Oxygen Insider Exclusive!

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up for Free to View
Crime News Snapped

Woman Had “Out Of Body Experience” and "Literally Snapped" Killing Boyfriend, Prosecutor Says

“She said, ‘I don’t remember what happened, but I know I must have killed him,’” prosecutor Brian Cavanagh said on Snapped to describe Catherine Pileggi’s confession to killing Ronald Vinci.

By Caitlin Schunn

He was stabbed seven times in the neck. Five times in the chest. He’d been hit with a bat. He’d also been shot on the left side of his head.

How to Watch

Watch Snapped on Oxygen Sundays 6/5c and next day on Peacock. Catch up on the Oxygen App.

“Whoever killed Ronald Vinci wanted to make sure he was not getting up,” said Rafael Olmeda, a journalist at the South Florida Sun Sentinel, on Snapped, airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.

When police finally got Vinci’s girlfriend, Catherine Pileggi, to talk to them, she shared a story of not rage or jealousy, but of abuse and self-defense.

“It was overkill,” William DeJesus, former Fort Lauderdale police detective, said on Snapped. “And any time we go to a scene that we see the injuries sustained are overkill, then we know it’s personal.”

Personal — because Pileggi claimed it was kill or be killed when it came to the night of June 27, 2011 at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida mansion she shared with her boyfriend. Her lawyers argued she suffered from battered woman syndrome, and Vinci’s murder was years in the making. But did a jury believe the same story?

How did Ronald Vinci die in his Florida mansion?

On June 28, 2011, a man called 911 and said there’d been an accident at his friend Ronald Vinci’s home. He told dispatchers someone fell down the stairs and died.

But when police arrived at the mansion, the body wasn’t at the bottom of the stairs, but rather inside sleeping bags, sheets, and towels.

“His body looked like a big clump of dirty laundry sitting off to the right side of the bed,” DeJesus said. “Once they saw that, they said, ‘Holy cow! We got an issue here.’”

Vinci, 70, lived in the home with his girlfriend, Catherine Pileggi. 16 years his junior, the couple had been together on and off for nearly two decades.

For more on true crime:

Illinois Father Is Shot Dead When Picking Up Daughter From Ex-Wife's "Clannish" Family
Clues Revealed for First Time in Murder of 27-Year-Old Singer Found Tied Up in Her Home
The Shocking Murder of NBA Star Lorenzen Wright: "Ultimate Evil"

“Cathy was a very good-looking, gorgeous woman,” said Tom Gonzales, Vinci’s friend, on Snapped. “I think that she was somewhat of a trophy girlfriend. You know, ‘My girlfriend’s an airline stewardess and she’s a hottie.’”

Ron Vinci and Catherine Pileggi featured on Snapped Episode 3323

Vinci lived a lavish lifestyle, and owned yachts and motorcycles as well as several vehicles.

“He purchased a two-story home in one of Fort Lauderdale’s richest ritziest neighborhoods,” Olmeda said. “That he shared with Catherine.”

But just two weeks after moving into the mansion, Vinci was dead.

Police spoke first to Spencer Gordon — Vinci’s friend — and the man who called 911 to report his death. Gordon said he was alerted to the death by a handyman who worked for Vinci named Reynaldo Silva.

“I was talking with Cathy,” Gordon told police in an interview. “She seemed as normal as ever.”

After finding Vinci’s body in the bedroom, he told police he confronted Pileggi about what happened, and she said he’d fallen down the stairs around 1 a.m.

“I said, ‘What did you do?’ She just stared. Didn’t say anything,’” Gordon told police.

Eventually, Gordon alleged Pileggi told him that she’d shot Vinci after an argument, and asked him not to call police, but he did anyway.

Officers also spoke to Silva to find out what had happened. He told police Pileggi had called him at 1 a.m. using Vinci’s phone, and told him to rent a truck for the next day. When Silva called Vinci’s phone the next morning, Pileggi answered, and told Silva to come to the house.

“He fell from the stairs,” Silva said on Snapped. “Then, she goes and says to me, ‘Ron [has] to be — he [wants to] be buried in the ocean.’”

Silva alleged Pileggi asked him to take Vinci’s body and throw it in the ocean, and took him to see the body in the bedroom. That’s when he said he called Gordon for help.

Catherine Pileggi featured on Snapped Episode 3323

“I didn’t call the police because I was afraid … afraid of not being understood because I know I have poor English,” Silva said.

The evidence at Vinci’s home was damning for Pileggi. Police discovered Pileggi had purchased a large bin soon before the death, as well as dive weights used to weigh down an object in water.

“It was a red flag because if she was planning to do this ahead of time, this would be an earmark of premeditated murder,” prosecutor Brian Cavanagh said on Snapped.

Police also found several plastic bags in Vinci’s Bentley that contained a handgun, a knife with blood on it, and a hammer. Fingerprints on the gun matched those belonging to Pileggi. There was evidence of Vinci’s blood at the bottom of the staircase that led to the first floor bedroom — and evidence the blood had been cleaned up.

As police talked to family and friends, it became clear the couple often fought, and were even about to end their relationship.

“It was apparent to me that Ron would drink a bit too much, and that I think caused some rift between the two of them,” Gonzales said. “He would just drink. Become very boisterous. He would bump into people, or he would be obnoxious. And I think he was being somewhat too obnoxious to Cathy from time to time.”

On July 5, 2011, Pileggi was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

What defense did Catherine Pileggi claim for killing her boyfriend, Ronald Vinci?

Although she initially refused to speak to police, months later, Pileggi was evaluated by a forensic psychologist, to whom she confessed to killing Vinci in self-defense — after years of domestic abuse.

“She said he had two personalities,” DeJesus said. “Said he’d be as nice as ever and then he could do a flip on you in a heartbeat. Become the meanest person in the world.”

In addition to drinking too much, Pileggi claimed Vinci was taking several different medications that also affected his mood and personality.

Pileggi described to the psychologist what happened after an argument at the top of the stairs on the night of June 27, 2011.

“Now we know this only from her words. He stuck a gun in her face,” Bruce Udolf, Pileggi’s defense attorney, said on Snapped. “He was so drunk and out of it from all the drugs he was taking that he fell backwards and fell down and hit his head at the bottom of the stairs.”

Pileggi claimed she wiped up the blood and pulled him to the bedroom on a rug.

“She sees the gun,” Udolf said. “Sees the clip was half out and the gun had jammed, and realizes, ‘Oh, this time he really meant it. He really was going to kill me.’ And that’s when she takes the gun, and goes into the bedroom, sees him lying there.”

Pileggi further described how she took the gun and shot her lover.

“She says, ‘The next thing I know, I’m standing over Ron, and he’s in bed, dead. And I have a knife in my hand.’ She said, ‘I don’t remember what happened but I know I must have killed him.”

Although there were no police records of domestic violence at the house, a captain of one of Ron’s yachts confirms arguments often turned physical between the two, and that he saw Vinci push Pileggi in anger.

“He said he had witnessed a great deal of physical abuse,” Udolf said. “He’s one of the few people that actually saw it in real time. Ron was also pointing a gun at her … on another occasion.”  

The forensic psychologist who evaluated Catherine Pileggi testified at her November 2014 trial she believed Pileggi had developed battered woman syndrome.

“She believed she was in danger,” Dr. Lenore Walker said on Snapped. “That he could no longer control himself. And that he would kill her. And that’s what prompted her to actually take his life.”

A jury found Pileggi guilty of second-degree murder, and she was sentenced to 25 years in prison. She’s set to be released in 2033, at the age of 77.

“She had no criminal history and there was one moment where she snapped,” Cavanagh said. “Literally snapped. And had this out of body experience. No matter how you look at it, it’s a troubling case.”

Watch all-new episodes of Snapped on Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen and the next day on Peacock.