Trigger warning: Violence and a brief reference to suicide. In the first episode of Netflix's rebooted Unsolved Mysteries series (opens in new tab), the mysterious and tragic story of Rey Rivera—the 32-year-old writer who dreamed of starting a family with wife Allison Rivera (opens in new tab) and writing movie scripts—unfolds in detail. On May 16, 2006, Rivera received an urgent phone call and rushed out of the house. His body was found in an empty conference room of Baltimore's Hotel Belvedere a week later. The police have not identified any suspects in his death.
It appeared that Rivera had fallen, jumped, or been pushed from the upper roof, but the case was controversial and confusing from the start. Odd details included Rivera's unusual trajectory from the roof and a final note from Rivera (opens in new tab) with references to the Freemasons.
How did Rivera fall from Hotel Belvedere?
The coroner ruled the death "undetermined," and, according to Allison, said that Rey's injuries were not fully consistent with suicide. There were other odd details: It would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for Rey to have jumped off the upper roof and gone through the lower roof in the way he did. His phone was found on the roof, undamaged, and his flip flops were nearby—one of the straps had come off, but they were otherwise intact. Rey's family said he was not under any emotional distress or suicidal, and also noted that he was terrified of heights. The security video from the hotel was unavailable because of a technical error.
Why was Rivera behaving oddly before his death?
What's even stranger is that Rey's behavior before his death had become unusual. The alarm to their home was tripped twice in the weeks before he died, and Allison said he was clearly terrified.
Shortly before he died, Rey wrote a long, stream of consciousness note discovered by his family (opens in new tab), reports local station WBALTV, that may have been written in some kind of code and was ruled by the FBI not to be a suicide note:
The note was addressed to brothers and sisters and referred to a well-played game. It named people who had died, including actor Christopher Reeve and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. It also contained a long list of people Rivera knew and was related to, with a request to make them and himself five years younger. The note also introduced an element of the case that involved Rivera's apparent interest in the Free Masons. The note began and ended with phrases used in the Masonic order.
In regard to the "well-played game," a Reddit user posted to the r/UnsolvedMysteries subreddit—a channel that investigates disappearances and was inspired by the original Unsolved Mysteries series—theorizing that there's a connection between Rivera's death and the movie The Game. From the post, by user /zumalightblue:
I am watching the Rey Rivera episode on Netflix and what really caught my eye was the note Rey wrote on the day he died and he hid the note behind the computer. It had all these names of actors, his friends and family, quotes from free masons and a list of movies.
One of these movies was The Game. Immediately, I thought: OF COURSE! There is one big scene at the end of the movie where the main character jumped off the roof (!) of a fancy hotel and goes through the (glass) roof. The similarities to Rey are truly astonishing.
The whole movie is about this crazy game...that makes you think you lose everything in order to let you appreciate life again. Rey was an unsuccessful movie script writer and maybe he got involved in [something] that tried to imitate The Game in some way.
But co-creator Terry Dunn Meurer debunked this theory in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. (opens in new tab)
She's spent a lot of time with that note, as did the FBI, just going through the note trying to figure out if there were any clues or anything else in there. She doesn't place any significance on the movie The Game. Rey liked a lot of different types of movies. He was just a guy who was interested in everything. If he had only ever left just that writing or if it was the only thing he had ever written randomly, then people would be a little bit more suspect. But this is what he did all the time. He kept so many journals full of random writing. Allison feels that she's been through all the journals just trying to find any clue that could help her figure out what happened to him, and she couldn't find any real or strong connections in The Game.
Was Rivera connected to the Freemasons?
A few additional details weren't covered in the episode, which is interesting. There were more details on Rivera's interest in the Freemasons in a WBALTV (opens in new tab) report: "On the day Rivera disappeared, he'd talked with a member of the Maryland lodge to inquire about joining. On the weekend before his disappearance, he spent time reading the book The Builders, a study of masonry. On the day he disappeared, Rivera went to a bookstore and bought the book Freemasons for Dummies."
Rivera's death is also the subject of a book, An Unexplained Death, the blurb of which reads: "Mikita Brottman spent ten years sifting through the details of the missing man’s life and disappearance, and his purported suicide by jumping from the roof of her own apartment building, the Belvedere." The book dives into the Belvedere's dark history of suicide of its guests, although Brottman speculates that Rivera's death doesn't appear to be one.
Rey's brother Angel told the Washington Examiner (opens in new tab) that staff told him, apparently off the record, that Rey would have to be pushed to land in the way he did. "Apparently there is another set of doors to the roof, and their impression was that was more logical that he would have been pushed from there," he said.
Angel added that Rey's treasured money clip—referenced in the episode—has never been found. "It was a gift from Allison he carries with him all the time. She saw it that morning in his hand," Angel said. "It was a family heirloom."
Since the episode came out, numerous "credible" tips about Rey, among other cases covered in the series, have come in, according to the creators of the show, who say they have passed on all the information to the authorities.
This article has been updated. If you have information about Rivera's death, visit unsolved.com.
Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.
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