Adrianna's Fall

A teenager plummets from a luxury high-rise, leaving behind a mystery.

Around 9 p.m. Wednesday, December 17, 2008, life hummed along normally at the Waverly Las Olas condominium on the corner of Broward Boulevard and U.S. 1 in Fort Lauderdale. For the holiday season, some residents of the luxury high-rise had decorated their balconies with twinkling lights. A woman in apartment 1006 watched television. A guy in 1402 lounged in bed. His roommate, who was in the living room, opened the patio door to enjoy the cool evening air.

Then the woman in 1006 heard a horrible scream. She turned off her TV set but didn't hear anything else. The men in 1402 each saw something fall past the windows. The guy in the living room ran onto the balcony, looked down, and saw a woman's body. He called 911.

Adrianna Aurigemma was a pretty 19-year-old with long brown hair and soulful eyes. She died instantly after falling ten stories, from an acquaintance's top-floor apartment onto the balcony of a fifth-floor condo, whose owner was not home. The incident would leave close friends and family in a deep, devastating grief.

Pat Kinsella

Adrianna's death also left some people with doubts. Her family and several friends suspected foul play. For months after the accident, police would not release details of their investigation. They kept silent about what Adrianna was doing before she fell and whether anybody took part in her death. And even now, after police have offered up their answers, some people who knew her aren't satisfied with the official story.

In the weeks following the incident, Adrianna's father, Peter Aurigemma, posted flyers around Fort Lauderdale seeking information about her death. A former police detective, he believed the event was suspicious.

"There is no way she decided to jump off the railing herself!" he said at the time, frustration smoldering in his voice. "If there was foul play and somebody caused it, I want to make sure it doesn't happen to somebody else."

Adrianna's family remembered her as a sweetheart with a deep love for animals. "She'd bring home stray dogs, injured birds," her father recalled. "She'd be carrying a little bird I can't remember how many times! We'd take it to the vet. It'd be costing me money. But I didn't mind because it was a good example to set and the right thing to do."

Her parents said she was attached to her dog, a bichon frise named Sparky. Sometimes, when no one was looking, she would let him off the leash to run down the street. "Be free, Sparky!" she would yell.

Adrianna attended Olympic Heights High School in Boca Raton. At the time of her death, she was still living in her parents' home, where friends would often visit and spend evenings under the gazebo in the big back yard. A close friend, Stephanie Samsel, describes Adrianna as happy-go-lucky and funny. "I dated her brother when she was 15 or 16," Samsel says. "Whenever her brother would tell her no, she'd plead with me and make a cute little puppy face."

By 2008, Adrianna was studying at Florida Atlantic University. During the presidential election, she began to develop an interest in politics.

"Don't get me wrong," her father said shortly after her death. "She was a teenager. She had her moments." Police reports released in March indicate she'd once had trouble abusing prescription drugs and went through a rehab program.

Adrianna had not come home the evening of December 17. A police report states, "The victim's father, believing that she was relapsing in her drug use, began to call the victim to see where she was at and when she was coming home. After receiving several excuses from the victim, Peter Aurigemma decided to [enlist] the help of several of the victim's friends to help locate her."

Eventually her father figured out she was at the Waverly. He had picked her up from there once before. Peter Aurigemma showed up at the high-rise and made up a story to get past the security guard. He took the elevator to the 15th floor. There, Ray Williamson, the 47-year-old owner of unit 1502, allowed him in. Adrianna was in a bedroom with 22-year-old Craig Allan Barnes and 27-year-old William Todd Chapman. Court records show Barnes has faced charges five different times for possession of methamphetamine (he pleaded guilty three times, one case is still open, and another file does not include sentencing information); he has also been arrested for battery (he pleaded guilty) and domestic violence (charges were dismissed). Chapman was once arrested for possession of methamphetamine, but charges were dismissed.

According to a police report, "Barnes stated that he, Chapman, and the victim had smoked some 'crystal meth' around an hour earlier while in the bedroom and that Chapman had fallen asleep on the bed during the listed incident." Peter Aurigemma knocked on the bedroom door and announced he was there to take Adrianna home.

Barnes — whose MySpace photos show he is slender, with blue eyes and a goatee — told police that he and Adrianna would not let her dad in. "As he continued to knock," the police report states, Adrianna "ran to the balcony of the bedroom in an attempt to hide. A few moments later, a scream was heard coming from the balcony and then a loud thump." Barnes said that when he looked out onto the balcony — decorated with potted plants, a small Christmas tree, and holiday lights — there was no Adrianna. Barnes peered over the edge and saw her below. He burst out of the bedroom, yelling, "Oh my God, she fell!" Chapman awoke, and all four men hustled down to the fifth floor.

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