Originally created 01/15/04

Survivor recounts assault



Prosecutors expect to introduce today evidence of two other slayings, those of Tiffaney S. Wilson, 17, who disappeared Dec. 4, 1999, and Melissa Dingess, 17, who disappeared July 17, 1999. The remains of both teenagers were found in Aiken County.

"I had a bad feeling about him, a real bad feeling," Chrisilee Barton said of Reinaldo Rivera while testifying Wednesday in Richmond County Superior Court.

What started as a chance encounter with Mr. Rivera in a Belvedere parking lot the morning of Oct. 10, 2000, developed into talk of photographing her for a modeling agency, she testified Wednesday.

She was reluctant, telling him, "With my luck you will take me somewhere and try to kill me," Ms. Barton said she told him. But she relented, and in separate cars they drove to her south Augusta home.

It was there that police say Mr. Rivera raped and stabbed Ms. Barton, who was 18 at the time. She survived the ordeal and her description of her attacker led to Mr. Rivera's arrest.

Mr. Rivera, 40, has pleaded innocent to 14 criminal charges related to the sexual assaults of three women in Augusta, including Ms. Barton, and the strangulation death of Army Sgt. Marni Glista.

Typically The Augusta Chronicle does not identify rape victims but Ms. Barton discussed her attack with The Chronicle. Her story and her photograph were previously printed in the newspaper.

On Wednesday, Ms. Barton gave the following account in testimony:

Mr. Rivera's attack on her began when he grabbed her from behind and locked one arm around her neck. In the other hand, he held a knife. She tried to grab the knife but lost consciousness. But she would come to three times.

The first time, she was on a bedroom floor, lying on her stomach as Mr. Rivera sexually assaulted her.

"(Mr. Rivera) was talking about how he - I - thought it felt good," Ms. Barton testified. He told her he would be coming back for her mother next.

"He made me kiss him and after that I passed back out."

The second time she regained consciousness, she had something the size of a baseball shoved into her mouth and she was being raped.

"He was talking about it feeling good to me. He thought I liked it.

"He was doing whatever he wanted to," she testified.

"The last time I woke up ... I thought it was just a dream, but something said it wasn't a dream and I had to get up."

When she tried to stand, she fell, saw blood dripping from her body and reached up to pull a blood-soaked towel from her neck. She managed to crawl to the phone and call 911, and broke a window to attract deputies' attention when they went to the wrong apartment.

She had been stabbed in the neck three times, once deep enough to cut through a jugular and cause permanent nerve damage, her surgeon would later tell the jury.

Throughout Ms. Barton's testimony, Mr. Rivera sat in the courtroom with his shoulders hunched forward and his head down.

"Mr. Rivera instructed us to waive the cross-examination," defense attorney Peter Johnson told the judge when it was the defense's turn to question Ms. Barton. Mr. Rivera insisted, although he and attorney Jacque Hawk advised against it, Mr. Johnson told the judge.

Also Wednesday, doctors testified about another of his alleged victims, Army Sgt. Marni Glista, 21, who was found barely alive inside her Oakridge Drive home Sept. 5, 2000.

After Mr. Rivera was arrested in the attack on Ms. Barton, he told investigators he was responsible for Sgt. Glista's death too. Although Ms. Barton had put up a fight, Sgt. Glista was passive, he told detectives.

But late Tuesday and again Wednesday, the Richmond County Superior Court jury saw photographs taken of Sgt. Glista's body, of the flesh torn from her wrists, and the bruises and abrasions on her face, limbs, and torso. The jury also saw the close-up photographs of the ligature mark in a perfect circle around Sgt. Glista's neck, just like the mark in the photograph taken of Ms. Barton after she was attacked.

Sgt. Glista didn't die immediately from the strangulation, testified Dr. Mark Newton, the medical director of Doctors Hospital's emergency room. Based on the degree of brain damage he saw Sept. 5, 2000, he believed Sgt. Glista had been dying slowly during the 24 hours, he testified.

But it was the other injuries that caught him and the ER staff off guard, Dr. Newton testified. The abrasions on Sgt. Glista's body were so severe he compared them to second-degree burns, and they indicated she had struggled over a long period of time. They signified an "exceptionally painful experience," he testified.

"You see a lot in the emergency room," Dr. Newton said and then paused. "This one was especially difficult even for a fairly jaded emergency staff."

If convicted of murder in Sgt. Glista's death, Mr. Rivera will face three possible punishments - life in prison with or without the possibility of parole, or death.

In addition to the murder charge in Richmond County Superior Court, Mr. Rivera also is charged with three counts of rape, four counts of aggravated sodomy, four counts of aggravated assault, and single counts of burglary and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime.

Mr. Rivera is accused of murder in Columbia County, where the remains of Tabitha L. Bosdell were found, and in Aiken County, where the remains of Tiffaney Wilson and Melissa Dingess were found in 1999.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.