Leonarda Cianciulli was not loved by her parents. While the exact day of her birth is still being speculated, it is known that she was a product of rape. In order to save her image, Leonarda’s mother was forced to marry the man she was raped by, and the two raised Leonarda together. For obvious reason, her parents were not particularly kind to her and she had attempted suicide twice by a very young age. Unforuntaltey, Leonarda’s life only seemed to get worse from there.
Going against her mother's wishes, she married a man in 1914 and moved to Italy with him. Leaving behind the arranged marriage her mother had planned for her, Leonarda had hoped to gain some control back over her own life. In 1930, their house was destroyed by an earthquake and they were forced to move once more. They ended up in Correggio where Leonarda opened a little shop of her own where her victims would eventually meet their unfortunate end.
A traveling fortune teller warned Leonarda that she would get married and have children, but that all of her children would die. Despite the fortune-teller’s warning, Leonarda got pregnant 17 times during her marriage. However, 10 of those children died early in their youth, and 3 were miscarriages. Leonarda was very protective of her remaining 4 children but was also very superstitious and sought the wisdom of a gypsy. This gypsy was supposedly a gift palmer reader and told Leonarda that on one hand she saw prison and the other a criminal asylum.
When Leonarda’s favorite son decided to join the Italian army she was more determined than ever to protect him. To say that Leonarda was superstitious was an understatement, and somehow she got it in her head that she would need to sacrifice women in order to protect her son while he was away.
The three victims were carefully picked and all came to Leonarda for a specific reason. The first victim, Faustina Setti, came to the shop seeking help finding a husband. Leonarda promised her that she had found her a suitable partner but somehow managed her victim not to tell anyone and no one knew where Setti was. Leonarda gave Setti wine that had been drugged, cut her up, and put her in a large pot.
Below you can read the words of Leonarda Cianciulli herself from her personal memoir, “An Embittered Soul’s Confessions,” detailing what she did to her first victim.
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.
The second victim named Francesca Soavi received the same kind of treatment. She was promised a job at a school for girls but of course, that job never existed. Her third and final victim, Virginia Cacioppo, was also given the same promise of a job to escape her current life, and just like the two before her, she found herself in a pot.
This is another quote from Leonarda’s memoir describing what she did to her last victim.
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 neighbours and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.
Leonarda was finally caught by good timing and luck. Cacioppo’s sister-in-law immediately noticed her sudden disappearance and had happened to see her entering Leonarda’s shop the day she went missing. The sister-in-law reported this to the police who came knocking on the shop’s door soon after. Leonarda confessed to the murders and stood trial for her actions.
Just like the gypsy had seen, Leonarda spent 30 years in prison and then 3 in a criminal asylum where she died in October of 1970 from a sudden disease.