• Caleb Kaltenbach

The Suspicious Case of Rey Rivera... and Why He Matters, Part 3

Updated: Aug 8


“Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory—let the theory go.”

—Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Affair at Styles


“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

—Arthur Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia


***If you haven’t already, please read part 1 and part 2 in this series.

***Warning: this post deals with the difficult subjects of mental & emotional health and suicidality.



People have been discussing the mysterious circumstances surrounding Rey Rivera's death ever since he was found in a room on the second floor of The Belvedere. Some are convinced Rey was murdered, while others suppose he died by suicide (due to a mental health disorder or emotional disorder). Which is true? Is it reasonable to assume that Rey died by suicide? Should we speculate that Rey suffered from a mental health issue?


Besides the evidence and facts I presented in my previous post, there are numerous reasons to conclude that Rey did not die by suicide. Studies have established that individuals who jump to their death are, on average, middle-aged men who sustain fatal, life-threatening, or severe injuries to their spinal cord, ankles, heels, and legs.[1] Rey was not middle-aged and had minimal injuries (if any) to these areas. Most notably, he was never diagnosed as having a mental health disorder. Still, could Rey have suffered from an undiagnosed mental health problem? Of course, that could be true of anyone. One psychiatric study discovered that 20% of individuals who attempted to jump to their death experienced terrifying delusions caused by undiagnosed mental problems.[2]


Yet, within our examination of this case, we must strongly consider the testimony of Rey’s loved ones. Most, if not all, of his family and friends maintain that he showed no signs of mental/emotional health disorders. While it can be challenging for friends and family to recognize signs of mental and emotional distress in loved ones, there is substantial evidence that Rey probably wasn’t experiencing such obstacles:

  • Allison (his wife) didn’t see signs of emotional problems in Rey before he disappeared.

  • Angel (Rey’s brother) looked through Rey’s computer, journals, and notes, but found nothing indicating his brother had suicide ideation or was experiencing a mental breakdown.[3]

  • Baltimore Police Commander Fred Bealefeld disclosed that Rey had no mental health issues and that he wasn’t exhibiting signs of depression before his death.[4]

  • After Rey disappeared, Porter Stansberry (Rey's childhood friend and boss) described Rey as a happy person.[5]

  • Hours before Rey went missing, he booked a studio to edit a video project for an Agora company that was contracting him. The person he spoke with on the phone said Rey didn’t sound shaken or upset.[6]

  • Also, on the day he disappeared, Rey talked to a freemasonry representative. The person who spoke with Rey said their conversation was normal.[7]

  • Rey and Allison were excited about moving back to Southern California, were trying to sell their Baltimore house, and were talking about having kids.[8]

  • The happy couple was excited about their upcoming vacation to New Mexico.

  • Until recently, no one suggested to the police or anyone else that Rey might have been experiencing psychological issues.[9]

  • Even from a young age, Rey’s friends described him as “grounded” (aka, healthy).[10]

  • Rey had just opened up his own film company and was excited about the screenplay he recently completed.[11]

  • When Rey suddenly disappeared, his family and friends said that such behavior was out of the ordinary—he wasn’t the kind of person to leave for an extended period without telling someone.[12]

Still, some firmly believe Rey died by suicide due to mental health problems despite testimony from his loved ones and ZERO evidence pointing to health issues.


Assumptions > Facts?

One of Rey’s friends who also worked with Porter, Brad Hoppman said the following about the Unsolved Mysteries episode focusing on Rey: “This is a real conversation the world can have about mental illness and help people get help when they need it… [Unsolved Mysteries] turned it into a murder mystery where they’re accusing people of being involved.”[13]

Porter Stansberry & Rey Rivera

Whereas Porter initially described Rey as a happy person, he claimed the opposite 14 years later. According to Terry Dunn Meurer (co-creator of Unsolved Mysteries), Porter told her that Rey and Allison had been seeing a marriage counselor before his disappearance—this claim has been proven false. He also alleged that Rey was having psychological issues at the time—a statement that has never been proven.[14]


Angel Rivera explained that Stansberry and Hoppman were given chances to be in the Unsolved Mysteries episode but chose not to participate.[15] Instead, Hopmman went on Reddit to try to correct theories. Additionally, he and Stansberry gave interviews to the Baltimore Sun.[16] Angel has been frustrated with their actions and words as they waited 14 years to share their thoughts about his mental state.[17]


Investigators wasted no time airing their opinion of what happened to Rey (7 weeks after his body was discovered). Although the Baltimore Medical Examiner’s Office listed Rey’s cause of death as undetermined, a Baltimore City Police spokesperson said, "There is no physical evidence to suggest that Mr. Rivera’s death was anything but a suicide, but we are still investigating."[18]


Allison believes those who were quick to cry suicide are probably part of why the police were quick to think, “Oh this is just a suicide.”[19]

Angel Rivera (Rey's brother)

Unfortunately, through the years Allison has continually been proven to be correct. One podcast insinuated that Rey’s alleged"mental imbalance" was displayed earlier in his life when he got in an argument with his water polo coach and was kicked off the Olympic team. So, his reaction proves mental instability without knowing the reason for Rey's frustration? The same podcast cited a couple of Rey’s friends who said he regretted the incident for years to come. Well, OF COURSE, HE DID!! He missed out on the Olympics!!!! Believing that Rey's frustration with his former coach is confirmation of a mental disorder assumes too much without understanding the circumstance.


Surface-level thinking isn't limited to podcasts. In an article for Screen Rant, a journalist irresponsibly suggests the following about Rey’s request to borrow Brad Hoppman's apartment a few days before disappearing: “Rivera had reportedly asked the aforementioned Hoppman if he could stay alone at his Jersey City residence on the top floor, which seems to imply that Rivera was suicidal.”[20]


Really? Seriously?!? Talk about ridiculous. Did Rey ask to borrow his friend’s apartment because it was on the top floor, or did he ask to borrow an apartment that just happened to be on the top floor?? People regularly ask to borrow their friends’ vacation houses, but that doesn’t allude to them walking into the ocean and never coming back. Spending the weekend in a cabin doesn’t mean you're hoping for a selfie with Jason Vorhees. Likewise, taking a cruise doesn't imply that you're planning to jump overboard.


Intense focus on assumptions obstructs truth.


Being led by assumptions creates hypothetical scenarios that appear more significant than actual facts.

Imagine the following scenario: Rey’s request had something to do with a desire for time and space to write... What if an author wanted some focused time to write? Wonders never cease...


Nonetheless, some have come to believe that Rey was experiencing a mental breakdown. As a result, they view any "peculiar behavior" by Rey through the lens of "mental health problems." There are few better examples than Mikita Brottman’s book on Rey Rivera.


A Loud Noise that Led to a Book

In 2006, author Mikita Brottman lived in one of The Belvedere’s apartments. Twelve years later, she wrote An Unexplained Death: A True Story of a Body at the Belvedere (which details her inquiry into Rey Rivera’s death). While her book has many vital elements, I believe she misses some critical facts in the case. In lieu of a deep examination of the facts and evidence, Brottman focuses on The Belvedere’s history and suicidality. If you hadn't guessed already, she concludes that Rey probably died by suicide.


At the start of the book (aka, back in 2006), Brottman immediately leans toward a death-by-suicide theory after learning about Rey’s case.[21] Early in the book, she goes so far as to admit her fascination with suicidality and bizarre deaths. She includes several macabre stories in the book.[22] At one point, she reminisces about colleagues confronting her about her fascination because they saw it as an obsession.[23] Such fixation isn't wrong but can become a liability if it causes presuppositions while investigating a case like Rivera’s. Thus, much of the book is devoted to interpreting Rey’s behavior more than examining observable evidence and facts.


Miraculously, late in the evening that Rey disappeared, Brottman claimed to hear a loud noise. Initially, she brushed off the noise as a car accident but came to believe the noise was probably Rey crashing through The Belvedere's second-story roof. Nevertheless, no one else inside, standing outside or near The Belvedere heard such a loud noise. After learning that Rey "allegedly" jumped from The Belvedere's roof, Brottman never reported the loud noise to the police.

Mikita Brottman

I’m not suggesting that Brottman lied about what she heard. We've all heard loud and strange noises in our neighborhoods. This is especially true for those who live in a city’s downtown district. What's astonishing (sense the sarcasm) is that Brottman’s interpretation of the loud noise conveniently aligns with her theory of what probably happened to Rey—he was experiencing some mental breakdown that led to death by suicide.


Sudden Death by Suicide?

Whether she intends to or not, Brottman does not write kindly about those who disagree with her theory of what probably happened to Rey. She refers to one Baltimore journalist as “the only investigative journalist in Baltimore who refused to let go of the Rivera case” when there are other journalists (and even some in law enforcement) who do not believe Rey died by suicide.[24] She goes out of her way to scoff at another reporter’s work by saying that the reporter wrote an article “reminding us that the case is still unsolved.”[25] A few pages later, Broatmann calls this same reporter’s memory into question for no reason whatsoever.[26] From beginning to end, she portrays those who believe there to be something more sinister at the center of Rey’s death as crazy and internet conspiracy theorists.[27]


In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, Brottman builds a case for her theory (death-by-suicide) and defends it. Near the beginning of the book, she discusses a 2006 study by psychiatrists that revealed most hotel guests who die by suicide are local residents (even though The Belvedere is no longer an actual hotel).[28] Without having personal knowledge of Rey or deep interactions with his loved ones, she assumes much about Rey’s personal life. Like the podcast I mentioned earlier in this post, Brottman suggests that Rey's elimination from Olympics qualifications might have caused mental trauma and/or led him down a wrong path.[29] At one point, she reads too much into the Rivera’s debt and how Rey was allegedly bad with money (despite Allison’s administrative skills, the Rivera’s tracking systems, and plans to deal with their debt).[30] Brottman hints that Rey could’ve been triggered because the Riveras didn’t have an active social life in Baltimore as they did in Los Angeles.[31] Then, a few pages later, she recounts stories about how the Riveras were making new friends in Baltimore (from church, the local water polo community, coworkers, etc.).[32]


In one paragraph, she mentions how Rey was protective of his loved ones, while in the next breath, she describes him as paranoid and overly protective of Allison just weeks before his disappearance.[33] But, as author Dean Koontz writes, “There's evil in the world, all right. Being aware of it makes you a realist, not a paranoid.”[34]


You’re not paranoid if you’re correct.

There's a section where Brottman attempts to validate her theory about Rey by suggesting that more people die by suicide “last minute” than what we know. Sadly, there are indeed cases where “sudden suicide” occurs. Although, after engaging in medical and psychological research, I've come to believe that “sudden suicide” is not as common as what she proposes.


Rey's fear of heights was so great that he was wary of even placing ornaments on top of the Christmas tree.[35] Why would he jump from a tall building? There have been reports of Rey and Allison hanging out with friends on The Belvedere's roof—but that doesn’t mean that he would jump off the roof, nor does it negate his fear of heights.[36]

The Belvedere

When jumping off a tall ledge or cliff despite a fear of heights, a study indicated that people with a “tendency to jump” have a history of feeling more worried about life's many issues than fearing death. Most of their study participants who felt an urge to jump had previously experienced suicidal ideation.[37] There's no abundance of cases where someone died by suicide because of a “split-second decision.”


Another study indicates that even if individuals feel a weird split-second urge to jump or quickly imagine what it would be like to jump (despite a fear of heights)—that urge they feel reveals their desire to live. The study reported that individuals are slower to process the possibility of experiencing death than immediately dealing with a dangerous situation that might cause their death.[38] Similarly, a similar study conducted by Osnabrück University and the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics proposed that when most people consider the subject of death, they’re more concerned with anticipating, rather than experiencing, their demise. A particular journalist summarized this idea well: “In other words, our brain holds the idea of death at an emotional distance.”[39]


This is just my opinion, but I think most of us who have looked off the ledge of a tall building, peered over a bridge or gazed beyond a cliff have probably wondered what it would be like to fall, jump, fly, bungee, or skydive off the edge.


There can be something alluring about flirting with whatever terrifies us.

Yet, such curiosity does not prove that someone hopes to die by suicide—not in the least.


The human brain hates ambiguity because it makes tens of thousands of decisions each day.[40] Some online arm-chair-sleuths don’t want to admit that Rey's case is complex because of the facts instead of hypothetical undiagnosed mental disorders. They'd rather keep assuming they have it figured out. At the end of the day, because they’ve done surface-level investigations and refused to keep their focus on the facts of the case, it’s easier for them to assume suicide than complexity. They “solve” (I use that word in jest) the case to their liking so they feel justified to move on to the next cold case they’ve selected for their podcast or social media tirade to share their “self-proclaimed expertise.”


Could Rey have been suffering from a mental health disorder? It's possible, but Rey's health history, the case evidence, and testimony from his loved ones demonstrate otherwise. And even if Rey did have a secret mental health disorder, that doesn't mean he would die by suicide. The direction of this case points to a specific conclusion once the focus is placed on the evidence and facts of the case instead of assumptions.


In my next post, we'll examine a unique clue that was left behind in the Rivera house. Until then, be safe and never stop searching for truth.


Part 4 releasing soon...



_____________________

[1] For more information, see: Vincenzo Giordano, Fabrício Santos e Santos, Celso Prata & Ney Pecegueiro do Amaral, “Patterns and Management of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Attempted Suicide by Jumping from a Height: a Single, Regional Level I Trauma Center Experience,” European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery 48 (2022): 915–920; and Kalman Katz, Noah Gonen, Igo Goldberg, Joseph Mizahi, Marguerite Radwan & Zvi Yosipovitch, “Injuries in Attempted Suicide by Jumping from a Height,” Injury 19, no. 6 (November 1988): 371-374. [2] For more information, see Olav Nielssen, Nicholas Glozier, Nicholas Babidge, Sharon Reutens, Douglas Andrews, Andrew Gerard, Gin. S. Malhi, and Matthew M. Large, “Suicide Attempts by Jumping and Psychotic Illness,” Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 44, no. 6 (June 1, 2012): 568-573. [3] Stephen Janis, “FBI Says Dead Filmmaker’s Letter Not a Suicide Note,” The Washington Examiner (July 12, 2006). [4] Jayne Miller, “Suicide or Murder? Evidence Reviewed,” WBALTV (May 17, 2007). [5] Lauren Kranc, “Where Is Frank Porter Stansberry of Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries Now?” Esquire (July 7, 2020). [6] Mikita Brottman, An Unexplained Death: A True Story of a Body at the Belvedere (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2018), 47. [7] Justin Fenton, “Rey Rivera’s Friend, Former Baltimore Employer Pushes Back on Netflix’s ‘Unsolved Mysteries,’” The Baltimore Sun (August 5, 2020). [8] Mikita Brottman, An Unexplained Death: A True Story of a Body at the Belvedere (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2018), 46. [9] Taya Graham & Stephen Janis, “His Mysterious Death Made National Headlines, So Why are Police Ignoring the Case?” The Real News Network (October 28, 2021). [10] Kathleen Christiansen, “Netflix Show Explores Mysterious Death of Former Winter Park Polo Star,” Orlando Sentinel (July 23, 2020). [11] Taya Graham & Stephen Janis, “Cops Say He Jumped from a Building, But the Evidence Suggests Foul Play,” The Real News Network (October 27, 2021); and Mikita Brottman, An Unexplained Death: A True Story of a Body at the Belvedere (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2018), 120. [12] 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). [13] Justin Fenton, “Rey Rivera’s Friend, Former Baltimore Employer Pushes Back on Netflix’s ‘Unsolved Mysteries,’” The Baltimore Sun (August 5, 2020). [14] Grace Henry, “Unsolved Mysteries Creator Did Speak to Porter Stansberry About Rey Rivera Disappearance,” Radio Times (July 24, 2020). [15] Real Radio Monsters, “Rey Rivera ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Case Update,” YouTube (August 17, 2020), 2:09-2:30; 3:56-4:08. youtube.com/watch?v=7DzXWovGr2o. [16] Ibid., 2:30-3:21. [17] Ibid., 4:55-5:52; 6:55-7:28. [18] Stephen Janis, “FBI Says Dead Filmmaker’s Letter Not a Suicide Note,” The Washington Examiner (July 12, 2006). [19] Ibid.

[20] Q.V. Hough, “Unsolved Mysteries Theory: Who Called Rey Rivera (& Why),” Screen Rant (August 15, 2020). [21] Mikita Brottman, An Unexplained Death: A True Story of a Body at the Belvedere (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2018), 46. [22] Ibid., 80, 82-83. [23] Ibid., 80. [24] Ibid., 71. [25] Ibid., 131. [26] Ibid., 145. [27] Ibid., 79, 83, 102, 131, 141-142, 155. [28] Ibid., 24. [29] Ibid., 87. [30] Ibid., 73, 109-110. [31] Ibid., 103-104, 110-111. [32] Ibid., 116-118, 120. [33] Ibid., 121-122. [34] Dean Koontz, Your Heart Belongs to Me (New York: Bantam Books, 2009), 119. [35] Taya Graham & Stephen Janis, “His Mysterious Death Made National Headlines, So Why are Police Ignoring the Case?” The Real News Network (October 28, 2021). [36] Ibid.

[37] Jessica Seigel, “Why You Feel the Urge to Jump,” Nautilus 46, no. 5 (March 30, 2017). Online edition of article. [38] J.L. Hames, J.D. Ribeiro, A.R. Smith, & T.E. Joiner Jr., “An Urge to Jump Affirms the Urge to Live: An Empirical Examination of the High Place Phenomenon,” Journal of Affective Disorders (2012): 136. [39] Markus Quirin, “Existential Neuroscience: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Investigation of Neural Responses to Reminders of One’s Mortality,” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (2012): 197. [40] Joel Hoomans, “35,000 Decisions: The Great Choices of Strategic Leaders,” Leading Edge (March 20, 2015).

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