Leonarda Cianciulli ー A Serial Killer Who Turned Her Victims Into Soap And Teacakes

Leonarda Cianciulli ー A Serial Killer Who Turned Her Victims Into Soap And Teacakes

Leonarda Cianciulli (18 April 1893 – 15 October 1970) was an Italian serial killer. Better known as "The Soap-maker of Correggio", who killed three women in the town of Correggio, Reggio Emilia, between 1939 and 1940, and turned their remains into soap and teacakes.

Leonarda's parents were not particularly kind to her, and she had attempted suicide twice at a very young age.

In 1917, she married a registry clerk named Raffaele Pansardi against the wishes of her family. Her parents were so angry that Leonard's mother allegedly cursed the young couple. The couple moved to Lariano, Alta Irpinia. In 1927 Cianciulli was imprisoned for fraud. A few years later in 1930, she had lost her home in an earthquake, and they were forced to move again, this time to Correggio, where Leonarda opened a small shop and became very popular as a nice, gentlewoman, a dotted mother, and a nice neighbor.

Leonarda's story begins at the turn of the 20th century. She was pregnant 17 times while she was married. Of those 17 times, three of the pregnancies had been lost due to miscarriage, while the other 10 children died when they were very young.

This incident triggered the warning that Leonarda had received sometime earlier from a fortune teller who said that she would marry and have children, but that all the children would die young. Reportedly, Cianciulli also visited a Romani who practiced palm reading and said, "In your right hand I see the prison, in your left a criminal asylum."

After that, Leonarda became very protective of her remaining 4 children.

In 1939 when Cianciulli's son, Giuseppe Pansardi—her eldest son and favorite child—announced that he would enlist in the Italian army, and wanted to play his part in the Second World War effort. She was so determined to keep her son safe, that she came to the conclusion that human sacrifice is needed to ensure the safety of her son, and this is when she killed her first victim.

Leonarda Cianciulli’s first victim was a local spinster woman named Faustina Setti. She had come to Cianciulli for help in finding a husband. Cianciulli told her about a suitable partner in Pola. Leonarda somehow persuaded Setti to write letters and postcards to her relatives and friends. They had to be mailed when she got to Pola, to tell them that everything was fine.

Setti visited Leonarda one last time before her departure. Cianciulli offered Setti a glass of drugged wine, then killed her with an ax and dragged her body into a closet. There she cut Setti's body into nine parts, and gathering the blood in the basin. Cianciulli described the next thing that happened in her official statement:-

I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the 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.

Cianciulli's second victim was Francesca Soavi. Lik Setti, Cianciulli managed to convince Soavi that she had organized a teaching job for her at a school for girls in Piacenza. Like Setti, Soavi was instructed to write postcards, to friends and family, and to post them from their respective destinations, claiming that everything is fine. And, like Setti, when Soavi visited Leonarda one last time before her departure she fed her drugged wine, killed her with an ax, baked her into teacakes, and stole her money.

The final victim of Cianciulli was Virginia Cacioppo. She was a well-known soprano who once sang at the famous opera house of La Scala in Milan. Cianciulli had promised her a job with the impresario in Florence. Like the other two victims, she was told not to tell a single person where she was going, and when Cacioppo visited Leonarda one last time before her departure. Cianciulli offered Cacioppo a glass of drugged wine, then killed her with an ax.

This time, however, instead of just baking her body into teacakes and feeding it to her neighbors, Cianciulli also melted her flesh and turned it into soap. According to Cianciulli official statement:-

She ended up in the pot, like the other two...her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil, I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbors and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.

Virginia's sister-in-law became suspicious of her disappearance and told the police superintendent that she had last seen Caccioppo enter Cianciulli's home. Police quickly conducted an investigation and soon arrested Cianciulli. She did not admit the murders until they believed that her son, Giuseppe Pansardi, was involved in the crime. She confessed to the murders, giving detailed descriptions of what she had done with all three victims. 

Leonarda spent 30 years in prison and then 3 years in a criminal asylum where she died of cerebral apoplexy in October 1970. While she was behind bars, she wrote a memoir called An Embittered Soul's Confessions, in which she described her crimes.

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