On March 27, 1995, there was just one word in Patrizia Reggiani’s diary: “Paradeisos.”
But that single entry — meaning paradise in Greek — held so much weight to it. After all, that was the date that her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci, grandson of Guccio Gucci, the founder of the Gucci fashion empire, was killed in cold blood. In 1998, Reggiani was convicted and sentenced to 29 years in prison for ordering his murder. Though she denied responsibility for the crime throughout the entire trial, she admitted she was behind it not long after being released in 2014.
It was the kind of scandal that played out like a melodramatic soap opera, complete with wealthy heirs, secret affairs and a fashionista with a flair for words and a penchant for carrying a parrot on her shoulder.
They were the ultimate jet-setting couple
Reggiani was born outside Milan to a waitress mother and trucking businessman father, growing up quite rich and running around in elite circles, where she first met Maurizio. “I didn’t think much of him at first,” she told The Guardian in 2016. “He was just the quiet boy whose teeth crossed over at the front.”
But eventually they fell in love and married when they were both 24, in 1972. Together, they lived lavishly. “We were a beautiful couple and we had a beautiful life, of course,” she told The Guardian, which reported that they had a Manhattan luxury penthouse and a chauffeured car with the license place “Mauizia” — their couple name combining Maurizio and Patrizia — and schmoozed with the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Soon, they had two daughters, Alessandra and Allegra, as well as a Saint Moritz ski chalet, Acapulco holiday house and Connecticut farm. Reggiani reveled in the luxe lifestyle, once saying, according to The New York Times, “I would rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle.''
When Maurizio's father died, everything changed
But the charmed life soon came to an end when Maurizio’s father, Roldofo Gucci, died in 1983, leaving his only child with his 50 percent stake in the Gucci fortune. “Maurizio got crazy,” Reggiani told The Guardian of the time. “Until then, I was his chief adviser about all Gucci matters. But he wanted to be the best, and he stopped listening to me.”
The impossibly successful fashion brand had hit a stumbling block when it was “losing prestige from over-licensing its famed double-G logo and from mass production of canvas bags." Maurizio was working hard to bring back the brand's good reputation, and fighting off his uncle and cousins who owned the other 50 percent. Eventually, he bought them out.
But life at home was deteriorating. And in a shocking move, Maurizio packed a bag one night and left — never returning home.
Reggiani had been upset about the way he was handling the business decisions, and it turned out her hunch was right since he eventually had to sell out his entire share of the company for $120 million in 1993. At some point, Maurizio had also reconnected with an old friend from the European party circuit, Paola Franchi, and both of them were in troubled marriages. “We fell in love immediately,” Franchi told The Guardian over tears. “Maurizio used to tell me that we were two halves of the same apple.”
There was clearly a lot to fire up Reggiani. “I was angry with Maurizio about many, many things at that time,” she said. “But above all, this. Losing the family business. It was stupid. It was a failure. I was filled with rage, but there was nothing I could do. He shouldn’t have done that to me.”
Maurizio was shot numerous times
That fateful day of the crime started as a “lovely spring morning,” according to Giuseppe Onorato, the doorman for the building at Via Palestro 20, where Maurizio’s office was located. Onorato was sweeping leaves when Maurizio arrived holding a few magazines.
“Then I saw a hand,” Onorato told The Guardian. “It was a beautiful, clean hand, and it was pointing a gun.”
Four shots were fired — three at Maurizio’s back and a fourth at his head. And then when the shooter saw Onorato, he shot twice more, hitting the doorman in the arm.
Still, somehow Onorato made it over to Maurizio. “I was cradling Mr. Gucci’s head,” he continued. “He died in my arms.”
It took nearly two years for Reggiani and four accomplices to be charged
With a close-range, point-blank murder, it would seem like an easy case to solve. Yet the Gucci family was wrapped up in so much drama over the empire’s fortune that the cops thought the murderer might be among Maurizio’s blood relatives, or perhaps from his casino ties.
It wasn’t until nearly two years later in 1997 that an anonymous tip pointed to Ivano Savioni, a hotel porter, who had been contacted by Reggiani’s personal psychic Guiseppina Auriemma to help her hire hitman Benedetto Ceraulo and getaway car driver Orazio Cicala. And Reggiani was also charged as one of the co-conspirators, earning her the nickname Vedova Nera, meaning Black Widow.
There was plenty of damning evidence against Reggiani. She had shared with friends and reporters that she wished Maurizio were dead. Even so, during the trial, she maintained her innocence, with her lawyers telling the court that the “threats were the ramblings of a mentally disturbed woman,” The New York Times reported. But a psychiatric panel came to the conclusion that she was “mentally competent” at the time of the trial.
She instead tried to point fingers at her psychic, saying that Auriemma was behind everything and tried to blackmail Reggiani. “Never let even a friendly fox into the chicken coop,” Reggiani said to the jurors about Auriemma. “Sooner or later it could get hungry.” Yet she contradicted herself at trial during the cross-examination when Reggiani said she paid Auriemma $365,000, commenting, “It was worth every penny.”
In the end, Reggiani and Cicala were sentenced to 29 years in prison, Savioni to 26 years, Auriemma to 25 years and the gunman Ceraulo was given a life sentence.
Reggiani admitted to the crime years later
After spending 18 years in jail — which she refers to as “my stay at Vittore Residence” where she was able to keep a pet ferret named Bambi — a camera crew showed up without warning at the jewelry company Bozart, where Reggiani was working. The reporter asked, “Patrizia, why did you hire a hitman to kill Maurizio Gucci? Why didn’t you shoot him yourself?”
As if she couldn’t help herself, she answered, “My eyesight is not so good—I didn’t want to miss,” The Guardian reported.
It’s clear that Reggiani lives in her own bubble, often seen roaming around Milan with a parrot on her shoulder and telling La Repubblica in 2014 that she hoped to return to work with Gucci, saying, “They need me...I still feel like a Gucci—in fact, the most Gucci of them all.”
Reggiani had warned Maurizio of the 'inferno'
Given her eccentric existence now, the details of the way she plotted her ex-husband’s death are both difficult, yet oddly easy, to believe. During the trial, it came out that Reggiani had reportedly put pressure on the four accomplices to speed up the murder plans to make sure it was taken care of before Maurizio could marry Franchi. Part of it was apparently out of fear that her daughters would lose some of their inheritance if they had kids, but Auriemma testified during the trial that Reggiani couldn’t stand the thought of being replaced.
“Patrizia was stalking us,” Franchi told The Guardian. “She still had spies in Maurizio’s circle, and she knew all about our plans, his business dealings, everything. She called many times, abusing him and threatening to kill him.”
When Maurizio refused to take her calls, she would send him tape recordings calling him a “monster” for not taking care of their daughters and warning, “the inferno for you is yet to come.”
Indeed that inferno came — yet somehow Reggiani, even after admitting her own guilt in the plot-to-kill, continues to roam the streets, doing things her way.