Leonarda Cianciulli – The Soap Maker
- Serial Killers
- On October 15, 1970 convicted serial killer Leonarda Cianciulli died from a brain haemorrhage in a women’s asylum for the criminally insane. She had spent the previous two decades incarcerated for the murder of two women, murders she did not regret, murders even she felt were necessary, for the survival of her children.
Leonarda Cianciulli believed there was a curse on her family, and the sacrifice of three women were needed to lift it.
Cianciulli was born in the small town of Montella in 1894. She was an unhappy child, who attempted suicide on more than one occasion. Her marriage was to be arranged, and she did not like the prospect of marrying someone she was certain not to be in love with.
In 1917, she went against her parents’ wishes and married Raffaele Pansardi, a registry Clerk. The couple moved to Pansardi’s hometown in 1921, and it was at this time Cianciulli believed that her mother cursed her.
She was very worried about this curse, and being quite a spiritual person, Cianciulli sought out the advice and readings of a fortune teller and a palm reader.
The Fortune Teller told her that her children would all suffer from many troubles, and although she would have many, all would perish early.
The Palm Reader told her she saw both a prison and an asylum, somewhere in her future.
Both of these readings turned out to be quite accurate.
While in her husband’s hometown of Lauria, Cianciulli did some short time in prison for fraud. With the shame of the time looming over her head, she and her husband moved to another town, only to have their new home destroyed in an earthquake. After this piece of bad luck they moved once more, and finally settled in Correggio, another small town.
Here Cianciulli set up a small shop, and at times would read other peoples fortunes. It was a happy life until tragedy struck her and her family again and again, as the first of her ‘misfortunes’ came true.
Out of seventeen pregnancies Cianciulli was only able to raise four children out of infancy. Ten of her children died in their young years, and another three were miscarried. She became very protective of her remaining children, and when word came that her favourite son had joined the Italian army to fight in World War Two, she knew she had to do something, lest he be lost to her as well.
Cianciulli figured that the only way to lift the curse her mother had placed on to her was to perform human sacrifice. Three murders were planned and were carried out as follows.
Faustina Setti had been seeking Cianciulli’s fortune telling, as a means of helping to find herself a husband. On her final sitting, Faustina was told that her husband was waiting in another town, and that she must travel or she would be fated to never meet him. She was told not to tell anyone where she was going, and to write postcards for her family and friends to tell them where she had gone when she got there.
Setti made her plans, and on the day of departure went to visit Cianciulli one last time. She had with her postcards written to her family as directed by Cianciulli, to help her with her future.
With everything in place and ready for departure, Setti was offered a parting drink of wine. However, when she drank the wine Setti fell unconscious, and Cianciulli took to her with an axe, killing her. Cianculli then set to dismembering the corpse over a basin in a closet. In her words:
"I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the whole mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank.
As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.”
(-stated by Cianciulli at her trial)
The second victim was Francesca Soavi, who was looking for work. Cianciulli ‘saw’ that a suitable job awaited her in the town of Piacenza. Once again postcards to friends and family were written in advance, and the murder, soap making and biscuit baking with the body took place.
Four weeks later a third woman, Virginia Cacioppo fell victim. She too had work found for her in another town, and once again the murder took place exactly as the first two had.
This time Cianciulli added that Cacioppo made for a really creamy soap, and that the biscuits cooked from her remains were especially sweet and that everyone thoroughly enjoyed them!
Cianciulli’s plot was finally undone several years later, when Cacioppo’s sister reported her missing and police arrived at Cianciulli’s house, as it was the last place Cacioppo had been seen. Cianciulli did not even attempt to hide what she had done and admitted everything to police.
During the subsequent trial, Cianciulli spoke quite frankly about everything she had done, and even corrected the prosecutors on details of her crime, going so far as to tell where some of the evidence had gone:
"I gave the copper ladle, which I used to skim the fat off the kettles, to my country, which was so badly in need of metal during the last days of the war…. "
For the three murders Cianciulli was sentenced to thirty years prison, and three years in an asylum for the criminally insane.
The second of her ‘misfortunes’ had also come to pass…
Ashley Hall 2013.
Photo: Leonarda Cianciulli after her arrest.
Inset Upper: The victims – Virginia Cacioppo, Faustina Setti and Clementina Saovi.
Inset Middle: The kitchen and pot where the deeds took place.
Inset Lower: The instruments of death.
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