Harlem graduate accused of Florida murder

Catherine Marie Pileggi: Fort Lauderdale woman, 54, is accused of killing her 70-year-old live-in boyfriend of 20 years.

A former Columbia County resident is in a Florida jail, accused of murdering her longtime boyfriend.

 

Police say Catherine Marie Pileggi, 54, shot Ronald Charles Vinci in the head, stabbed him in the chest and slit his throat, according to a Broward County police arrest affidavit posted on the Sun Sentinel newspaper Web site.

Early on June 28, Pileggi, a 1974 Harlem High School graduate, told handyman Reynaldo Silva that her 70-year-old boyfriend died in the Fort Lauderdale mansion the couple shared. She said she wanted help loading his body onto a boat because he wanted to be buried at sea.

After several early-morning calls and text messages, including one instructing Silva to rent a U-Haul truck, he went to Vinci's Coconut Drive home.

Pileggi claimed a drunken Vinci fell down the stairs during an argument about 1 a.m., according to the affidavit.

She led Silva to a first-floor bedroom, where what he believed was Vinci's body was on the floor wrapped in bedding and plastic bags.

Suspicious of Pileggi's story and why she hadn't called police, Silva stalled, claiming he needed a hand truck from another of Vinci's properties to move his body.

It was from that home that Silva called a friend of Vinci, who accompanied Silva and another friend back to the home.

Pileggi originally claimed Vinci was out with friends. Silva led the men to Vinci's body.

When they questioned her about the circumstances of Vinci's death, Pileggi admitted that he had been shot in the head and that she had "messed him up bad," according to the affidavit.

The friend called police, and Pileggi was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Witnesses told police that Vinci had tried to end his relationship with Pileggi, his live-in girlfriend of 20 years, the affidavit stated.

While searching Vinci's property, police found a gun and a blood-stained knife and clothing in a Bentley in the garage. The handgun was consistent with the bullet found in Vinci's body, and Pileggi's fingerprint was on its magazine, according to the affidavit.

Vinci, who built several successful Honda dealerships in California, moved to Fort Lauderdale several years ago, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Pileggi was in Columbia County as recently as May 17, when she testified in her defense in a civil suit filed against her in small claims court by her sister, Melissa Grosvenor, of Rancho Sante Fe, Calif.

According to the Magistrate Court small claims filing, Grosvenor alleged that Pileggi had not repaid her for a loan, which Pileggi contended was a gift.

Chief Magistrate Bobby Christine found in favor of Pileggi on May 17 and assigned court costs to Grosvenor.

In 2007, Grosvenor served as a witness for the prosecution in the murder case against music producer Phil Spector.