The Suspicious Case of Rey Rivera... and Why He Matters, Part 2

Updated: Aug 8

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

~Sherlock Holmes

(via Arthur Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Mystery—A Sherlock Holmes Short Story)


***Please read Part 1 if you haven't done so already



The journey towards truth, whatever that particular truth might be, is one that few embark on and even fewer stay on. Few continually pursue the truth because doing so requires patience, empathy, the sacrifice of comfort, a willingness to suspend presuppositions, drown out the white noise, and possess a commitment to be objective. Until the truth is revealed, one has to live in a nuance of being comfortable with having little to no clarity but unsatisfied with status quo explanations while trusting that God will bring justice. This has been my philosophy as I've searched for the truth about God (which I believe with my whole heart that I've found--Jesus) and searched for other truths.


I'm not sure how long this series will be. I'm not sure how many people will read these posts (I assume not many), but nonetheless, I feel burdened to write about this case. I'm not sure why. Perhaps that's part of why I'm writing--to figure out why I care so much. Here's what I do know-- for 16 years, a wife has been without her husband, parents have mourned their youngest son, siblings have lost their brother, nieces & nephews have wondered about their uncle, and individuals have missed Rey--their friend. What I do know is that Rey Rivera was discovered in a room on the 2nd floor of The Belvedere on May 14, 2006. What I do know is that at first glance, it looks like he jumped off the top of the building. What I do know is that many look past evidence, facts, and questions so they can hold fast to their pre-conceived theories. What I do know is that life is often NOT so easy to explain away...


Overwhelmed Medical Examiners?

Rey Rivera died in 2006 when 276 of the 4,323 bodies autopsied by the Baltimore Medical Examiner’s Office were labeled homicides. In 2006, the Baltimore homicide rate was very high-- 43.3% compared to the 2006 national average homicide rate of 5.8% (rate = per 100,000 people).[1] Many of the 2006 Baltimore homicides were gang-related.[2] Unfortunately, the Baltimore homicide rate has only increased over the years (57.8 in 2017 and 58.6 in 2019).[3]


It's logical to assume that in 2006 the number of homicides could have overwhelmed the Baltimore Medical Examiner’s Office. For instance, when someone dies, the Medical Examiner will label the death as one of 4 causes: natural, accident, suicide, or homicide. There’s also a “secret” 5th option called, undetermined. In 2004 about 10% of the Baltimore city deaths were labeled undetermined by the Medical Examiner’s Office.[4] In 2006, Baltimore's undetermined deaths grew to 20%.[5] Most major cities have a few cases that are undetermined, but 10% undetermined is high according to forensic pathology experts like Cyril Wecht who investigated high-profile cases such as the JFK assassination.[6]


Yet, even though the Baltimore Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Rey’s case as undetermined—the case remains open. According to Rey's wife Allison, a Baltimore Medical Examiner official claimed that Rey’s broken shin wasn’t consistent with a fall like the one he allegedly experienced.[7]


Marie Dauenheimer agrees that some of Rey’s injuries don’t appear to be the result of an individual who suffered an 11-14 story fall.[8] Dauenheiumer is a certified medical illustrator and attended Johns Hopkins University for her training. She creates medical illustrations and animations for educational materials (posters, brochures, interactive media), accidents, homicides, and complex situations (like creating a picture from the details of a complex autopsy) so that authorities can see what happened from a different angle.


Below is a Dauenheumer's medical illustration of Rey's injuries based on the autopsy notes:

Though brutal and devastating, much of the damage to Rey’s body doesn’t align with what Dauenheimer has seen in similar cases. She noted that falling victims like Rey who land feet first:

  • ·Usually have severe foot injuries.

  • A majority of the injuries are not predominately on one side of the body (most of Rey’s injuries were on the left side of his body).[9]

Having seen and created visuals for countless accidents, suicides, homicides, and falling victims, she believes Rey’s injuries are more consistent with a person who was beaten to death or hit by a car.[10] Miryam Moya agrees with Dauenheimer. Moya is a forensics expert specializing in traffic accidents, impact biomechanics, and crime scenes who wrote a book on Rey Rivera’s case.[11] She works in forensics with Spain’s Ministry of Justice and teaches regularly at the United Nations University and the postgraduate European University Institute. Moya points out that the broken strap on Rey’s right flip-flop corresponds to how a majority of his injuries were on the right side of his body. Because of these facts and more, Moya too believes Rey’s injuries are similar to someone who was beaten or hit by a car.[12]


To Dauenheimer’s credit, she does not claim to possess the level of expertise as some of her colleagues in related professions (e.g., Medical Examiners). However, in her opinion, she believes the authorities need to consult a forensic engineer and/or biomechanical expert to pour over the case.


Overwhelmed Police?

Just as Baltimore’s Medical Examiner’s Office could’ve been overwhelmed with the number of homicides, the police department was probably very stressed with the homicides as well as other crimes. Such stress could be why some in the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) were so quick to label Rey’s death a suicide. Very few, if any photos of the scene exist (including Rey’s body and his belongings found on the roof). On the day that Rey's body was discovered, witnesses didn’t report police searching for fingerprints in the area or placing Rey’s belongings on the roof in evidence bags. Instead, eyewitnesses saw a couple of officers laughing and throwing his belongings from the roof into the room.

Room where Rey was found

As a matter of fact, the police allowed cadets from the police academy to walk through the room on the very day Rey was discovered![13] The door to the room was left wide open and the hallway wasn’t even sealed off from the public. Just down the hallway from the room where Rey was found was an entrance to the parking garage. The parking garage and its video surveillance were never investigated.



Evidence, Facts & Questions

Though not all of the police believe that Rey died by suicide, many did and still stick to their quick assumption. However, they aren’t alone. Author Mikita Brottman, who was living in The Belvedere in 2006, wrote a book detailing her investigation of Rey Rivera’s death. Her conclusion is that Rey probably died by suicide. Brottman admits that when she first heard about Rey’s case, she immediately assumed it was a suicide.[14] She also writes about her fascination with suicides and bizarre deaths.[15] One of her colleagues claimed she was obsessed with such a study.[16] Now, there’s nothing wrong with having an interest in such subjects, but it can become a liability if the fascination causes one to have presuppositions when investigating and writing on a case like Rivera’s. Instead of searching for proof for our theories, perhaps we should be asking:

Where does the evidence lead?

Our brains are wired to rush decisions and resolve problems as fast as possible. That’s why we humans find it challenging to be empathetic, intentional, and consider varying perspectives in any given situation. For whatever reason, it comforts some people to quickly label a case like this as suicide instead of acknowledging the label: unsolved. The evidence, facts, and unanswered questions of the case demand that we keep searching for answers.


I’m talking about the OBJECTIVE evidence, facts, and unanswered questions like:

  • The 1:00 AM-ish triggering of the Rivera house alarm on both the day before and the day of Rey’s disappearance is creepy—as is the possibility the living room window was tampered with from the outside!

  • We still don’t know who called Rey during the late afternoon/early evening on May 16. Ultimately, that call made him run out of the house and began a chain of events that evening which eventually resulted in Rey’s death. According to phone records, the mysterious call came from The Agora or one of Agora’s companies (the company Rey was doing work for, The Oxford Club, was one of those companies).[17]

  • No Belvedere employees, residents, or customers in the lobby, restaurants, or bars/clubs saw Rey or anyone who looked like Rey in The Belvedere at any time on the evening of May 16. Keep in mind that Rey knew employees at The Belvedere and had frequented its restaurants and clubs. Two bartenders who knew Rey and were working on the evening of May 16 did not see him.[18]

  • None of the Belvedere video camera recordings place Rey inside or outside of the building on the evening of May 16.

  • For whatever reason, the Belvedere video roof cameras were disconnected or not working on May 16, but had been working the day before (May 15) and were working the day after (May 17). Perhaps the roof cameras would’ve revealed that Rey was not on the roof on May 16?

  • Rey was extremely afraid of heights, so why would he jump?[19]

  • Rey had no history of problems with mental/emotional health (more on this in my next post).[20]

  • An engineering study of Rey’s case showed that, based on distance, Rey would have had to run at least 11 MPH to reach the place where his body was found. Therefore, Rey could not have been pushed off the roof or accidentally fallen off the roof.[21]

  • If he jumped off the 13-story roof, Rey would have had a short distance with several obstacles in the way to run 11 MPH in flip-flops to jump 45ft in order to reach where the hole was located.[22] Is that realistic? In 1991, Mike Powell set the long jump world record at an impressive 29.425 feet. Keep in mind that Mike Powell was wearing the proper shoes for his record-setting jump.[23] However, some still maintain that Rey Rivera beat Mike Powell’s record by jumping 45 feet off the Belvedere rooftop while wearing flip-flops.

  • Authorities and researchers believe that Rey couldn't have jumped from a ledge of The Belvedere. A ledge would be difficult to navigate—not to mention that one would have to enter a private residence to even reach the ledge.[24]

  • Many have reasoned that given his injuries and where his body was located, Rey could not jumped off the parking lot roof.

  • If Rey jumped off the 13-story roof, why were his phone and glasses both unscathed after hitting the roof of the 2nd floor (where the hole was)? When asked if Rey’s cell phone could’ve emerged unscathed from a 13-story fall, Mel Blizzard (a Commander in the Baltimore Police Department and a behavioral analyst who researched the case) replied, "It's possible. I just find it to be highly unlikely, with that type of kinetic energy hitting that rooftop at the time.”[25]

  • One of Rey’s brand-new flip-flops had a broken band and had fresh drag marks. How is this the case if he jumped from the roof?

  • Where is Rey’s keepsake money-clip wallet that he never left home without? His keys, glasses, cell phone, and flip-flops were found, but why has the wallet never been found?

  • Other than decomposition, why was Rey’s body not in worse condition because of the 13-story fall? One man took an 8-story jump out of the Belvedere, landed on the street, broke almost every bone in his body, and was a complete mess.[26] Yet, some hypothesize that Rey took a 13-story jump and ignore the fact that his body was in better condition than the man who took the 8-story jump from the same hotel

  • The initial detective felt someone had staged the scene on the roof with the hole, phone, glasses, and flip-flops/sandals.[27]

  • The same detective also believed the hole was too small for Rey to fall through from such a height.[28]

  • According to Allison, before transferring away from Rey’s case, the initial lead detective told her to be very careful as she continued investigating. He indicated that if Rey was murdered, there were probably certain individuals who didn’t want the truth to surface.[29]

  • After Rey’s body was discovered, an anonymous individual kept calling the police to retrieve Rey’s laptop.[30] That’s suspicious! If the caller was from his previous employer or an organization he was contracting with, why not reveal that fact to the police? Even better, why not call Allison for help regarding the computer? Such a request wouldn’t seem strange if the laptop had material that Rey had been creating for contracting organizations.

As Sherlock Holmes said, “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” My personal opinion is that when one objectively examines the evidence, objectively observes the facts, and objectively ponders the unanswered questions, it becomes challenging to believe Rey jumped off the roof of The Belvedere.


What Rey Teaches Us About Pursuing the Truth

Some may reason that all my above examples show how I’m seeing everything through the lens of Rey being murdered. Not quite. Though I lean toward something awful happening to Rey, I’m honestly pointing out the objective facts, undisputed evidence, and unanswered questions. And I have no ego here. I’m content with being wrong. However, it frustrates me when intelligent people explain away facts and ignore significant evidence because they've already developed their theory.

The pursuit of truth is often a road less traveled.

As I stated earlier, those looking for truth have to become accustomed to being uncomfortable. They learn to must stand alone and have people question their reasoning.

Allison is still on the journey to find out what happened to her husband. Angel Rivera, Elena, and Rey's parents are still seeking the truth. Many of Rey's friends have not forgotten and are still looking for the answers. Some police, reporters, authors, podcasters, researchers, and other specialists haven't surrendered their search for what happened. Even those who have never met any of the Riveras (people like myself and like some of you) are also still on a quest for clarity, and perhaps, justice. Despite the naysayers and those who are convinced they have it figured out--the journey towards truth hasn't stopped.


All the evidence hasn't been acknowledged...

All the facts haven't aligned...

And all the questions haven't been answered... yet.


Make no mistake about it, Allison Rivera is in a new season of her life... but she hasn't let go of Rey. She shouldn't. We never truly let go of loved ones that we've lost. If they could, then love would evaporate. Grief exists because love did, and still does exist. I believe that love drives us to pursue the truth--whatever that truth might be. One of the posthumous lessons I've learned from Rey is the significance of not giving up on searching for the truth... whatever that truth might be.


Again, I'm not sure how long this series will be. But the next post is tremendously important to me and will be controversial.


Continue to Part 3



____________________________________

[1] For the statistics in this sentence and the previous sentence, see: “FBI Releases Its 2006 Crime Statistics,” The FBI Press Office (September 24, 2007), https://bit.ly/3NGhL4z; “Postmortem Examiners Commission – Rate for the Transportation of a Body,” Fiscal and Policy Note, Department of Legislative Services, Maryland General Assembly, House Bill 891 (2007 Session), https://bit.ly/3wY6kza; John Gramlich, “What We Know About the Increase in U.S. Murders in 2020,” Pew Research Center (October 27, 2021); and homicides.news.baltimoresun.com. [2] Meghan L. Smith, et al, “Violent Death Reporting in Maryland: Demographic Variability in Data Completeness,” American Journal of Public Health 107/10 (October 2017): 1621–1623. [3] See John Gramlich, “What We Know About the Increase in U.S. Murders in 2020,” Pew Research Center (October 27, 2021); and homicides.news.baltimoresun.com. [4] Stephen Janis, “Hundreds of City of Deaths Classified by Medical Examiner as ‘Undetermined’ in Their Manner,” The Washington Examiner (November 2, 2006). [5] Debra L. Karch, et al, “Surveillance for Violent Deaths --- National Violent Death Reporting System, 16 States, 2006,” Center for Disease Control (March 20, 2009). https://bit.ly/35zwzRl. [6] Stephen Janis, “Hundreds of City of Deaths Classified by Medical Examiner as ‘Undetermined’ in Their Manner,” The Washington Examiner (November 2, 2006). [7] Marcus A. Clarke, “Unsolved Mysteries: Mystery on the Rooftop,” Netflix (2020). https://www.netflix.com/title/81026055. [8] “Evidence Mounts Rey Rivera Didn’t Fall from a Height,” The Land of the Unsolved Podcast (December 27, 2020), 11:00-13:00. [9] Ibid., 16:45-17:38; 20:30-21:00; 22:40-24:10. [10] Ibid., 22:40-24:10. [11] Miryam Moya, Rey Rivera, Suicide or Homicide? There is Only One Truth and Science Holds the Key (2021). [12] See Miryam Moya, Rey Rivera, Suicide or Homicide? There is Only One Truth and Science Holds the Key (2021); and “Rey Rivera's Injuries Are More Consistent with Being Hit by a Car,” The Land of the Unsolved (October 13, 2020). 10:05-11:30. [13] Mikita Brottman, An Unexplained Death: A True Story of a Body at the Belvedere (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2018), 35, 38, 178-179. [14] Ibid., 46. [15] Ibid., 80, 82. [16] Ibid., 80. [17] Courtney March, “Unsolved Mysteries Update: Second Mystery Caller Revealed in Rey Rivera Case,” Netflix Life (August 8, 2020); Q.V. Hough, “Unsolved Mysteries Theory: Who Called Rey Rivera (& Why),” Screen Rant (August 15, 2020); and Mikita Brottman, An Unexplained Death: A True Story of a Body at the Belvedere (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2018), 147. [18] “Rey Rivera – Victim; Baltimore City Police Department; 05/24/2006; NCAVC – Suspicious Death,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice (August 31, 2006). [19] Katherine J. Igoe, “The Death of Rey Rivera Remains Unsolved to This Day,” Marie Claire (July 9, 2020). [20] Ibid. [21] Stephen Janis, “Mystery Still Surrounds Belvedere Death Scene,” The Washington Examiner (May 17, 2007). [22] Jayne Miller, “’Unsolved Mysteries’ on Netflix Sparks New Interest in Rey Rivera Case,” WBALTV 11 (July 16, 2020). [23] Scott M. Reid, “One Giant Leap: Mike Powell’s Long Jump Record Endures 30 Years Later,” The OC Register (August 29, 2021). [24] “Unsolved Mysteries—Rey Rivera Mystery on the Rooftop,” Starry Mag (July 5, 2020). [25] Jayne Miller, “Suicide or Murder? Evidence Reviewed,” WBALTV 11 (May 17, 2007). [26] See Marina Watts, “’Unsolved Mysteries’: A Brief but Morbid History of the Belvedere Hotel,” Newsweek (July 6, 2020); and Mikita Brottman, An Unexplained Death: A True Story of a Body at the Belvedere (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2018), 67. [27] 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). [28] “Unsolved Mysteries—Rey Rivera Mystery on the Rooftop,” Starry Mag (July 5, 2020). [29] Marcus A. Clarke, “Unsolved Mysteries: Mystery on the Rooftop,” Netflix (2020). https://www.netflix.com/title/81026055. [30] Zoe Shenton, “Unsolved Mysteries Co-Creator Reveals New Information in the Rey Rivera Case,” Cosmopolitan UK (August 4, 2020).

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