Originally created 10/17/00

Rivera case questions

The sick, sordid story of Reinaldo J. Rivera, charged with brutalizing and killing four young women in our area, is now out in the open.

The Chronicle, in a series of articles over the past three days, has presented a detailed account of a cunning animal that police and prosecutors describe as a merciless predator. It should also be noted that police say Rivera himself has given detailed descriptions of the murders.

The Bridgestone-Firestone tire inspector lived here for two years, and the victims weren't his only targets. Richmond County investigators say various young females have come forward detailing encounters with a slick-talking Rivera, who often claimed he was looking for models.

In the words of Augusta District Attorney Danny Craig, "it will be interesting to find out Rivera's past activities" - especially since he attended the University of South Carolina in Columbia and served in far-flung locations with the U.S Navy.

After all, a serial killer just doesn't wake up one day and decide to be one. Experts note that a vast majority start their deviant ways in their early teens.

In light of the horrifying revelations we know, the people have a right to ask certain questions of their elected officials and to make certain demands. Among these are:

Did the sheriffs of Richmond and Aiken counties suspect that a serial killer had been operating in our two-state area before 18-year-old Chrisilee Barton of Augusta was raped and almost killed last Tuesday? (It was Barton's amazing survival that Richmond deputies say broke the case against Rivera.)

Richmond County Sheriff Charlie Webster and District Attorney Danny Craig vehemently deny law enforcement authorities had any hard evidence linking Rivera to various murders before the Barton case. Yet there have been a spate of unsolved murders in our two-state area. This newspaper suggested in a Sept. 12 editorial that police should have offered some theory, or at least some public reassurance about whether recent murders were the work of a serial killer - especially after the death of Sgt. Marnie Glista.

Isn't it true that, with all due respect to the fine employees in the Richmond County Sheriff's Department's criminal investigation department, it is not at "full strength," so to speak? Chief Deputy Ronnie Strength, who has supervised that division for years, has been on leave because he's running for sheriff.

Unfortunately, that leaves the criminal investigation unit without a department head, which is hardly reassuring at a time like this. Whoever wins the sheriff's race must make sure a top-notch professional fills the No. 2 job in the department.

In all, Rivera faces charges of murder, rape, aggravated assault and aggravated sodomy in Richmond County, as well as two counts of murder and two counts of criminal sexual conduct in Aiken County. Will there be feuding or public rivalries from different state jurisdictions, such as flared during the two-state Shayna Lively DUI case in 1999?

Prosecutor Craig said yesterday he doesn't want "any games played" with this serious case. We second the motion, and trust prosecutors and judges on both sides of the Savannah River agree.


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