By several accounts, Vinci had passed Silverstein a few of his antidepressant pills in a benevolent gesture. A friend told police Vinci once said Pileggi "blames me 100 percent" for the sister's death.
Vinci was cavalier about his health. In recent years, friends say, he would swallow handfuls of prescription pills — friends recall Valium, Wellbutrin, maybe others — to help him relax. He'd eat anything without discrimination.
In early 2011, he ended up in Broward General Medical Center for a few days with intestinal problems. It appeared that his hard-drinking life was taking a toll on him. But he also mentioned that his meals had tasted funny for a while. His buddy Leipsig joked that maybe Pileggi was poisoning his food.
Vinci laughed it off. But after that, he started asking other people to make his drinks. The night before his death, he mentioned to Leipsig that his passport and one of his guns were missing.
Gordon recalls Vinci saying occasionally that he was getting on in years and thinking about other women. But it appears that he never cheated on Pileggi. Although their own relationship had dried up — not only did they sleep in separate beds but in separate buildings — he never let her go. Toward the end, though, he tried.
Ten days before the murder, Gordon says, he flew with Vinci, Pileggi, and Tom Gonzales' boat captain to the Bahamas. They left Vinci and the boat captain on the island, and Gordon flew back alone with Pileggi.
Gordon says Vinci wanted to see other women but didn't have the heart to leave Pileggi — so he asked Gordon to break up with her as a proxy. As Gordon piloted the Sirius airplane back over the Atlantic, he told Pileggi of Vinci's offer: Vinci would pay her a million dollars and let her stay at the condo until he sold it, but he wanted to end the relationship.
Gordon says she told him, "I'm not interested," and they dropped the subject for the rest of the flight.
The Crestron system finally seems to be working. On a Monday afternoon in March, Gordon opened the front door, then turned to the control panel to find a pop radio station for his teenaged daughters, who, like his wife, were dressed in poolside attire. He was still coming to the house four or five times a week — just as he did before his friend Vinci died. He settled down behind the large, wooden desk in Vinci's office, where he took a call about selling the house on behalf of Vinci's son. Outside a back window, a young woman in an orange bikini drifted past on a paddleboard. "That's why I like this place," said Gordon, gesturing in her direction.
The medical examiner has ruled Vinci's death a homicide, citing the bullet and stab wounds — rather than blunt trauma from a fall down the stairs — as the cause. Neighbors across the street reported hearing gunshots on the evening in question a couple of hours before Silva got the call to bring a U-Haul. Police say they found a gun with Pileggi's fingerprints on the magazine along with bloody items in the trunk of a Bentley in the garage. The gun matched the bullet that had wounded Vinci.
Yet, as Pileggi's case moves toward a trial, details are not as conclusive as they might seem. How would Pileggi have wrapped Vinci's 200-pound body in plastic, put it in a bag, and moved it to the back bedroom alone? A woman who had been walking her dog past the house around 5 o'clock on the morning of the incident told police she saw a white pickup truck with a small trailer pull into the driveway, a detail that no one else has mentioned.
Kerry Vinci, who works in the construction industry in San Diego, would not comment for this article, nor would a probate attorney handling Vinci's estate. Without their input, it's hard to predict what will become of the fortune Ron Vinci built out of that first motorcycle shop in San Diego. Although Pileggi mentioned to friends that Vinci had finally trusted her to open a joint bank account, he never gave any indication to his friends that he had provided for her in his will.