Female Killers · Italy · Serial Killers

Serial killer who sacrificed women to keep her son safe while at war, and who turned victims’ bodies into cakes and soap, dies while incarcerated

October 15, 1970
Pozzuoli, Naples, Italy
Serial killer Leonarda Cianciulli dies

Cianciulli had 17 pregnancies, though three ended in miscarriages and 10 of her children died young. Fiercely protective of her four surviving children, she became convinced the only way to protect her eldest son during his service in the Second World War was through human sacrifice.

Between 1939 and 1940, Cianciulli killed three women seeking her fortune telling services for various reasons (one for romance, two for careers). Cianciulli claimed the object of the women’s desires were in other cities, and convinced each to write postcards to friends and family to be mailed after they traveled to their destinations. She warned each not to reveal where they were going as doing so would destroy their luck in acquiring their marriage or jobs. Each complied and were then invited to Cianciulli’s home where she drugged them, murdered them with an axe, and drained their bodies of blood. Their bodies were boiled and the first two victims, Faustina Setti and Francesca Soavi, were poured into a septic tank. The body of the third victim, Virginia Cacioppo, was boiled and turned to soap which was then distributed to the neighbors. The blood of all three victims were left to coagulate in a basin, dried in an oven, ground into powder, and mixed with other ingredients to make tea cakes. The cakes were served to her guests but were eaten by Cianciulli and her son as well.

The sister-in-law of the third victim, Virginia Cacioppo, became suspicious after Cacioppo’s sudden departure and notified police, informing them she had last seen Cacioppo entering Cianciulli’s house. When police arrived to question Cianciulli, she freely admitted to the murders, detailing the murders and the treatment of their bodies. She was tried and convicted in 1946, and sentenced to 30 years in prison and 3 in a criminal asylum. Cianciulli died in the criminal asylum from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 76.

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