As District Attorney Danny Craig argued to the jury that Mr. Rivera wasn't a sex addict who seduced four young women into modeling for him but a psychopath who abducted them to savagely rape, sodomize and butcher, Mr. Rivera fumed at the defense table.
It was the first time during 14 days of trial in Richmond County Superior Court that anger had flashed across his features, as first his neck then his face reddened and his jaw clenched hard.
"He wants you to think ... these women were just falling all over themselves to get to him," Mr. Craig said in his closing argument. The evidence, he said, pointed to something very different, especially in the case of Army Sgt. Marni Glista.
Think of the groceries, the frozen food items, left sitting on the front seat of her vehicle parked at her Oakridge Drive home, he said. Think of the unflushed toilet inside. The 21-year-old old soldier returned from buying groceries Sept. 4, 2000, and rushed inside to use the bathroom. Before she could finish, a sadistic psychopath who had stalked her from the grocery store parking lot was inside her home, Mr. Craig said.
If the jury convicts Mr. Rivera, 40, of murder today in the death of Sgt. Glista, his trial enters a second phase and the jury will be asked to set punishment - life in prison with or without the possibility of parole, or death.
Defense attorney Peter Johnson conceded Mr. Rivera's guilt - as co-counsel Jacque Hawk did last week in an opening statement - but asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty but mentally ill.
It won't excuse Mr. Rivera's crimes in any way or preclude the jury from considering any of the three sentencing options, Mr. Johnson said in his closing argument.
Mr. Rivera's crimes are horrid and he desperately wanted to stop, Mr. Johnson said. But he said the medical evidence presented during the trial showed that brain damage rendered Mr. Rivera incapable of choosing the right and just things in life.
He also repeated what Mr. Rivera told the jury Wednesday: that doctors could study Mr. Rivera's mental illness and perhaps find a cure and prevention one day.
"We want something good to come out of this, and that's why we talk of understanding," Mr. Johnson said. He asked the jury not to define Mr. Rivera as simply evil but as mentally ill.
Mr. Craig countered that the most credible medical opinions presented in court show that Mr. Rivera isn't legally mentally ill. He is just a psychopath who raped hundreds of women, killed four and tried to kill a fifth, Mr. Craig said.
To investigators and the jury, Mr. Rivera said he lured Melissa Dingess, Tiffaney Wilson, Tabitha Bosdell and Sgt. Glista into believing the same lie he gave his last victim, who nearly died Oct. 10, 2000 - a promise of modeling. He said he raped them because he was incapable of overcoming a sex addiction.
"All lies," Mr. Craig argued Thursday.
Mrs. Dingess, 17, was at a pay phone to call her mother for a ride home July 17, 1999. When Mrs. Wilson's husband found her car the day after she disappeared from a North Augusta grocery store parking lot Dec. 4, 1999, it wouldn't start. Ms. Bosdell, 17, was walking to work and would have to cross one of the most dangerous intersections in Augusta on June 29, 2000, Mr. Craig said. Mr. Rivera crossed each of their paths when they needed help.
Mrs. Wilson had just given birth two months before she disappeared.
"Tiffaney Wilson wasn't looking to model for anyone," Mr. Craig said.
Mr. Rivera also said she had stripped down to her underclothes and even removed them herself, although the slashed panties and bra prove Mr. Rivera cut the garments off of her, Mr. Craig argued.
Mr. Rivera is still lying, mocking and manipulating, Mr. Craig said.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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