The Suspicious Case of Rey Rivera... and Why He Matters, Part 1
Updated: Aug 8
You have heard me remark that the strangest and most unique things
are very often connected not with the larger but with the smaller crimes,
and occasionally, indeed, where there is room for doubt whether any
positive crime has been committed.
~Sherlock Holmes to Dr. John Watson
Rey Rivera was born in Madrid, Spain, but his parents mainly raised him, his brother, and his sister in Southern California and Florida. After graduating from the University of the Pacific in 1995, he played water polo for the Royal Federation of Water Polo in Spain.
From 1998-2001, Rey coached water polo at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, CA. By 2004, Rey was 30 years old, stood at 6'5", was still athletic, had a good personality, brought life to any party, was in love with a beautiful woman named Allison, and had a passion for screenplay writing. He had SO much going for him, except writing screenplays didn't bring in much income.
In September 2004, one of Rey's high school friends, Porter Stansberry, offered him a job. Porter had started a financial advising organization called Stansberry Research that provided newsletters and research on financial management, stock tips, investment advice, etc. Rey began writing a financial newsletter called The Rebound Report, where he recommended "turnaround stocks." Even though financial writing wasn't his passion, Rey wanted to save up money to marry Allison.
Their move to Baltimore began on a good note--they bought a beautiful house in the suburbs, found a church to attend, met new friends, and began wedding planning. A year later, three significant events would take place in Rey's life (specifically between November and December 2005):
Rey and Allison got married in November.
One of his co-workers and friends, Thom Hickling, was killed in a car wreck while visiting his daughter in Africa. According to Allison, Rey was suspicious about the circumstances of Hickling's death but wouldn't share any of his concerns.
Rey left his job at Stansberry Research.
Rey became a coach for John Hopkins University's water polo team and began working on another screenplay. He also launched his own small production company. Stansberry Research was one of several affiliate companies of a parent organization called The Agora. Several of these companies, like The Oxford Club, contracted Rey to make videos for their clients.
In Spring 2006, Rey and Allison visited LA and began planning a move back to the West Coast. However, some very peculiar and even creepy things started happening to the couple upon returning to Baltimore.
Peculiar and Creepy Events
Allison noticed that Rey was stressed. He insisted on accompanying her almost everywhere she went—as if he was protecting her. For instance, there was a day that she planned to go jogging at a track nearby their house. Rey insisted on going with her. While she was jogging, a man entered the track area and started walking in her direction. Rey sprang up from the bleachers and sprinted towards the man. The man, however, quickly left the track. Obviously, something was bothering Rey, but just like the Hickling situation, he wouldn't discuss anything with Allison.
While living in Baltimore, the couple's home security alarm only went off twice. It first sounded on Monday, May 15, 2006, around 1:00 AM. Allison woke up to the blaring noise, looked around the bedroom, and saw that Rey was already out of bed. With the house lights still off, she went downstairs to investigate. Suddenly, Rey came around the corner with a baseball bat. Family and friends described Rey as not being afraid of anything. Still, on that particular night, Allison saw a look of terror on his face that she hadn't seen before. The police arrived at their house shortly after the alarm went off. After checking out the property, the police suggested a squirrel triggered the alarm.
The next night, Tuesday, May 16, around 1:00 AM, the couple's home alarm was triggered for the second and final time. Rey looked even more terrified than the night before. Allison also realized one of their living room windows appeared to have been tampered with from the outside. The police came to the Rivera house and, once again, suggested an animal set off the alarm. The alarm never sounded again.
Later that same morning (May 16), Allison had to leave for a 3-4 day business trip to Richmond. Rey made Allison breakfast and walked her to the car as she was leaving.
"I love you so much," she said to Rey.
He replied, "Thank you for loving me so much."
During the day, Rey books an editing suite for the upcoming weekend so he can finish a video project for one of The Agora affiliate companies. He also made a call to a Freemason representative and had a lengthy discussion (most likely for a script idea).
Later, that afternoon, one of Allison's co-workers named Claudia arrived at the Rivera house to spend the night. Around 6:30 PM, Claudia was relaxing in the upstairs guest room, while Rey was working in his office next to the guest room. Claudia recalled that someone called Rey on his cell. Neither she nor anyone else knows who made the call or the purpose of the call (phone records would later show the call originating from The Agora switchboard).
Shortly after answering the call, Claudia heard Rey yell, "Oh s***!!!"
According to Claudia, he rushed out of the house in flip-flops and drove away in Allison's black SUV. He then briefly drove back into the driveway, ran into the house, and left again in the SUV.
This was the last time anyone reported seeing or hearing from Rey Rivera.
Allison tried to call Rey several times that evening, but he never answered his phone. This struck Allison as odd because the couple called and texted one another each day—especially if one of them was out of town. Even so, she went to bed, assuming that Rey was probably out late with some friends.
Early the next morning, before her flight back to New York, Claudia called Allison to say that Rey still wasn't home. Claudia also mentioned how the downstairs lights were still on, as were the lights in his upstairs office. Feeling eerily concerned, Allison tried to call Rey again, but like her previous attempts, he didn't answer. Now extremely worried, she ended her business trip early and drove back to Baltimore.
Allison immediately contacted family and friends to see if anyone had been in touch with Rey over the last 12 hours. Yet, no one had heard from Rey.
By the time Allison returned home, Rey still wasn't there. But, oddly enough, his laptop was still on the kitchen counter along with his Invisalign, a bag of chips, and a sparking-water drink. Later that day, Allison called the Baltimore Police Department to report her husband missing. By the end of the day, Rey's parents and brother, Angel, and sister arrived in Baltimore to help find Rey. Allison's parents arrived shortly after, as did some of the couple's close friends.
When the Unexpected Becomes Reality
The Rivera home became headquarters for anyone involved in the search. The search for Rey was a massive coordinated effort comprised of family, local friends, friends from out of town, and some of Rey's co-workers. Since Rey disappeared, there was no activity on his cell phone and credit card accounts. The search team canvassed neighborhoods and walked various areas of Baltimore for days. Porter even offered a financial reward, hired a private investigator, and alerted the local news media.
During the search, Porter told a journalist that Rey was "a happy guy. He and his wife had just booked a trip to go to New Mexico in a few weeks. This is not a man that wanted to leave. I've got to find my friend. I can't imagine my life without him. He's my best friend."
Angel also spoke to a newspaper about his brother's disappearance: "It's completely out of character. He's not only going to tell you where he's going; he's going to tell you how he got there. For him to go this long and not contact any of his family or friends, it's got everyone scared."
As the days progressed, hope began to fade. Finally, on May 22, 2006, Allison's parents were driving around downtown to locate Rey's SUV. By chance, they spotted Rey's SUV in a downtown parking lot near a historical 14-story building called The Belvedere. The building used to be a hotel but now houses apartments, restaurants, clubs, and bars. Interestingly enough, this parking lot was very close to Rey's workplace. The parking ticket on the SUV showed the vehicle was parked on May 16 (the night he received a phone call and ran out of the house). A parking attendant saw the SUV when they arrived for work on the morning of Tuesday, May 17, 2006. Now, the search effort focused on this general vicinity.
On May 24, three of Rey's co-workers spent their lunch break searching for him. Thinking that a bird's-eye-view would help them find some clues, they made their way to the top of a parking garage next to The Belvedere. The top level of the parking garage overlooks a building connected to The Belvedere (that's actually an extension of The Belvedere's second floor). Looking over the ledge of the parking garage, Rey's three co-workers spotted a narrow and small hole on the second floor of the extended building. Scattered around the hole were two flip-flops, a cell phone, a set of keys, and eyeglasses. The co-workers got an uneasy feeling and called the police.
Several officers and a group of police cadets responded to their call. The police figured out the hole was in a conference room on the second-floor building. An employee of The Belvedere took them to the conference room (that was hardly used). When the door was opened, a horrible stench immediately hit everyone in the hallway.
The hole in the ceiling was like a sunroof, showing the bright blue sky and allowing light in the room. The sunlight exposed the severely damaged body of Rey Rivera, sprawled out on the floor under the hole. Decomposition had already set in as Rey's body had been lying in the room for over a week.
Many people immediately began referring to Rey as having died by suicide... but was it?
Why Caleb? Why?
Why am I writing a blog series on this story? I mean, this story is covered in episode 1/season 1 of Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries reboot. Others have written about this case in books, articles, and multiple threads on Reddit and Facebook? Come on, Caleb!! Stick to writing about faith & society!
Here's why I'm writing about Rey Rivera:
Rey & Allison’s family members matter.
I believe facts prove that Rey did not die by suicide.
The majority of people despise ambiguity and value emotions instead of facts.
We can learn lessons about faith and ourselves as we study this case.
I’ve lost loved ones to both murder and suicide.
Some may assume this case is “old news” and thus, they move on to the “next hottest case.” But it’s never “old news” when someone you love is murdered and their case remains unsolved. It’s your present reality. My friend’s murderer was caught, but the individual who murdered my family member is still "at large." Let’s not dismiss another individual’s present reality.
Anyways, so that you know, I’m not going to “accuse anyone” of any crime nor am I going to hint at suspects. Rather, I want to look at the facts and hard evidence of the case. Please know this will not be a rehash of Unsolved Mysteries or other works about Rey Rivera. I'm not sure how long this series will be. I completely understand if many of you opt out of reading this series, but I still have to write about Rey Rivera. Hopefully, you'll join me for this ride.
 Lauren Kranc, "Where Is Frank Porter Stansberry of Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries Now?" Esquire (July 7, 2020).  Colin Campbell, "How Did Rey Rivera Die? Netflix's 'Unsolved Mysteries' Explores Questions in 2006 Death of Baltimore Man," The Baltimore Sun (July 3, 2020).