Leonarda Cianciulli was not loved by her parents. While the exact day of her birth is still being speculated, it is known that she was a product of rape. In order to save her image, Leonarda’s mother was forced to marry the man she was raped by, and the two raised Leonarda together. For obvious reason, her parents were not particularly kind to her and she had attempted suicide twice by a very young age. Unforuntaltey, Leonarda’s life only seemed to get worse from there.
Going against her mother's wishes, she married a man in 1914 and moved to Italy with him. Leaving behind the arranged marriage her mother had planned for her, Leonarda had hoped to gain some control back over her own life. In 1930, their house was destroyed by an earthquake and they were forced to move once more. They ended up in Correggio where Leonarda opened a little shop of her own where her victims would eventually meet their unfortunate end.
A traveling fortune teller warned Leonarda that she would get married and have children, but that all of her children would die. Despite the fortune-teller’s warning, Leonarda got pregnant 17 times during her marriage. However, 10 of those children died early in their youth, and 3 were miscarriages. Leonarda was very protective of her remaining 4 children but was also very superstitious and sought the wisdom of a gypsy. This gypsy was supposedly a gift palmer reader and told Leonarda that on one hand she saw prison and the other a criminal asylum.