of Montreal mobster shot dead outside salon in broad daylight read another from CTV News Montreal. The emphasis put on Iacono’s relation to Gallo was not unique to these two outlets. Upon close examination, almost every article and major broadsheet and tabloid news outlet in Montreal and Toronto referred to this connection.


News outlets perpetrated the speculation that Iacono’s murder was certainly connected to her distant relation to Gallo. Le Journal de Montreal in one article emphasized that “the assassination of Claudia Iacono was not a mistaken identity and that the businesswoman was indeed the target of this attack.” Other media outlets suggested that Iacono was part of the Montreal Mafia. The Toronto Sun even referred to the victim as the “Montreal Mafia princess.”


Yet, Mafia expert and University of Queen’s professor Antonio Nicaso is critical of the media’s portrayal of Iacono. “I have a hard time to believe that she was killed because of her relationship with Moreno Gallo,” he said.  For Nicaso, Iacono seems like an unlikely target given that Moreno Gallo’s son, Anthony Gallo, is still alive. However, he emphasizes that the lack of evidence regarding this case makes it difficult to draw any firm conclusions.


Furthermore, the media seemed to suggest that Iacono’s relation to Gallo was indicative of the Montreal Mafia changing its rules. Targeting a woman would go against 'unwritten rules' of Montreal's organized crime read one article published by CTV News Montreal. In the article, Montreal police chief, Fady Dagher is cited as saying that if Iacono’s death “as suspected, […] is linked to organized crime, [then] it would be the first time in Montreal history that a woman was targeted.”


And while this certainly appears to be a newsworthy detail, Nicaso was quick to correct this mischaracterization. He emphasizes that the media ought to “remove all romantic aspects of [the Mafia as] an organization willing to protect women and children.” He goes on to say that the Mafia does not “care about gender” and will eliminate anyone perceived as “an obstacle” or “a threat.” As such, he emphasizes that the media should never portray the Mafia as a “rustic chivalry organization,” bounded by a strict moral code. 


Other media outlets seemed to suggest that Iacono’s murder was suggestive of a brewing Mafia war. However, Nicaso suggests that the idea of a Mafia war is a complex phenomenon that involves an internal struggle to fill the power vacuum which has been on and off since Rizzuto was first killed. Yet, he recognizes that the media tends to sensationalize this aspect. “If it bleeds, it leads,” he says.


Regardless of Iacono’s potential involvement with organized crime, her death is indicative of a larger societal issue. It is worth noting that no media outlets classified her death as a femicide, despite organizations such as the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability doing so.


Criminologist and feminist scholar Dr. Baris Cayli Messina describes femicide as “the murder of a woman explicitly on account of her gender.” Under this definition, he believes the media’s choice to refer to Iacono’s death as a “woman’s homicide,” even after the arrest of two male suspects in August, “warrants scrutiny.” “This choice may stem from a perceived overemphasis on the violent feud between Mafia factions, potentially overshadowing the gendered dimensions of her killing,” he theorizes.  


Iacono’s portrayal appears to fall in line with typical stereotypes associated with Mafia women. According to the Institute of Gender in Geopolitics, Mafia “women are generally perceived, firstly, as the victims of violence,” which appears to be how Iacono was characterized.


Similar to Nicaso, Cayli Messina points to the media’s sensationalization of the Mafia. “In Claudia's case, her identity and agency as a woman have been seemingly eclipsed by a narrative focused on the violent backdrop of Mafia conflict,” he says. He also adds that Iacono’s death is another example of “a broader societal tendency to overlook the individual stories of women.”


The narrow and sensationalized reporting surrounding Iacono’s death misses the larger scope of the issue. Iacono’s murder marked the sixty-fifth femicide in Canada, by that point. Currently, 171 femicides have been recorded in total, this year alone—a spike in gendered-based killings which has not yet declined to pre-pandemic levels. Iacono was also the eighth homicide victim in Montreal, with a total of 67 homicides this year, a number that only slightly reduced from 2022.


Yet, Iacono’s legacy should not be reduced to a mere statistic. She was a mother, a wife, an entrepreneur, a sister, a friend, and a fashion influencer and she should be remembered exactly as such.

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