Catherine Pileggi, the Fort Lauderdale woman convicted for murdering her 70-year-old multimillionaire boyfriend, Ron Vinci, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. The murder investigation, which was the subject of a New Times feature article, was initially handled sloppily.
But during the trial, the defense argued that Vinci was a drunk and that Pileggi suffered abuse at his hands. Pileggi herself testified that Vinci had been abusive and often made death threats. Pileggi told jurors she suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Vinci. The shooting, the defense argued, was justified.
According to Pileggi's testimony, the shooting happened one June night in 2011 after Vinci had been drinking heavily. She said the two got into a heated argument that ended up with Vinci pulling out a loaded gun and pointing it at her and telling Pileggi she didn't deserve to live.
Vinci lowered the gun and chased her through his $3 million Fort Laudedale home in Tarpon River. Pileggi claims Vinci fell during the chase and hurt his head. Later in the evening, Pileggi admitted to seeing the gun he had pointed at her and grabbing it, fearing for her life. She called the moment an "out-of-body experience."
She walked to a first-floor bedroom where Vinci had been lying and shot him.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, argued that Pileggi should have left the home and called 911.
Still, Broward County Judge John Fry acquitted Pileggi of a first-degree murder charge, which might have sent her to prison for life. The jury found her guilty of second-degree murder, and the judge sentenced her to 25 years.
It was the end of a long and winding murder investigation that began as a "suspicious death." Early in the investigation, a warrant said that Pileggi may have been attempting to poison Vinci in the days before his death. According to the warrant, Vinci was hospitalized for abdominal pains two months before Pileggi shot him. At the time, he told friends he believed she was poisoning him.
And, according to investigators at the time, Vinci's body was found duct-taped with multiple stab wounds, a gunshot to the head, blunt-force fractures to his skull, and a large cut to his throat.
Pileggi also apparently purchased a blue, plastic, 45-gallon container at Home Depot on the morning of the shooting. An identical container appeared in the crime-scene photos taken at Vinci's home.
She would later confess that her plan was to dump Vinci's body in the ocean before she was caught.
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More bizarre was the apparent Phil Spector connection to the whole thing.
In a Fort Lauderdale arrest affidavit, Pileggi apparently told investigators that she blamed Vinci for the "sudden" death of her sister, Angela Pileggi Silverstein, on a Caribbean cruise on December 21, 2009. Angela, it turns out, had testified at Spector's 2007 murder trial.
During the trial, Dr. Lenore Walker, an expert in battered women syndrome, testified that Pileggi showed signs that she had suffered from the syndrome.
"I found that she was a battered woman, that she had battered-woman syndrome, in my opinion," Walker said.