ORANGE PARK, Fla. — It began as a fun night with friends. Dancing, laughing and talking until the early hours of the morning. But when Jillian Berrios and a friend got in her car to head home, they were followed. Jillian’s life would be brutally ended about 20 minutes later in a hail of gunfire.
It's a case that has been on the minds of investigators at the Orange Park Police Department for nearly six years. The murder of a mother of two young children. A woman with a large group of friends that all told investigators she had a big heart.
It was the early morning hours of Oct. 18, 2013. Jillian had been out with friends at various clubs around Jacksonville, her last known spot was Taboo Bar and Grill off Atlantic Boulevard in Jacksonville.
Around 5 a.m., Jillian and a friend left Taboo and drove back to Orange Park, but they were not alone.
"What we found out through our investigation was that they were followed from Taboo Bar and Grill back to Orange Park," said Sgt. Cody Monroe.
Investigators say they were followed by two people in a red Chevy Aveo. When Jillian pulled into the Park Place Apartments off Loring Avenue to drop off her friend, two men got out from the Aveo. One had a pistol.
"They approached the vehicle and began firing into the vehicle," Monroe said.
Jillian tried to flee, driving out of the parking lot, but crashing just down the street on Loring Avenue. She had multiple gunshot wounds and was rushed to the Orange Park Medical Center where she died.
The woman with Jillian suffered injuries as well but survived. Authorities say she has been cooperative, but they are not releasing her identity.
So what could have lead up to that violent October morning? Monroe says they interviewed dozens of people and Jillian and her friends had a good night, no fights, no problems with anyone.
"There were no major altercations at that club," Monroe said.
But he says surveillance video shows she was followed from Taboo by the red Chevy Aveo and they have a partial tag. A witness believes the first three letters were E-S-G.
Investigators went through the databases and didn’t find a match.
"However it could be something like it, E could look like a C… or G might look like a D might look like and O or a Q," Monroe said. "So if anyone who has information about a red Chevy Aveo with a tag like that, if they could contact the Orange Park Police Department or Crime Stoppers."
The suspect description is limited.
Monroe says the department has spent years tracking down leads, but they don’t have a motive for why Jillian would be so violently murdered. Jillian's sister Jessica says she was a devoted mother who loved dancing and cooking for her children. Jessica says losing her younger sister was like living in a nightmare, their family is forever missing a puzzle piece and they just don't understand why.
But investigators have been watching as new technology is coming out and Monroe says they are looking to utilize advances in mobile technology.
"That may provide us with new information about who was in the area of the crime scene at the time of the homicide," he said.
So many questions remain around Jillian’s murder. Who would kill this young mother of two and why? Jillian's sister says they deserve the truth and they want to make sure whomever killed Jillian doesn't hurt another family.
Whether the answers come from someone stepping forward or from technology, Monroe says they want justice for her children.
"That is why this case is important to us and it is something that we have never stopped investigating, we have been investigating this case since it’s occurrence and it continues to be left active and investigated," Monroe said.
If you know anything about the murder of Jillian Berrios, call the Orange Park Police Department 904-264-5555 or Crime Stoppers 866-845-TIPS (8477). With Crime Stoppers you can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward.
For a look at more local cold cases, visit the Project: Cold Case database at www.projectcoldcase.org.