In this week's cover story, we explore the strange living situation and gruesome death of Ron Vinci, who had just moved into the Tarpon River home where he was found dead in a bag by the side of the bed. His girlfriend, Catherine Pileggi, faces trial for the murder.
According to Pileggi's attorney, the trial probably won't happen for at least a couple of months (there's a hearing scheduled for April 19). Although media reports have swirled since the incident occurred last June, there are still a few details that don't entirely make sense.
1. How would 90-odd-pound Pileggi have killed Vinci and moved his body?
He was reportedly more than twice her weight. According to police statements, she claimed he "went down the stairs" when she "messed him up," but his torso also showed five stab wounds, and there was a bullet through his head. Did he go down the stairs? At what point did he die? Police also found bloody sections cut out of the mattress next to where he was found wrapped up in sheets and plastic bags, stuffed into a duffel bag -- so he could have been alive to make it to the bed, then been rolled into the bag? If Pileggi knows, she's definitely not talking.
2. If somebody was poisoning him, why didn't the poison show up in his blood?
We wrote yesterday about the bottle of gin laced with Bifenthrin that was handed over to police. But none of the insecticide was found in his blood. Did he ever drink it, or was it a backup plan? And what are we to make of him reportedly saying the Chinese food he ate on the night he died tasted bitter?
3. Are his friends telling the truth?
While I was visiting friends of Vinci's as they hung out in the house on Coconut Drive about nine months after the murder, one man who identified himself as a private investigator claimed that he had sneaked a peek at the medical examiner's files and that the body had been mutilated and cut up. I later looked at the files, and the body was not cut up, though there were multiple stab wounds and lacerations.
4. Who's paying for Pileggi's well-known attorney?
Bruce Udolf, a former federal prosecutor who now does a good deal of business defending public officials accused of corruption, isn't usually defending accused murderers. And he won't say who recommended him to be Pileggi's lawyer or who's paying him. Friends say Vinci didn't indicate to them that he had put Pileggi in his will, and the two were not married. Some friends suggested to me that Udolf had been hired by Tom Gonzales, the aircraft and marine entrepreneur who urged Vinci to move to Florida, a claim that both Udolf and Gonzales deny.
5. Was somebody else at the scene of the murder?
From a police report:
I was contacted by Homicide Detective Sergeant Tim Bronson who is currently an investigator with the State Attorney's Office. Bronson advised me that a secretary in his office... lives in the area of the homicide and wanted to report something she had seen. I spoke with [the secretary] over the phone and she related that at approximately 0500 hours June 28, 2011 [the morning Vinci was found dead] she was walking her dog and observed a white pickup truck pulling a small trailer into the Vinci home's driveway. She couldn't see the occupants and didn't have any additional information.
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Nobody else has mentioned the trailer.