This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
It has been two decades since the lives of the Giorgianni family changed forever. It was February 1999 when Kelly Giorgianni’s half-clothed body was discovered by a woman picking up beer bottles at an abandoned house on Market Street in Jacksonville.
After all these years, her death still cuts deep. “It’s so heartbreaking,” said Toni Scott, Kelly’s aunt.
According to Linda Sportsman, another aunt, Kelly was in Jacksonville and called to say she was on her way down to Bradenton to see her. That would be the last call she would get from Kelly. Weeks later, she learned what had happened.
Toni Scott went to the medical examiner’s office to identify the body found by the police. “It was tough to look at. The more we looked at it the more we realized it was Kelly,” she said. According to police, Kelly died from strangulation.
Kelly left behind a five-year-old son. According to Scott, it was difficult raising Kelly’s son, who often had questions about his mother. “He had to grow up not knowing who his mother was,” said Scott.
At a young age, Kelly lost her mother to cancer and then lived with her father. Kelly later spent time with her sister and other relatives in Jacksonville.
Scott spent a great deal of time with Kelly and her sister Margaret in Jacksonville. Growing up, Kelly was an active child. She loved playing with makeup and interacting with her sister. “Her main hobby was hair. She loved to sing, play, and go outside,” Scott remembered. Kelly also had a headstrong nature. It was that personality trait that would sometimes conflict with her family and relatives.
Kelly was involved in her church and giving back to the community. As she got older she was an active volunteer and helped at her church. “Every Sunday, she volunteered and gave food to the homeless,” said Sportsman. And Kelly loved her family and friends.
News of Giorgianni’s murder was first published in the Florida Times-Union many years ago. To the dismay of the Giorgianni family, the article highlighted many negatives of Kelly rather than focusing on the events surrounding her death. The article was heavy on adolescent strife, questionable decision-making and substance use that painted Kelly as an unsympathetic victim. In reality, none of Kelly’s choices or actions deserved a punishment of death. Kelly had many friends and family that loved her and continue to remember the good she offered.
As time went on, there were no arrests made in Giorgianni’s murder. Her family remains frustrated that the case is yet to be solved.
Many years later, Scott faithfully visits Kelly’s grave regularly with crosses and flowers. “I always talk to the grave and always wish her a Happy Mother’s Day and Christmas,” she said. “Kelly was loved by everybody. She was the life of the party and loved people.”
The Giorgianni family continues to deal with the unanswered questions surrounding Kelly’s death and the desire to see justice served.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Kelly Giorgianni, please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
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