In October 2016, Patrizia Reggiani received an early release from prison, for good behavior, after spending only a fraction of her 26-year sentence behind bars. The Italian socialite, who became known as the “Black Widow,” was convicted in 1998 of hiring a hitman to kill Maurizio Gucci, her ex-husband and former heir to the Gucci fashion empire.
A&E True Crime takes a look at some of the bizarre circumstances surrounding the high-profile case that made headlines across the world.
Reggiani Still Considered Herself a Gucci After the Divorce and Murder
The history of the Gucci family business dates back to 1920, when it was founded by Guccio Gucci in Florence, Italy. Across the world, the name has become synonymous with luxury and the elite. Maurizio Gucci stood to inherit a windfall had he not sold his shares for $120 million in 1993 after a long history of family strife. Some people believe this infuriated Reggiani and became one of the primary motives in her ex-husband’s killing.
“Losing the family business. It was stupid. It was a failure. I was filled with rage,” Reggiani told The Guardian in 2016. Despite her anger and a court order prohibiting her from using the surname after they divorced, Reggiani continued to refer to herself as a Gucci and even wore the designer brand throughout the highly publicized murder trial.
In a 2014 interview, she told La Repubblica newspaper, “I still feel like a Gucci—in fact, the most Gucci of them all.”
Reggiani Claimed a Psychic Framed Her
Maurizio Gucci and Reggiani wed in 1972 and had two daughters in the years that followed, Alessandra and Allegra. In 1984, Gucci left his wife for a younger woman, Paola Franchi. Gucci and Reggiani divorced in 1994, leaving Reggiani scorned and responsible for raising their girls.
Maurizio Gucci was shot on the morning of March 27, 1995, in the lobby of his office building in Milan. A door attendant stated in an interview that he was interacting with Maurizio Gucci when he suddenly saw a hand. “It was a beautiful, clean hand, and it was pointing a gun.”
The perpetrator shot Maurizio Gucci three times in the back, once in his head and fired twice at the door attendant. In 1997, officials charged Reggiani and four others—including a hitman, Benedetto Ceraulo—with the murder. Also among the group: Reggiani’s former friend and psychic Pina Auriemma.
During the trial, lawyers argued that Reggiani suffered from mental instability, due to an operation for a brain tumor, and could not have plotted the murder. Reggiani, on the other hand, claimed that Auriemma had extorted money from her and framed her for the crime. But the courts thought otherwise.
The Italian court convicted Reggiani of the killing and sentenced her to 29 years in prison. Auriemma, who confessed to her role in the crime, received 25 years in prison for having organized the murder.
Reggiani’s Pet Ferret Lived With Her in Prison
Reggiani’s pet ferret named Bambi accompanied her to prison, a special privilege her lawyers negotiated before her incarceration. The arrangement only lasted several years, as Bambi died after an inmate sat on him.
In addition to taking care of her pet, Reggiani also said she spent considerable time sleeping and tending to a small garden while doing her time at the San Vittore prison in Milan.
Reggiani Declined the Terms of Her Parole
As a condition of parole, in 2011, Reggiani became eligible for day release if she agreed to find a job. She declined the terms, telling her lawyer, “I’ve never worked in my life, and I don’t intend to start now.”
Prior to making that statement, Reggiani once said that she’d “rather cry in a Rolls[-Royce] than be happy on a bicycle.”
After being released from prison on parole in October 2016, after 18 years in prison, Reggiani worked for several years as a design consultant at a Milan-based costume jewelry firm.
Reggiani Had an Outburst, but Still Maintained Her Innocence
Reggiani has always maintained her innocence, claiming she was wrongfully convicted. But she did have a moment, two years after she was released from prison, when a television crew showed up at her workplace, taking her by surprise.
“Patrizia, why did you hire a hitman to kill Maurizio Gucci? Why didn’t you shoot him yourself?” asked a reporter.
Said to have been in a “reckless mood,” Reggiani replied, “My eyesight is not so good. I didn’t want to miss.”
Reggiani Received Money from Ex-Husband’s Estate
As part of their divorce settlement, in 1993 Maurizio Gucci agreed to pay Reggiani an annual alimony of $860,000, half of what the socialite had expected. After Reggiani went free, a Milan appeals court ruled that, despite her conviction for her husband’s murder, Reggiani was entitled to receive an annuity of $1.2 million from his estate, as well as back payments for her time in prison, totaling more than $20 million.
Once known as Italy’s “Lady Gucci” in the 1970s and 1980s, today Reggiani lives in Milan with a pet cat and is often seen walking the streets of upscale neighborhoods with a parrot on her shoulder. She still maintains her innocence, but never speaks of her time in prison.