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Police hoping for help solving 2002 murder of Jeff Signorelli

Jeffrey T. Signorelli an 18- year-old man who was killed while attending party AurorJuly 11 2002.

Jeffrey T. Signorelli, an 18- year-old man who was killed while attending a party in Aurora on July 11, 2002.

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Anyone with information on the July 11, 2002, shooting in which Aurora teenager Jeff Signorelli was killed is asked to call Aurora police at 630-256-5549. To remain anonymous, call Aurora CrimeStoppers at 630-892-1000.

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Updated: December 12, 2012 6:08AM



AURORA — More than 10 years after Jeff Signorelli was murdered, Aurora police have new information they hope will finally break the case.

The 18-year-old Aurora Central Catholic High School grad was shot while attending a party with friends who worked at Splash Country Water Park. Someone sprayed bullets into a garage on a hot July night in 2002, killing Signorelli and injuring another teen.

Signorelli’s death sparked outrage in the community. He was, by police and family accounts, an innocent bystander. The crime was one of several murders that got people talking about neighborhood groups and vigilance.

From the beginning, police have believed the shooting was committed by gang members who mistakenly believed someone at the party was in a rival gang. After the murder, police followed dozens of leads and identified suspects. A year after the murder, police said they had two strong suspects, but not enough evidence to make an arrest.

In 2004, the FBI and Aurora police joined forces to create a Cold Case Task Force to investigate several unsolved murders, including Signorelli’s. Still, no one was charged.

But The Beacon-News has learned that investigators recently uncovered new evidence which they believe could finally lead to charges. Now they are hoping someone can provide information that corroborates their new leads.

“I’m really hoping that someone comes forward with information,” said Aurora Police Detective John Munn, one of the detectives working on the case. “We know that there are people out there with information. We know there are people who were at that apartment complex.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Aurora police at 630-256-5549. To remain anonymous, call Aurora CrimeStoppers at 630-892-1000. CrimeStoppers callers can remain anonymous and still be eligible for a reward up to $5,000.

A typical teen

Like those at most community pools, the staff at Splash Country Water Park was made up of close-knit teens trying to earn a little extra money over the summer. The entire staff was required to be at training every Friday at 7 a.m., so Thirsty Thursdays nights became an unofficial tradition. After the drive-in, they’d head to someone’s house to hang out and talk about teen-age necessities: cars and dating.

On July 11, 2002, there were 30 people at a townhouse in the 1700 block of Felten Road. Everyone was admiring a sweet white 1989 Mustang, including concession manager Jeff Signorelli.

Signorelli was a popular kid, the one who made sure everyone got home safely and watched out for others. The only son of prominent Aurora community activists, he was an honor roll student at Aurora Central who was planning to go to Waubonsee Community College after graduation. Some friends called him “Giraffe” because of his height and because he shared a first name with the Toys R Us mascot.

“He was a typical teenager with the cell phone strapped to his ear most of the time,” his father, Al Signorelli said in 2002. “(He was into) video games and computers, but the best thing about him was that he had a big heart.”

Bullets splatter garage

At 11:30 p.m. that evening, Jeff Signorelli and two friends were in the garage with their backs to the wall, looking at modifications the Mustang’s owner had made. Police believe that about the same time, more than one man was approaching the garage through a vacant lot.

For a split second, people at the party thought someone was setting of fireworks. Sixteen bullets hit the garage, sprayed at no target in particular. Inside the garage, kids scattered. Bullets hit the door, the siding, and tore through the walls of the building.

Friends watched Signorelli reach out. He leaned on a grill next to him, then collapsed. He had been shot in the chest. Another teen was hit in the leg.

A friend started giving Signorelli CPR. Paramedics arrived and took Signorelli and the other injured teen away in an ambulance. The other teen would be treated for a leg injury and released. Signorelli was pronounced dead on arrival at Provena Mercy Medical Center.

Safe to cooperate

From the beginning, police have had suspects in the case, but charges have been more elusive. Part of the problem initially was motive. Police do not believe that the shooter or shooters intended to target Signorelli. Instead, they think the crime was committed by gang members who mistakenly believed a rival was at the party, rather than pool employees.

“This could have been absolutely any one of us,” Munn said.

The second problem with the case was the gang element. Twenty-five people were murdered in Aurora during 2002. Signorelli’s death was the city’s fifth murder in less than a week. There was fear that speaking up meant you might be the next target.

But Munn and Aurora Detective Darryl Moore believe that time and trials have shown that is no longer true. Over the last 10 years, plenty of gang members and innocent bystanders have stepped up to testify in gang murder trials with no repercussions.

“Now people are starting to realize even if you cooperate, even if you were labeled, it doesn’t mean anything,” Munn said.

‘Someone come forward’

Police would not characterize the new information that they have uncovered, or reveal where it came from. Moore and Munn have been looking at the case for about a year, among dozens of cold cases they are reviewing. The veteran detectives have kept in touch with Signorelli’s parents since the new development.

“Jeff’s death impacted more than just Jeff and his family,” his mother Mary Ann Signorelli said. “It impacts everyone who was there. They had to grow up fast. Their childhood was taken away that day.”

Mary Ann and Al Signorelli are not looking for closure, because that will never come. But they want someone held accountable.

“It was important to me from Day One to know there was consequences,” Al Signorelli said.

“It’s just not right,” Mary Ann Signorelli said. “Someone needs to come forward and do the right thing.”

Munn and Moore believe that someone is ready to talk.

“I feel confident in the case,” Munn said.

“It could get close real quick,” Moore said.



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