Police in Agusta, Georgia, believe they have arrested a serial killer responsible for the murders of at least four women in South Carolina and Georgia. Reinaldo Rivera, a 37-year-old former sailor who worked for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C., was arrested in a motel room where he tried to kill himself by slashing his wrists after a woman whom he stabbed and raped helped authorities locate him. The woman said she went with Rivera to her house last week, where he allegedly raped her and stabbed her three times in the neck with a steak knife.
Since his arrest investigators said they have gotten about 30 calls from women who said they were approached by Rivera between 1999 and this year. The women, who are mostly young and blond, said the man tried to lure them into his car saying that he was opening a modeling agency and asking them about their sex lives. Using information obtained during his police interview, authorities located the bodies of two of his four alleged victims in a wooden area in the South Carolina border. The two other victims had been located previously. Police said Rivera has been charged with the murders of Melissa Dingess, 17, of Graniteville, South Carolina, who disappeared 15 months ago; Fort Gordon Sergeant Marni Glista, 21, of Augusta, who was raped and strangled last month; Tiffaney Wilson of Jackson, South Carolina, who was killed last December; and an unidentified 18-year-old woman who disappeared during the summer.
A homicide task force in Fayetteville is also checking whether Rivera could be a suspect in 15 unsolved cases in the area. Six cases involve the murder of prostitutes in the Fayetteville/Cumberland County area between 1987 and 1999. Almost all the victims were beaten and strangled to death, police said.
Born in Madrid, Spain, in 1962 Rivera moved with his family to Puerto Rico at the age of 7. His father was a doctor. At 19, Rivera joined the Navy and reported for basic training in Orlando, Florida. That same year, he was sent to San Diego, California and spent the next three years at sea. From December 1986 to March 1991, Rivera worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. Then he attended the University of South Carolina in Columbia, earning a degree in office administration. On Valentine's Day 1993, he married Tammy Lisa Bonnette and now have two children ages 5 and 7. While in the Navy, he moved to Pensacola, Florida, and Corpus Christi, Texas, before being discharged in September 1995. In January 1998 he left Texas and settled in Aiken County where he was hired -- ironically -- as a tire inspector at a Bridgestone/Firestone plant.
On October 18 the Agusta Journal published a handwritten letter from his wife Tammy expressing her faith in God and her grief over the deaths of four young women her husband raped and murdered. Here's a transcript of the letter:
"We want to express our deepest sympathy for all the victims and their families. We have been praying and continue to pray for the families and all that are involved. God is the only one that is going to get us (through) this. In reading about the victims I prayed to God that the person committing these horrible acts would be apprehended, not knowing it was my own husband. We believe God did not allow him to die in the motel room for at least (two) reasons; one so that the unsolved cases could be solved and two that total justice can be served. We could never adequately express our grief and tremendous sorrow we feel in our hearts toward you that have gone (through) the loss of your precious loved ones. My life is shattered and I just ask that the community have compassion not so much for me but for my two small children who are victims also. We have asked God over and over Why? How could this have happened? We just do not have the answers and probably never will. Our family, church, close friends, and even people from the community that we have never met (have) been a comforting support, but above all God (has been). We have been cooperating fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so. To the families again our deepest sympathy."
On November 3 Rivera entered not guilty pleas to a capital murder charge and 13 other charges including rape, aggravated assault and aggravated sodomy. Rivera stood completely still in Richmond County Superior Court as Judge Albert M. Pickett read through each of the 14 charges lodged against him, including a murder charge for the September 9 death of Marni Glista. The arraignment and initial hearing in Richmond County Superior Court were the first of the specialized pretrial hearings that must be held in every case in which prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty.