Un-Fairytale Ending: A Murder in America’s Perfect Town?

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David Butow/CORBIS SABA

When Celebration, Fla., was crafted in 1994 by The Walt Disney Company to be the perfect town, for years it was just that. With its manicured lawns, Small Town USA architecture, and a not-too-big, not-too-small population of about 9,000. But the one thing planners didn’t count on was a homicide rate.

But now Celebration can say not only that it has its first murder on its hands, but also that it remains unsolved.

(See the top 10 Disney controversies.)

Police say 58-year-old Matteo Giovanditto was found in his apartment over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend after neighbors filed a missing persons report when they hadn’t seen him for days. Authorities have not announced a cause of death, nor have they spoken about the crime scene.

(See TIME’s 1995 story on Celebration, Florida.)

“This is a very rare and unusual for a crime of this magnitude to occur in this community,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Twis Lizasuain told the Associated Press. But she also feels that the incident is isolated. “We don’t believe the safety of the residents is in jeopardy.”

But Celebration’s first homicide has left some in the picturesque town reeling, perhaps not in fear, but in surprise. “Everyone knows everyone. It’s just a small town feel and we’re very upset,” Dawn Peraino, a neighbor of Giovanditto’s told WKMG-TV.

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