Warning: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the episode, “Mystery on the Rooftop,” don’t read any further.
I’ve never seen an episode of the original 1987-run of Unsolved Mysteries with Robert Stack as host, with his deep, ominous voice, and the creepy theme song intro. To be honest, the 1980s version feels like an adult version of Goosebumps from some of the clips I watched in anticipation of this post.
But when Netflix revived the show, and to scratch my true crime itch, I checked in for the first episode: “Mystery on the Rooftop.” This episode takes place in Baltimore in 2006, and covers the unexplained death of Rey Rivera, a 32-year-old originally from Puerto Rico. He goes missing, and an extensive search begins by his wife, brother, and other family members and friends. Six days later, they find his car. Two days after that, friends find a hole on a roof, which leads them to Rivera.
Was it a suicide, wherein Rivera jumped from the famed Belvedere hotel or some other structure in the vicinity, or was it a murder of some kind staged to look like a suicide because Rivera was getting too close to revealing information about the place he worked, Stansberry and Associates?
The hole is hard to understand. I’ll say that much. That is, how did he get to wherever he needed to get, in the first place? And undetected by any witnesses? And then the actual physics of being able to jump and make that hole? Neither his phone nor his glasses were damaged in the jump. That’s all peculiar, although not uncommon. For example, when one of the planes in 9/11 hit the outer ring of the Pentagon, there were items virtually unmarred by the impact and explosion, right next to the hole where the plane went in. Freak stuff like that happens.
I also do think it’s weird his friend, Porter Stansberry, who knew him for years, and brought him out there to work for the company didn’t seem to want to be involved in talking about his friend’s death. But, we also don’t know his side of the story.
I also think it’s perfectly reasonable for the medical examiner to say the cause of death was “undetermined.” Because there doesn’t seem to be enough evidence from a forensic examination investigative perspective to declare it a homicide or a suicide.
All of that being said, I am always, always skeptical of the, “He knew something, and that’s why he was killed.” Gag order or no gag order on the business associates at Stansberry and Associates, if Rivera knew something worth creating a conspiracy to kill him over, it would’ve come out in the 14 years since his death.
And you think it’s hard to imagine Rivera getting to a position undetected to kill himself? Imagine at least one person with a gun or knife on Rivera (and I would imagine it would take at least two to keep a big guy like him in line) to get him into a position to kill him going undetected.
If there was a murder scenario I could imagine, it is that someone he knew at Stansberry and Associates had convinced him to meet at X spot, and so Rivera went willingly and uncoerced, and then was shoved off of that spot into the hole, thus it became a murder. But even that wouldn’t have to rise to the level of some grand conspiracy, and instead, perhaps a typical workplace issue gone murderously wrong.
Two other misconceptions to correct from this episode:
1.) You are under no obligation to talk to the police. The police can’t make you talk to them, and you not talking to the police doesn’t make you guilty. Know. Your. Rights. Get. A. Lawyer. It may come across like a scumbag move to us — and in this case, the friend sure seems like Scumbag #1 — but it’s the smart, legal thing to do.
2.) No, that television reporter is wrong. She claimed most people leave suicide notes as to not leave their family in the lurch about why they did it. That’s flatly wrong. Most people do not leave suicide notes.
The sad, unfortunate thing is, I imagine most people who are left behind in the wake of a suicide can’t imagine their loved one doing it. His brother even says he thinks there would be red flags along the way alerting them to it, and there very well may have been, but the sad point is, loved ones may not notice those red flags. It’s not as if they are specifically trained to spot them. And then that’s why the suicide seems so bewildering and out-of-nowhere.
Again, it’s hard to understand how the lead-up and physics of the suicide worked out, but if I had to pick, I’m leaning strongly toward suicide. I actually was leaning more toward homicide throughout most of the episode (and even after) until I remembered the note that was found taped behind the computer on the wall.
That’s fucking weird, guys.
Who tapes a note like that to the wall behind the computer? I can believe, as the family tried to reason, that as a writer, Rivera was writing mumbled, incoherent things, and that’s why the letter seems a little wacky.
But in conjunction with being taped behind the wall? Add to that Rivera seeming overly scared (by the wife’s own admission) by the alarm going off a day before his death, seeming to be overly protective of her when she was leaving for her business trip before his death, and then rushing out of the house like he’d just gotten an important phone call before his death, and it all points to a delusion, paranoid psychotic break leading to an unfortunate suicide.
I don’t know what would have caused said delusions and psychotic break, but you can understand how the family finds signs of that, and instead, re-casts it into the wider conspiracy involving Stansberry and Associates to kill him.
The too long, don’t read summation I have of the episode: At the end of the day, the truth is more likely to be the obvious answer (suicide) than the much harder to explain answer (a company-wide conspiracy to kill someone that’s apparently been the perfect crime for 14 years). Because it’s a mystery show, they reverse the script and make the suicide seem the implausible answer, and the conspiracy murder the plausible.
It’s fun for that reason to watch, but when my rational faculties return thereafter, I go back to the rational explanation. When it’s inexplicable, creating more inexplicable explanations (the wider web of a conspiracy to murder him because he knew something) doesn’t help make the inexplicable more explicable. That just raises even more inexplicable questions.