Death on Coconut Drive: How St. Lucia Authorities Botched Their Investigation of Pileggi Sister's Death

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Angela Pileggi Silverstein at Phil Spector's trial.
We recently brought you the story of the murder of Fort Lauderdale multimillionaire Ron Vinci, for which his girlfriend Catherine Pileggi is awaiting trial. In addition to the accounts of their lives before the murder, there are things that don't make sense and a mysterious poisoned bottle of gin. But there's also more to something we touched on in the cover story: the death of Pileggi's sister in St. Lucia and the strange family politics that surrounded it.

According to friends of the couple, Pileggi often blamed Vinci for playing a role in the death of her sister while they were partying by a marina in St. Lucia in late 2009. He allegedly slipped Angela Pileggi Silverstein some pills, which may have played a role in her death by what St. Lucia authorities called "death by misadventure," specifically, acute intoxication.

"She blames me 100 percent for her sister's death," an acquaintance of Vinci's told police Vinci would tell her. When the case goes to trial, prosecutors may attempt to build a link between Pileggi's resentment over that incident and Vinci's eventual murder.

Pileggi reportedly got along well with her younger sister Angela and was shaken by the death. In the last minutes of the sister's life, Pileggi tried to perform mouth-to-mouth before rushing her to the hospital in a taxicab.

In St. Lucia, the investigation of Silverstein's death was sloppy, and it took forever. Don't take our word for it: That's the opinion of the local coroner, in an official letter he wrote to the commissioner of police the following year.

The bungled investigation casts doubt on the theory that medication reacting adversely with alcohol was the cause of Silverstein's death. According to the coroner: "On Tuesday [Shane Christopher, the marina employee who was present at the death] said Catherine found a bottle of tablets for depression in Angela's luggage. The bottle of tablets was given to a police [text obscured] Catherine, and labeled on the bottle was the warning 'don't take with alcohol.'"

Except... er, not so fast. The coroner concludes, "finally the admission was made that he the (sic) Investigating Officer did not receive any tablets from anyone. As to the whereabouts of those tablets the Inquest does not know."

Apparently the island lifestyle affects the men and women of law enforcement as well. "At the morgue [the officer] obtained from Dr. Stephen King [really!] blood and tissue samples of the deceased. These were submitted to Mr. Murray of the forensic laboratory. Later he was informed that it was not possible to test the blood and tissue for alcohol content, as they did not have the requisite equipment."

There's a section after that called "comment." We'll reprint:

(1) The rigour that is to be expected and achieved by an investigation of this nature was most conspicuous by its absence. It was sloppy (sic) investigation.

(2) As we have stated on a multiplicity of occasions fatalities should be investigated by at least an officer of the rank of Sergeant.

(3) It is "remarkable" that in 2010 a Forensic Laboratory does not have the requisite equipment to ascertain the level or percentage of alcohol in blood and other human tissue.

We certainly are caught in a time warp, for we can hear the rumble of the dinosaurs.

Both sisters seem to have come from a complex family situation. Another sister, Melissa Grosvenor, had testified in the murder trial of Phil Spector that Spector had once physically threatened her. Silverstein took the stand in that trial to testify that Grosvenor wasn't telling the truth. While we haven't confirmed it, reportedly Pileggi testified as well.

Don Zeh, a friend of Pileggi's when she was in her 20s, recalls the whole family from rural Georgia getting along pretty well, but later accounts -- such as that from Pileggi's ex-husband, Duilio Corigliano of St. Maarten -- say that there was some animosity among the sisters. Corigliano says he found out that Pileggi had moved into his building, back together with Vinci after the failure of their brief marriage, when Grosvenor called him to say she thought Pileggi was the one who had stolen some jewelry from his home.

Stay tuned.

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