FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) — The longtime girlfriend of a South Florida millionaire who was arrested on charges of shooting and stabbing him to death before plotting to dump his body in the ocean appeared in court Wednesday.
Catherine Marie Pileggi, 54, appeared in court with her attorney, Bruce Udolf, as he announced her not guilty plea during the court appearance. Pileggi was arrested on July 5.
Fort Lauderdale police said Pileggi killed Ronald C. Vinci, 70, at his multi-million dollar Tarpon River waterfront home on June 28. His body was found wrapped in plastic and bedding by a neighbor who had been alerted by a frantic call from the couple’s handyman.
A police affidavit quoted the handyman, Reynaldo Silva, as saying that Pileggi claimed Vinci died from a fall and asked him to help load the body onto their boat.
“Ms. Pileggi told him that Mr. Vinci wanted to be buried at sea,” the affidavit said.
Vinci became wealthy operating car dealerships in Southern California before moving to Fort Lauderdale several years ago. They owned several homes in exclusive neighborhoods, including the house valued at $2.9 million in which Vinci’s body was found.
In addition to Vinci’s decision to end their 20-year relationship, police said Pileggi also blamed Vinci for the 2009 death of her sister during a vacation cruise they took together.
The sister, Angela Pileggi Silverstein, had been a witness in the sensational Los Angeles murder trial of famed music producer Phil Spector, who is serving a 19 years-to-life sentence in the gunshot death of an actress at his home.
The police affidavit did not say how Silverstein died. Her testimony in the Spector case came to refute a claim by another Pileggi sister, Melissa Grosvenor, who said she had a relationship with the producer and that he had once threatened her with a weapon.
In the South Florida case, police said after Vinci attempted to end their relationship “with negative results,” Pileggi went to another of their homes to get a .380-cal. handgun of his. The firearm is the same type that fired a bullet into Vinci’s head, according to the affidavit, and a fingerprint of Pileggi’s was found on the weapon’s magazine.
The neighbor, Spencer Gordon, said Pileggi initially claimed that Vinci was drunk and had died after falling down the stairs during an argument. Eventually, Gordon told police, Pileggi admitted Vinci had been shot in the head and that she had “messed him up bad.” He was also stabbed and his throat was slit.
Pileggi’s is charged with first-degree murder. Udolf said she’s frightened and fragile.
“She’s very confused and upset,” Udolf said.
Pileggi’s next court appearance is set for September 23 to determine a possible trial date.
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