UPDATE: Police believe Catherine Pileggi may have been plotting to kill Ronald Vinci all along. Two months before he was murdered, he had to be hospitalized for stomach pains. He told friends Pileggi might be trying to poison him. See update after the jump…
Ronald Vinci had made a killing owning Honda dealerships in California.
Now, at age 70, he was making the most of it by being the quintessential
South Florida rich man, living in a Fort Lauderdale mansion, skiing,
flying his own plane, and partying aboard his yacht.
The one blemish on his golden years was Catherine Pileggi. Though they’d been dating for about 20 years, he’d been doing his best to get rid of her in recent weeks, apparently because she was on his last nerve.
He’d recently bought himself a new mansion to replace the $2.2 million home that wasn’t cutting it anymore. But he just couldn’t seem to get rid of Pileggi. And as you will soon discover, he had a good reason for wanting her gone.
At 1 a.m. on June 28, Vinci’s handyman, Reynaldo Silva, received a call from Pileggi. She wanted Silva to meet her at Vinci’s mansion with a U-Haul truck.
But by 7:30 the next morning, Pileggi texted Silva again, this time telling him to skip the U-Haul. And an hour after that, Pileggi called to say Vinci was dead.
When Silva arrived at the home, Pileggi showed him the body in a bedroom. It was lying next to a bed, covered in sheets and plastic bags. She told the handyman she needed help carrying Vinci to a boat, since he’d always wanted to be buried at sea. But Silva wondered why she hadn’t called the cops.
He claimed that Vinci was too heavy to carry, and that he had to go to another one of Vinci’s homes to grab a dolly. But as soon as he left the home, he called one of Vinci’s friends.
Spencer Gordon and Terry Leipsig soon showed up at the mansion, asking Pileggi where Vinci was. She claimed he’d gone out with friends, but the two men weren’t buying.
So she finally broke down and showed them the body, claiming Vinci had drunkenly fallen down the stairs during an argument. The problem with that story was that Vinci had been shot in the head and stabbed repeatedly in the chest.
These are rarely wounds born from drunkenly falling down stairs. We can attest to this from ample personal experience.
Gordon called the cops, who later found a gun and blood-stained clothes in Vinci’s Bentley. She’s been charged with murder.
It seems bizarre behavior from the sisters Pileggi runs in the family. According to Vinci’s friends, Catherine apparently blamed him for the death of her sister, Angela Pileggi Silverstein, during a Caribbean cruise in 2009.
Angela is presumed to have died from a drug overdose, though we’ve found no word on why Catherine might have blamed Vinci for the death.
And before the 45-year-old Angela died, she testified against another sister, Melissa
Grosvenor, during the murder trial of music producer Phil Spector, who was charged with killing an actress at his California home.
In that trial, Grosvenor testified that she once had a relationship with Spector, and that he had threatened her with a gun.
So defense lawyers trotted out Angela Pileggi Silverstein as a rebuttal witness. She testified that Grosvenor was making the entire story up, contending that her sister was a fame-whore whose only mission was to get on Court TV.
At least that’s what he believed, according to friends. Two months before his slaying, he had to be hospitalized for stomach pains. He told friends that he thought his live-in girlfriend might be trying to poison him.
Detectives also believe that Pileggi had been plotting to kill Ronald. They found a storage container that held diving belts and saved coffee grounds at the mansion, presumably to be used to ease the odor of a dead body.
The cops have filed warrants to get access to Pileggi’s computers and phones to see if she researched how to poison Vinci or considered other ways to kill him.
See our last story from the Homicide file: Jonathan Schwartz Tells 911 He Killed His Mom, Then Calls Back to Say it Was Suicide.