The horror spread to Columbia County on Saturday, as information given by a multiple-slaying suspect led authorities to the remains of a fourth young woman.
"Based upon the information gained during the investigation thus far, we can conclude at this time that the body that we found was that of a female who was killed by Reinaldo Rivera," District Attorney Danny Craig said hours after Saturday afternoon's discovery in the Pumpkin Center area off Interstate 20 and Wrightsboro Road.
The latest discovery brings to four the number of young Augusta-area women whom authorities say Mr. Rivera, 37, is responsible for slaying in the past year.
Saturday's unidentified victim, who police said was white and 17 to 21 years old, was found at 1:30 p.m. in a wooded area at 223 Wrightsboro Road near Harlem - about 300 yards from the road, hidden among thick brush behind an open field and next to a murky pond. Mr. Craig said Mr. Rivera gave the location to Richmond County authorities, who relayed the information to Columbia County sheriff's investigators.
The district attorney said Columbia County authorities quickly found the woman's badly decomposed remains.
Mr. Craig said the woman was an employee of Futurecall Telemarketing Inc. on Stevens Creek Road in Augusta, had a 14-year-old sister, was last seen in July and was living with her sister and two males in an apartment on Washington Road.
But, he said he did not know who the sister was and he wouldn't elaborate on how officials knew the personal information without knowing the woman's identity. Calls made to Futurecall on Saturday were not answered.
A native of Madrid, Spain, Mr. Rivera lived in Graniteville, Columbia and Fayetteville, N.C., before moving to his recent address, on Sudlow Ridge Road, according to authorities. He has worked as a tire inspector at Bridgestone/Firestone in Aiken for the past 2 years.
He once served in the Navy, and has a tattoo of a unicorn on his upper left chest. He and his wife, Tammy, have two children, ages 5 and 7.
Mr. Rivera apparently attempted suicide before police found him in a Clearwater motel room. He was moved Saturday morning from Medical College of Georgia Hospital to the Richmond County Jail, where he is being kept in an isolated cell and is under a suicide watch.
He already faces murder charges in the deaths of Sgt. Marni Glista, Tiffaney Wilson and Melissa Dingess.
On Saturday, people who called Mr. Rivera a friend remained in shock.
Ronald Sharp knew the suspect simply as "Ray." Until September, his family lived down the street from the Rivera family in Graniteville - the Riveras on Bettis Academy Road and the Sharps nearby on Whaley Pond Road. The Sharp children played with the Rivera children. The two families celebrated holidays together.
"He had us all fooled," Mr. Sharp said. "We never knew that he could be like that."
Mr. Sharp said he placed a call to the Aiken County Sheriff's Office on Friday, telling them Mr. Rivera had borrowed his red Chevy Astro van more than 10 times - saying he needed it for work or other reasons.
"He could have done something bad in that van," Mr. Sharp said. "I want (investigators) to go in there with a fine-toothed comb and make sure nothing has gone on in there."
Mr. Sharp became angry when the dispatchers said the investigators were gone for the weekend and unavailable, he said.
When told of Mr. Sharp's concern, sheriff's spokesman Michael Frank said he would pass along the information to the criminal investigative unit.
"It's very possible the information did not get to the right people," Lt. Frank said. "Certainly, we're interested in Mr. Sharp's information."
On Friday night, the Sharps visited a distraught Tammy Rivera at her home on Sudlow Ridge Road in North Augusta.
"Tammy's doing the best she can with what she's got in front of her," Mr. Sharp said. "The children don't know nothing, and they don't need to know nothing.
"Tammy, she's been real, real strong through this. She has been very, very strong," he added.
Meanwhile, in the Graniteville trailer park where Mrs. Dingess lived, behind the cafe where she was last seen, neighbors said she was stalked by "a Mexican" before she disappeared 15 months ago.
Lynn Heath, who lived next door to Mrs. Dingess and who worked in the cafe, said she saw a Hispanic stranger walking through the trailer park several times and learned he had asked her daughter how many people lived in the Dingess trailer.
Garrett McKie said he also noticed the man and assumed he lived nearby.
About two days after Mrs. Dingess vanished, a next-door neighbor, Mrs. Heath, said she saw a man lurking in bushes between the trailers and the cafe at 5:30 a.m. and ran back home. "I can't say for sure it was the same one, and I never saw him again," she said.
Neighbors said they never told authorities because they were never questioned.
Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend said Saturday she is not ready to confirm that the skeletal remains found off Interstate 20 on Saturday were those of Mrs. Dingess. Mrs. Dingess' parents have been asked to submit to DNA testing to see if the skeleton is that of their daughter if no dental records can be found, she said.
Authorities say they are hoping the public will help them identify the victim found Saturday.
Mr. Craig would not comment on how the woman died or whether there were similarities to the way the other women - one in Richmond County and two in Aiken County - were killed.
Columbia County investigators spent all day at the crime scene. Capt. Morris said the woman's body would be sent to the state crime lab in Atlanta but he didn't expect all of the remains to be removed by Saturday.
Staff Writers Johnny Edwards and Margaret O'Shea contributed to this article.
© 2017. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us