Italy's second most sought-after fugitive, a convicted, ruthless 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate boss, was captured Sunday as he slept in his bed in a hideout in the rugged Calabrian mountains, reports the AP. Ernesto Fazzalari "went from his sleep to the handcuffs of the Carabinieri" paramilitary police after 20 years on the run, Col. Lorenzo Falferi told reporters. Reggio Calabria Prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho described Fazzalari as "a merciless killer" and a protagonist of the 1991-1992 turf feud between 'Ndrangheta clans that bloodied the Taurianova town area of Calabria in the "toe" of the Italian peninsula. In one macabre episode, a victim's head was tossed into the air and shot at as a target. Falferi called Fazzalari, 46, one of Italy's most dangerous fugitives from the 'Ndrangheta, one of the world's most powerful crime syndicates.
Hanging over Fazzalari's head is a life sentence. He has been convicted of two murders, attempted murder, extortion, and being a member of a Mafia-like organization. Authorities said Fazzalari was sleeping alongside his companion, a 41-year-old woman. The woman was arrested for investigation of weapons possession. The No. 1 wanted fugitive in Italy is Matteo Messina Denaro, a Sicilian Cosa Nostra chieftain whose power base is in western Sicily. Fazzalari's two decades spent eluding capture was aided by a combination of a widely-followed code of silence known as "omerta" and complicity from local citizens, authorities said. He and his 'Ndrangheta allies "controlled every clod of dirt," Prosecutor Cafiero De Raho said. "He was feeling protected in his territory, by his people." (Read more 'Ndrangheta stories.)