Originally created 02/06/01

Detectives testify in slayings



The first time Reinaldo J. Rivera's photograph appeared in The Augusta Chronicle on Oct. 14, women began calling law enforcement officers throughout the Augusta area, detectives testified Monday.

Investigators on Monday recalled numerous accounts from women who said the man who approached them in parking lots in Augusta, Columbia and Aiken counties was the suspect in four homicides and an attack Oct. 10.

Mr. Rivera's appearance in Columbia County Superior Court was the second joint pretrial hearing to determine if the women who came forward in October will be allowed to testify. He has pleaded not guilty in Richmond and Columbia counties to charges that include murder and rape.

Mr. Rivera, 37, has been in jail without bond since his arrest and faces death penalty trials in both counties.

Detectives said at the hearing that the publication of Mr. Rivera's photograph Oct. 14 under the headline, "Slayings linked," started telephones ringing at law enforcements offices on both sides of the Savannah River.

The investigators also said that at least two women had come forward two days earlier after seeing a published sketch of the man who allegedly attacked a South Augusta woman Oct. 10.

By Oct. 13, Mr. Rivera was charged in the September fatal attack on Fort Gordon Sgt. Marni M. Glista, 21, in Richmond County, and the June slaying of Tabatha L. Bosdell, 17, an attack that allegedly began in Richmond County and ended in Columbia County.

The women who came forward said they recognized Mr. Rivera as the man who stopped them in parking lots with an initial innocuous request for directions. The seemingly harmless chats turned personal and sexual, the women told officers.

One woman copied the license tag number of the vehicle the man was driving, a number found to belong to Mr. Rivera. Another woman told an officer the man had a young, blonde in the car when she and a friend were approached.

Aiken police Lt. Robert Anderson said Mr. Rivera told him that he persuaded 17-year-old Tiffaney S. Wilson to get into his van Dec. 4, 1999, by offering her money to model for him.

Her body was found Dec. 28, 1999, in a wooded area off Bettis Academy Road in Aiken County. Lt. Anderson's testimony will be challenged by defense attorneys Peter Johnson and Jacque Hawk because Mr. Rivera's attorneys in Georgia were not consulted before Lt. Anderson's interview. He gained permission from an Aiken public defender who arranged the interview without Mr. Johnson's knowledge.

Warrants for Mr. Rivera's arrest in Ms. Wilson's slayings have been issued in Aiken County. Warrants also are on file in Aiken County for Mr. Rivera's arrest in the July 17, 1999, disappearance of 17-year-old Melissa F. Dingess. Her remains were discovered along Interstate 20 in Aiken County on the day investigators say Mr. Rivera told them where to look.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226.