CELEBRATION, Fla. – Celebration, Disney Town, has never reported a homicide in its 14-year existence — until this week.
Residents of the town five miles south of Walt Disney World woke up Tuesday to the sight of yellow crime-scene tape wrapped around a condo near the Christmas-decorated downtown, where Bing Crosby croons from speakers hidden in the foliage. A 58-year-old neighbor who lived alone with his Chihuahua had been slain over the long Thanksgiving weekend, Osceola County sheriff’s deputies said.
A few years ago, a resident joked with a reporter that Celebration would feel like a real town when a bike was stolen. Now, it has an unsolved killing on its hands.
With 11,000 residents, Celebration is something of an anomaly in Central Florida. There’s no suburban sprawl — the entire place is reminiscent of a quaint New England village. It’s the kind of town where people give Christmas gifts to their favorite Starbucks barista, where welcoming wooden rocking chairs sit lakeside on a sidewalk without being stolen, where neighbors tend to get suspicious if they notice you’re not around.
Neighbors hadn’t seen Giovanditto, who owned a bottom-floor condo at a building called The Idlewyld, since the day before Thanksgiving. His black Corvette was also missing. A neighbor was supposed to walk Giovanditto’s dog, Lucy, over the weekend, but he wasn’t responding to her calls.
A missing person’s report was filed Sunday, and the next day neighbors went into his apartment and found his body. Investigators won’t say what type of scene they encountered, or how Giovanditto died.
“This is very rare and unusual for a crime of this magnitude to occur in this community,” said Twis Lizasuain, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.
Officials, though, were quick to soothe people who live here: Even with the killer still at large, there was no need to worry; no, not here. Giovanditto’s death was an isolated incident, Lizasuain said.
“We don’t believe the safety of the residents is in jeopardy,” she said.
“I’ve always thought of Celebration as a very safe community,” said Heather Hardy, who lives there six months a year and was sitting on a wooden rocker downtown, reading a book.
Few neighbors would talk about Giovanditto, who moved to Florida from Massachusetts. The Orlando Sentinel reported that he had once been a teacher; one neighbor thought he was retired.