Neighbors React to Double Homicide in Avila Subdivision

The community is reeling from the murders of Dr. Hector Rivera and his wife, Debbie.

On a beautiful, sunny morning in the exclusive Avila subdivision in north Tampa, residents are typically out walking, riding their bikes or jogging.

But this morning, the streets were mostly empty, except for the throng of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputies combing the exclusive neighborhood following last night's double murder of a Tampa Bay area physician and his wife.

The sheriff’s office received several calls reporting gunshots in the subdivision just before 8 p.m. on Jan. 9. When a deputy responded, he found the bodies of Dr. Hector Rivera, 76, and his wife Debbie, 55, in their home at 814 Taray De Avila.

Hector Rivera was found in the front yard, Hillsborough County Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said at an 11:30 a.m. press conference Tuesday. Debbie Rivera was found inside the home in a bathroom, Carter said.

Once detectives got inside the residence, it was obvious it was a homicide, Carter said.

Dive teams will continue to search the lake behind the Riveras home Tuesday, Carter said. Deputies also are searching the 11,000 square foot residence inch-by-inch.

So far, no motive has been determined, Carter said.

The crime scene is complex, Carter said, because of the size of the residence and because of where the bodies were found.

"We don't believe this is a random act," Carter said.

Deputies have spoken to some family members and it doesn't appear that anything was taken from the house, Carter said.

Neighbors shocked

Neighbors in the subdivision, which has upscale homes owned by prominent people such as former Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy, said that they are in disbelief.

The Riveras were good, involved, friendly people who had a lot of close friends, and their deaths are a tremendous loss, neighbors said.

Carol Childs, who runs the National Humane Society on Gunn Highway in Carrollwood, said Debbie Rivera owned a company called Distinctive Creations. Childs said Debbie Rivera contributed to fundraisers—one that was held at the Avila golf course—that helped fund the NHS, which is a nonprofit organization.

"She was very committed to her community," Childs said. "We knew we could count on her. She'll be dearly missed. The security there is very tight. This is shocking."

A 2006 feature in the Tampa Bay Times tells the story of how the Riveras met and introduced their daughter-in-law to their son, Hector Jr.

"She's not only a daughter-in-law to us; she's also one of our best friends," Debbie Rivera told the Times.

Security alert

The community gathered together once the alert came from security at about 10 p.m. last night. Neighbors were calling each other throughout the evening, checking on each other and making sure everyone was safe, they say.

Following the alert, security did what they were supposed to, one resident said, "That's the procedure. We know as residents that we're supposed to check our email for updates. They told us what to do and we did it."

On Tuesday, the streets were mostly empty, other than maintenance and construction workers. There were at least 40 deputies combing yards and knocking on doors along Avila Boulevard, the main thoroughfare through the neighborhood.  The perimeter around the Rivera's home was surrounded by sheriff's deputies.

A search warrant was obtained at about 3 a.m. to search the home. Because the occupants were deceased, the sheriff's office had to wait for the warrant before they could go into the residence, Carter said.

"It's going to be a lengthy investigation," Carter said. Deputies are looking for any type of evidence, anywhere, she said.

The investigation is too preliminary to be specific with regard to a suspect or suspects, Cater said, when asked by a reporter if they are looking for more than one person.

Deputies are reviewing the subdivision's security logs, which monitor the vehicles going in and coming out of the neighborhood, Carter said.

The sheriff's office is asking for any residents who may have seen anything unusual in the neighborhood last night to contact them, Carter said. They also are asking residents who have video surveillance on their homes, especially if the cameras face the streets, to please share the footage with the sheriff's office.

Check Patch for further updates.


Editor's note: This article was updated at 12:25 p.m. Jan. 10 to include information from a press conference held by Hillsborough County Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter.

David Qman January 11, 2012 at 03:35 PM
As usual, the weapon of choice is a gun because guns are the most effective weapon in a crime in terms of lethality, ease of use etc If every gun had the latest finger print technology­, guns would not be stolen and used in a crime or used by minors that result in tragic accidents. The government should ban all guns without the finger print technology and give legal gun owners free guns with the finger print technology installed. Furthermore­, all legal gun owners have to pass the latest government­-paid brain scan technology that scans for empathy and if the legal gun owner fails the test, he cannot own a gun and would be able to get a gun only when he passes the next annual government­-paid brain scan. Strict gun control does work as can be seen in countries like Singapore where homicides related to guns is 99 to thousands of times less than in the US since in certain years, there are zero homicides in Singapore that are related to guns compared to thousands of homicides per year in the US related to guns. Not only is Singapore strict with who gets guns, the fact that AK-47 assault rifle prices are much higher in Singapore than other countries with strict gun control, shows that the supply of AK-47 assault rifles is limited in Singapore probably due to gun control laws being strictly enforced
johns123123 January 11, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Maybe it was OJ. He's done it once...
Arlene Tetreault January 11, 2012 at 06:24 PM
I see things in terms of comments and feedback haven't improved much since last night. Gotta tell ya, though, I did laugh when I saw the comment, "OJ did it"! Sorry, I tend to get kinda stupid when hearing about tragic stuff....it has always been my defense. Today is gonna be real tough for the family and friends; by now some of the denial has lifted. God be with all who were in the lives of Dr. and Mrs. Rivera; may God rest their souls.
TAMPA NATIVE January 14, 2012 at 02:01 AM
As a Tampa native although these are nice people. No one is above reproach. Debbie was her husband's medical assistant and then became his wife. He was a married man with three children. Their son, is not his only child as he was 21 years older than she was. I don't believe that he would kill her over the theft of jewelry. The typical thing to do is either face up to it or return it. Not murder you employer and then her spouse. I too believe that this is some sort of love triangle.
Devin Johnson February 05, 2012 at 08:27 AM
i find that it is sickening for someone to take a life that they did not give. i just dont see how the killer found it in their heart to do such a thing. I am very sorry for your lost and my prayers go out to the family.


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