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Lea Garofalo, the whole true story: how she died and how old she was, husband, daughter, book, film

Lea Garofalo was a woman from Calabria, a courageous woman of that land made of passion and blood who decided to speak and bring to light the events of ‘ndrangheta winning the silence. A sad and dramatic story that led her to a tragic and terrible death, but her daughter Denise never resigned herself and asked for justice. Let’s go and discover every aspect of the story.

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All the true story of Lea Garofalo: a town of Calabria

Lea Garofalo was born in Petilia Policastro on April 24, 1974, by Antonio Garofalo and Santina Miletta. Petilia Policastro is a small town of almost 9000 inhabitants about fifty kilometers from Crotone. Mountain town and rugged landscape, typical of inland Calabria. Lea Garofalo he was born here and has never met his father: he was killed when she was just 9 months old, in the so-called feud of Pagliarelle, a war of ‘ndrangheta no holds barred that broke out in the early seventies.

Years later, she would have talked about that feud, as always, giving names and surnames. A ‘ndrangheta in expansion, which began to extend business and interests beyond the region, up to Milan. That same city in the far north has been the scene several times in Lea’s history.

Lea Garofalo / Photo: La Gazzetta del Sud

Lea Garofalo / Photo: La Gazzetta del Sud

The companion: Lea’s love for Carlo Cosco

It was in Milan, in May 1996, that his brother was arrested Floriano Garofalo, boss of Petilia Policastro who arrived in Lombardy to follow his business, especially those related to drug trafficking. Lea was 22 years old, but her life had already been intense and, in some ways, already marked. Above all, his life had already crossed with that of Carlo Cosco, a member of another mafia family. She fell in love with him when she was seventeen and moved to Milan with him. And that love, for her certainly sincere, for him perhaps more tied to the logic of the mafia, had given her the only true joy of her life: Denise, his daughter.

Lea Garofalo with her daughter Denise / Photo: Archives of Libera

Lea Garofalo with her daughter Denise / Photo: Archives of Libera

From Lea’s diary

And it was probably motherhood that made her decide, in May of 1996, to stop that story and to leave Milan with Denise. The decision suffered for the woman came after the arrest of her brother who saw the arrest of Floriano and of his companion Carlo with his brother. From that moment begins the odyssey of Lea and her daughter.

I just know that my life has always been nothing, nobody ever gave a damn about me, I never had affection or love from anyone, I was born in misfortune and I will die there. But today I have a hope, a reason to live and to move forward, this reason is called DENISE, and it is my DAUGHTER. You will have from me everything that I have never had from anyone.

(Lea Garofalo – from a page in her diary)

Lea Garofalo with Denise in Piazza Duomo in Milan / Photo: La Stampa

Lea Garofalo with Denise in Piazza Duomo in Milan / Photo: La Stampa

In the witness protection program

In 2002 Lea Garofalo feels in danger. Some episodes make her understand that she is not safe and she is convinced to turn to the Carabinieri, to whom she begins to tell everything she knows: plots, complicity, dirty business. Mother and daughter enter the protection program and move to Campobasso. These are difficult years, during which she continues to be considered not a witness to justice but a collaborator, a repentant. Lea suffers from it and will suffer for a long time. A suffering made even harder to overcome when, in 2006, her protection was revoked: her statements are not considered reliable and in any case have not produced any results.

But Lea doesn’t fit. He resorts to the TAR in vain and then, this time successfully, to the Council of State. Thus, in 2007, she was readmitted in protection program, but still as a collaborator of justice and not as a witness. However, his relationship with this condition of life continues to be tormented. And so two years later, in 2009, he voluntarily decides to leave the program and to resume relations with his homeland, while continuing to live in Campobasso.

The Coscos do not forgive

Carlo Cosco and his family do not forgive. Despite the long years that have passed, they are still on Lea’s trail and are intent on taking revenge. Her former partner instructs her affiliate, Massimo Sabatino, to kidnap and kill her. But the plan fails. Lea feels more and more at risk and a few days after the narrow escape she writes a long letter to the President of the Republic, in which she puts all her pain and suffering in black and white.

The meeting with Libera

A year earlier, in 2008, Lea Garofalo had met and told her story to Don Luigi Ciotti to whom she had handed over her feeling of distrust, even towards the State. He is precisely the founder of Free to put you in contact with the lawyer Enza Rando, which will play a fundamental role in its history. It was the lawyer who tried to dissuade Lea from meeting Carlo Cosco again, when, in November 2009, the latter invites her to Milan, exploiting Lea’s love for Denise. He asks her to meet to discuss their daughter’s future. Lea agrees to meet him and goes to meet her fate.

Lea Garofalo: I see, hear, speak / Photo: Things from Calabria

Lea Garofalo: I see, hear, speak / Photo: Things of Calabria

The dramatic 24 November 2009: how Lea Garofalo died

On November 20 he arrives with Denise in the Lombard capital. A few days pass, which Cosco needs to convince Lea that he can trust him, who is genuinely interested in Denise’s future. On the afternoon of November 24th, Carlo manages to separate mother and daughter and takes Lea to an apartment that he has borrowed to carry out his death plan. In that house in Piazza Prealpi, Lea was killed around 19.00. But Denise’s father isn’t satisfied with murdering her. He entrusts the body to three of his men Carmine Venturino, Rosario Curcio and Massimo Sabatino to be transported to Monza, where, on a plot of San Fruttuoso, the body is set on fire together with 50 liters of acid and left to burn for almost three days. , so that no trace remained.

Carlo Cosco / Photo: Here Cosenza

Carlo Cosco / Photo: Here Cosenza

The daughter Denise

When Denise doesn’t see her mother returning, she begins to suspect. As the hours go by, convinced that her mother would never abandon her, she is convinced that behind that disappearance lies the murderous hand of her father. She is told that her mother ran away, perhaps to America with another man, leaving her in Milan. But Denise doesn’t believe it and asks for help: she is determined to discover the truth and tells the Carabinieri everything. It will be her, Denise, the key witness of the trial who will discover the whole truth about Lea’s fate.

How old was Lea Garofalo when she was killed?

When Lea was killed he was just 35 years old and a whole life still ahead.

Marisa Garofalo, Lea's sister, at the funeral / Photo: Today

Marisa Garofalo, Lea’s sister, at the funeral / Photo: Today

The legal case of Lea Garofalo

On October 18, 2010, Carlo Cosco and his brother Vito, Massimo Sabatino, Carmine Venturino, Denise’s boyfriend, and Rosario Curcio are arrested. In July 2011 the trial of first instance begins, built above all around Denise’s statements, which ends, after alternating events, with the sentencing to life imprisonment of the five men already arrested and of Carlo’s other brother, Giuseppe Cosco.

Denise is filing a civil action

We are in March 2012. The sentence, however, excludes the aggravating mafia. The sentence of the appeal process arrives in May 2013 and confirms four of the six life sentences.

The Assize Court declares Carlo Cosco, Vito Cosco, Rosario Curcio, Carmine Venturino and Massimo Sabatino guilty of the crimes ascribed to them, condemning them to life imprisonment; Giuseppe Cosco is acquitted for not having committed the crime. The accused are also sentenced to pay court costs and banned from public office in perpetuity, as well as deprived of parental authority.

Giuseppe Cosco is acquitted while Carmine Venturino’s sentence is reduced, by virtue of his collaboration, which took place after the first degree sentence and thanks to which about 2000 bone fragments of Lea are found on the ground of San Fruttuoso, together with her necklace. The convictions were all confirmed by the Court of Cassation in December 2014. Thus ends the trial that decreed the truth about Lea’s death and during which Denise, assisted by Enza Rando, mother and sister of Lea and the Municipality of Milan.

Plaque in honor of Lea Garofalo in Monza / Photo: Prima Monza

Plaque in honor of Lea Garofalo in Monza / Photo: Prima Monza

Denise gets her mother a fair funeral in Milan, with full honors.

Hello everyone, thank you very much for coming today. Lea, my dear mother, had the courage to rebel against the culture of the mafia, the strength not to yield to resignation and indifference. But your presence is a sign of closeness not only to her, but to all the women and men who have risked and continue to risk. For me it is a very difficult day, but you gave me the strength, if all this happened it was only for my good, and I will never stop thanking you. Hi Lea, hi mom.

Funeral of Lea Garofalo, witness of justice killed by the 'ndrangheta in 2009 in the image the boys of the Libera association carry the coffin before the ceremony / Photo: Davide Spada

Funeral of Lea Garofalo, witness to justice killed by the ‘ndrangheta in 2009
in the image the boys of the Libera association carry the coffin before the ceremony / Photo: Davide Spada

Where is the tomb of Lea Garofalo located?

Lea’s remains rest in the monumental cemetery of Milan. They were placed there by the will of the Common, that indicated Lea Garofalo as a model of courage and dignity. Mayor Giuliano Pisapia participates, with about 3000 people and with don Luigi Ciotti, at Lea’s civil funeral, celebrated on 13 October 2013 in Piazza Beccaria and broadcast live on TV. Lea was killed by mafia violence that stopped at nothing: neither in front of love, nor in front of the family, nor in front of the courage of a mother who dreamed of a different future for her daughter.

For me it is a sad day but you gave me the strength, mom. If this all happened, it was only for my own good.

The mayor of Milan Carlo Pisapia and Don Luigi Ciotti carry the coffin of Lea Garofalo on their shoulders / Photo: Today

The mayor of Milan Carlo Pisapia and Don Luigi Ciotti carry the coffin of Lea Garofalo on their shoulders / Photo: Today

Movie Lea

Lea is the TV film directed by Marco Tullio Giordana to celebrate the memory of Lea Garofalo. On November 18, 2015 Rai 1 broadcast the film which also represents an opportunity to denounce violence against women, in the aftermath of the dedicated international day. The role of the protagonist is entrusted to Vanessa Scalera. The film also features his daughter Denise, played by Linda Caridi, while the face of the exponent of the ‘Ndrangheta, Carlo Cosco is by Alessio Praticò. Lea Garofalo’s brother, Floriano, is Mauro Conte.

Lea and Denise / Photo: RaiPlay

Lea and Denise / Photo: RaiPlay

Lea was also awarded the Gold Medal for Civil Meritand, which indicates, in the motivation, how

Splendid example of extraordinary courage and the highest civic sense, pushed to the extreme sacrifice.

The rock group of Litfiba in 2016 he dedicated a song to Lea and Denise, Courage Mary.


Lea’s choice is the book of the writer of Marika Demaria published by Melampus on the story of Lea Garofalo. It faithfully tells the rebellion of a woman of the ‘ndrangheta and decides to oppose the widespread silence.

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