Jilted Woman Stabbed, Shot, Beat Millionaire to Death
Catherine Marie Pileggi in her booking mug on Tuesday. Broward Sheriff's Office
The Miami Herald via YellowBrix
July 07, 2011
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – Apparently enraged by a potential breakup with a Fort Lauderdale multimillionaire, Catherine Marie Pileggi took deadly revenge, investigators say.
Pileggi, a onetime pilot, also blamed him for the death of her sister years earlier, police said.
Pileggi is accused of shooting Ronald C. Vinci in the head, stabbing him in the chest, slitting his throat, wrapping him in bedding and plastic bags – and then plotting to drop his body in the ocean.
She was held without bond Wednesday.
“This is a brutal, brutal murder," police spokesman Detective Travis Mandell said. “I can’t imagine someone else doing this to another human being.”
According to the arrest affidavit, Pileggi told one of Vinci’s friends: “I messed him up bad.’’
The admission was made to Spencer Gordon, who discovered the body at a mansion the couple shared in the upscale Tarpon River neighborhood, according to the arrest affidavit released by Fort Lauderdale police. Gordon had been called by the couple’s handyman the morning of June 28.
Vinci, 70, whose riches came from successful car dealerships, had an on-and-off relationship with Pileggi, 54, for two decades.
The dead man is now a central figure in a bizarre family drama that also involves his lover’s late sister, Angela Pileggi Silverstein. She died suddenly at the age of 45, possibly from a drug overdose, while on a Caribbean cruise with the couple in December 2009.
Silverstein herself was a witness in another mysterious murder case — that of record producer Phil Spector, who was convicted that year of killing an actress in his California home. The Associated Press reported in 2007 that Silverstein testified against a third Pileggi sister, Melissa Grosvenor, who claimed she had had a relationship with Spector. Grosvenor testified at trial that the eccentric producer had once threatened her with a gun, a charge that Silverstein, with a flourish, discredited on the witness stand, painting her sister as a fame-seeker.
“She was bragging about going to be on Court TV!” Silverstein said in court about her estranged sister. Spector is serving 19 years in prison for the death of the actress, Lana Clarkson.
Now it’s Catherine Pileggi who faces murder charges.
Vinci had made millions with a string of Honda dealerships in Southern California before moving to Fort Lauderdale.
Pileggi’s family said the pair met through their shared love of flying.
But after 20 years with Pileggi, Vinci apparently was ready to move on. According to the police report, “it was revealed through witness statements that Mr. Vinci had attempted to end his live-in relationship with Ms. Pileggi with negative results.’’
Pileggi responded by going to another Vinci home, on Nurmi Drive in Fort Lauderdale on June 24, where she got two of his guns, and returned to the Tarpon Bend home, according to an arrest affidavit.
Nearby neighbors said they heard a pop on June 27. The next day, police cars arrived on their street.
According to the arrest affidavit, Peliggi killed Vinci, called the couple’s handyman, Reynaldo Silva, on June 28 and claimed that her partner died from a fall in their recently purchased $2.9 million mansion.
She explained that Vinci wanted to be buried at sea and asked Silva to help her hoist the body onto Vinci’s boat and take the corpse out to be dumped in the Atlantic.
Suspicious of her story, Silva stalled by saying the body was too heavy and that he was going to retrieve a dolly. Instead, he alerted Spencer Gordon, Vinci’s friend. Gordon went to the home with another friend, Terry Leipsig.
They found a large object on the bedroom floor wrapped in bedding and plastic bags. When Gordon opened the wrapping and placed his hand inside, he “realized the object was a human body and subsequently observed a hand,” the report states.
Pileggi first told Gordon that Vinci fell down the stairs while intoxicated during a 1 a.m. fight. After persistent questioning from Gordon, she confessed that Vinci was shot in the head and that she “messed him up bad.” She told Gordon she did not want to call the police because she did not want to go to jail, the arrest affidavit said.
When police arrived, they found a black semi-automatic .380 handgun and blood-stained knife inside a green 2005 Bentley in Vinci’s “garage area.” A fingerprint on the gun’s magazine was positively identified as belonging to Pileggi, according to the affidavit.
Pileggi turned herself over to police Tuesday night. A silent and stone-faced Pileggi made her first court appearance on Wednesday via a video feed and was ordered held without bond.
Pileggi’s lawyer, Bruce Udolf, asked Broward Circuit Court Judge Bernard Bober for an emergency order to preserve the evidence. He asked that the family be prevented from cremating the body so the defense could do its own forensic examination. Udolf also asked for the chance to go to the home, which was in Vinci’s name, again with the intention of doing a forensic examination.
Prosecutor Gregg Rossman said that was beyond the power of the court because both the body and the home now belong to Vinci’s family and what happened next was their decision, not the state’s. Efforts to reach Vinci relatives were unsuccessful and the family’s lawyer declined to comment.
Judge Bernard Bober agreed, denying Udolf’s request and saying he believed such a decision was a civil matter and beyond his powers of his courtroom.
“I tend to think there is no authority for me to do in this setting what you are asking,” Bober said.
After the hearing, Udolf spoke briefly about his client, saying she was “very frightened.’’ A Pileggi relative reached by phone Wednesday, who declined to be identified, was shocked by the news, saying only that Pileggi would never hurt anyone.
“There’s no way; she would not.”