Onetime pilot Catherine Marie Pileggi, apparently enraged by a potential breakup with a self-made Fort Lauderdale multimillionaire and also blaming him for the death of a sister during a vacation years earlier, took brutal revenge, investigators say.
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 plotted 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 and on-and-off relationship with Pileggi, 54, for two decades. The dead rich 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.
Eight months earlier, 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.
In April 2009, 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 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, 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, on June 24, where she got two of his guns, and returned to the Tarpon Bend home, according to an arrest affidavit.
Neighbors in their Fort Lauderdale neighborhood 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 inside a large blue container then transport it to Vinci’s boat and take it out to be dumped in the Atlantic.