Soap-Maker of Correggio

Soap-Maker of Correggio


Leonarda Cianciulli was an Italian serial killer. Better known as the "Soap-Maker of Correggio". She murdered three women and turned their bodies into soap and teacakes.


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Cianciulli had seventeen pregnancies during her marriage but lost three of the children to miscarriage. Ten more died in their youth. Consequently, she was heavily protective of the four surviving children. Her fears were fueled by a warning she had received some time earlier from a fortune teller, who said that she would marry and have children, but that all of the children would die young.

In 1939, Cianciulli learned that her eldest son and favorite child, Giuseppe, was going to join the Italian Army in preparation for World War II. She was determined to protect him at all costs and came to the conclusion that his safety required human sacrifices. Cianciulli found her victims in three middle-aged women, all neighbors.

The first of Cianciulli's victims, Faustina Setti, was a lifelong spinster who had come to her for help in finding a husband. Cianciulli told her of a suitable partner in Pola but asked her to tell no one of the news. She also persuaded Setti to write letters and postcards to relatives and friends. They were to be mailed when she reached Pola, to tell them that everything was fine. Preparing for her departure, Setti came to visit Cianciulli one last time. Cianciulli offered Setti a glass of drugged wine, then killed her with an ax and dragged the body into a closet. There she cut it into nine parts, gathering the blood into a basin.

Francesca Soavi was the second victim. Cianciulli claimed to have found her a job at a school for girls in Piacenza. Like Setti, Soavi was persuaded to write postcards to be sent to friends, this time from Correggio, detailing her plans. She too was given drugged wine and then killed with an ax.

Cianciulli's third and final victim was Virginia Cacioppo, a former soprano said to have sung at La Scala. For her, Cianciulli claimed to have found work as the secretary for a mysterious impresario in Florence. As with the other two women, she was instructed not to tell a single person where she was going.

Cacioppo's sister grew suspicious of her sudden disappearance and had last seen her entering Cianciulli's house. She reported her fears to the superintendent of police in Reggio Emilia, who opened an investigation and soon arrested Cianciulli. Cianciulli did not confess to the murders until they believed that her son, Giuseppe Pansardi, was involved in the crime. She confessed to the murders, providing detailed accounts of what she had done to save her son from any blame.

She was found guilty of her crimes and sentenced to thirty years in prison and three years in a criminal asylum.


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