Behind Disney Town's First Murder, a Dark Past

Matteo Patrick Giovanditto accused of a history of child sex abuse
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2012 3:02 PM CDT

(Newser) – Celebration, Florida—a subdivision created by Disney in the 1990s—saw its first murder over Thanksgiving 2010. In an extensive Daily Beast article, Barbara Spindel and Maria Elena Fernandez report on the victim, Matteo Patrick Giovanditto, and reveal troubling information about his past. David-Israel Zenon Murillo, the 30-year-old transient accused of Giovanditto's murder, says the 58-year-old retired teacher offered Murillo a job washing his Corvette—and a beer. Murillo fell asleep and awoke groggy, with Giovanditto on top of him and trying to sexually assault him, he told police. Angry and believing he had been drugged, he was going to leave but couldn't find his shoes (Giovanditto apparently had a shoe fetish); Murillo says he eventually found them in a closet that also held an axe—and he used that axe to kill Giovanditto. Spindel and Fernandez interview people from Giovanditto's past who aren't surprised to hear Murillo's allegations—because some of the sources say he molested children for years.

Giovanditto was also remembered by many as an inspiring, charismatic teacher—but even from students who remembered him fondly, stories about his practices come across as odd. He often invited students on sleepovers, weekend trips to Disney World, and even vacations around the world. One mother says her son was molested for years, starting when Giovanditto "started to show him what masturbation is" at age 10 or 11. Another former student shares a similar story, saying Giovanditto started out as a mentor but their relationship soon veered into the sexual. A former colleague says Giovanditto was "phenomenally brilliant," but tended to zero in on "the most vulnerable" students—almost always boys—to "take under his wing"; he even lived in an on-campus apartment connected to some of his male students' rooms. After settling in Celebration, he lied and told neighbors he was a retired therapist. He also said he counseled young men, but the "clients" often seen on his porch were actually men he'd picked up online or on the streets. Click for the full article. (Read more Florida stories.)

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