Police hoping for help solving 2002 murder of Jeff Signorelli
By Matt Hanley firstname.lastname@example.org November 10, 2012 11:14AM
Jeffrey T. Signorelli, an 18- year-old man who was killed while attending a party in Aurora on July 11, 2002.
To offer information
Anyone with information about the July 11, 2002, shooting in which Jeff Signorelli, 19, of Aurora, was killed is asked to call Aurora Police at (630) 256-5549. To remain anonymous, call Aurora CrimeStoppers at (630) 892-1000.
Updated: December 11, 2012 6:12AM
AURORA — More than 10 years after Jeff Signorelli was shot to death, 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 a 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 killings that got people talking about neighborhood groups and vigilance.
From the beginning, police thought the shooting was committed by gang members who mistakenly thought someone at the party was in a rival gang. After the killing, police followed dozens of leads and identified suspects. A year after the shootings, 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 killings, including Signorelli’s case. Still, no one was charged.
But the Beacon-News has learned that investigators recently uncovered new evidence that they think 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 on the case. “We know that there are people out there with information. We know there are people who were at that apartment complex.”
Like those at most community pools, the staff at Splash Country Water Park was made up of close-knit young people trying to earn a little extra money over the summer.
‘He had a big heart’
The entire staff was required to be at training at 7 a.m. every Friday, so Thirsty Thursday nights became an unofficial tradition. After the drive-in, they would head to someone’s house to hang out.
On July 11, 2002, there were 30 people at a town house in the 1700 block of Felten Road. Everyone was admiring a sweet white 1989 Mustang, including concession manager Jeff Signorelli.
He 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.
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 cellphone 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 sprayed at 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 think 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 off fireworks. A spray of 16 bullets hit the garage. Inside, the kids scattered as 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. A teen was hit in the leg.
A friend started CPR on Signorelli. Paramedics arrived and took Signorell and the injured teen away in an ambulance. The teen was treated for a leg injury and released. Signorelli was pronounced dead on arrival at Provena Mercy Medical Center.
From the beginning, police had suspects in the case, but charges were never filed. Part of the problem, initially, was motive. Police don’t think the shooter or shooters intended to target Signorelli. Instead, they think the crime was committed by gang members who mistakenly thought that a rival was at the party.
“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 killed in Aurora in 2002. Signorelli’s death was the city’s fifth homicide 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 think 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.
‘Do the right thing’
Police would not disclose information about the new information that has turned up. 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,” said his mother, Mary Ann Signorelli. “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 to be 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.”
Police think someone is ready to talk. “I feel confident in the case,” Munn said.
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.