3 – Leonarda Cianciulli (1894 – 1970)
The Soap-Maker of Correggio doesn’t make the list due to the scale of her crimes, but because of the bizarre nature of her deeds. Cianciulli pushed the boundaries of what a mother would do to protect her son by resorting to murder. Devastated that her son was called up to the army in World War II, she decided that human sacrifice was the only way to protect him, so she killed three women in the space of a year.
Cianciulli was born in Montella, Italy in 1894 and apparently attempted suicide twice while still a young woman. Her parents didn’t approve of her marriage in 1917, and she claimed they placed a curse on her new family. She moved to Lauria in 1921, but was imprisoned for fraud six years later. Upon her release, Cianciulli moved to Lacedonia, but an earthquake destroyed the family home in 1930.
Earlier in her life, Cianciulli visited a fortune teller who told her that while she would marry and have children, all of the kids would die. A later visit to a palm reader offered more terrible news; Cianciulli was apparently destined to go to prison and a criminal asylum. Although she was a superstitious woman by nature, even a skeptic would have been concerned by the way things went after being told this news. She had 17 pregnancies in total, three ended in miscarriage, and another ten children died young. As a consequence, Cianciulli was incredibly protective of her remaining four kids.
She received bad news in 1939; her eldest son Giuseppe was called into the Italian Army and would fight in World War II. Of all her children, Giuseppe was her favorite, so she resolved to keep him safe no matter what. For some reason, she decided that human sacrifice was the only option. Giaciuilli was a fortune teller in her own right and regularly offered readings to women in her village.
This position enabled her to lure three gullible women into her trap. She gave each woman a reason to leave town but swore them to secrecy. Additionally, she convinced the first two victims to write a letter to friends and family; these letters were postmarked from their ânew’ destinations to tell their loved ones that they were okay. Faustina Setti was the first victim; Giaciuilli drugged her wine and beat the unfortunate victim to death with an ax. Francesca Soavi was dispatched in a similar fashion, and the crazed killer cut Setti’s body into nine pieces; collected the blood and put the body parts in a giant pot with caustic soda. Giaciuilli poured the resulting goo into a septic tank, dried the blood in an oven, mixed with flour, chocolate, and other ingredients and served them to neighbors as teacakes!
Virginia Cacioppo was the third and final victim, and her flesh was made into soap. Once again, the dead body was turned into delicacies, but unlike the other victims, Cacioppo’s disappearance drew suspicion. Her sister-in-law told police that the victim was last seen entering Giaciuilli’s home and after her arrest, the triple murderer quickly confessed to her crimes.
Not only did she remain unrepentant, but she also corrected lawyers over grisly details during the trial! The court found her guilty of all three murders and she was sentenced to 30 years in prison and three years in a criminal asylum. While in jail, she wrote âAn Embittered Soul’s Confessions’ where she outlined her crimes. Giaciuilli died in prison in 1970 from cerebral apoplexy.