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Disney-Built Town in Florida Reports First Homicide

Fourteen-year-old Celebration, Fla., near Walt Disney World, was envisioned in the image of the theme park's Main Street, U.S.A.

A Disney-built community in central Florida reported the first homicide in its 14-year existence this week, the Associated Press reported.

Sheriff's authorities in the idyllic Celebration -- located five miles south of Walt Disney World and created with the amusement park's wholesome, turn-of-the-century attraction Main Street, U.S.A., in mind -- are investigating the murder of a man who lived in a condo near the downtown area, where Christmas music blasts from speakers.

The 58-year-old resident who lived alone with his dog had been murdered over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to Osceola County authorities. His neighbors in the community -- said to be famous for its friendliness -- hadn't seen the man for days and reported him missing Sunday, then entered his condo the next day and found him dead.

"This is very rare and unusual for a crime of this magnitude to occur in this community," said Twis Lizasuain, a sheriff's spokeswoman.

Investigators haven't said what type of scene they encountered or how the man died.

The town is said to be reminiscent of a quaint New England village, and many associate it with small-town values and a sense of safety. In fact, a resident previously joked with a reporter that Celebration would feel like real town when a bike was stolen.

The idea of the community was born in 1989 when Peter Rummell, then-president of the Disney Development Corp., wrote to then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner about building a new town on vacant, Disney-owned land in Osceola County.

He described it as a "wonderful residential town east of I-4 that has a human scale with sidewalks and bicycles and parks and the kind of architecture that is sophisticated and timeless. It will have fiber optics and smart houses, but the feel will in many cases be closer to Main Street than to Future World."

But critics viewed the community -- which started to populate in 1996 -- as something out of The Truman Show or The Stepford Wives.

Disney relinquished control of Celebration several years ago; the town is now maintained like any other in Osceola County.