This first episode of Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries reboot gripped me from start to end. Let’s dive into the unsolved mystery behind the death of Rey Rivera.

First, some details on the Rey Rivera case for those who haven’t watched the episode. 

Rey Rivera and his wife Allison were living in Baltimore at the time of his disappearance. Rey was a screenwriter by passion, but had been working with his close childhood friend Porter Stansberry at Porter’s publishing company, Stansberry Research. Primarily, Rey wrote investment reports. One of these reports (not written by Rey) had previously gotten Stansberry into some legal hot water — their advice was judged to be fraudulent, leading to some hefty fines. At the time he disappeared, Rey had ended his official tenure at Stansberry, though was still working as a freelancer for the business. He and Allison were also intending to return to southern California soon so that Rey could refocus on screenwriting.

Everything changed on the night of May 16, 2006.

That morning, Allison Rivera had left on a business trip, leaving Rey Rivera at home. He wasn’t alone, though. Allison’s colleague, a woman named Claudia, was staying over. Allison went through her day. In the evening, she called Rey and was surprised when he didn’t pick up. So she called Claudia, who told her that around 6:00 that evening Rey had received a phone call and left the house in a hurry. Allison didn’t necessarily think much of it. 

But in the morning, she got a call from Claudia, who told her that Rey hadn’t come home. This struck Allison as strange and uncharacteristic of her husband. So she drove home. 

Here’s my first question. By the time Allison arrived home, Claudia was gone. The lights were still on and there was food on the counter. (At least this is how the episode describes it.) I suppose that Claudia had to rush to catch a flight and couldn’t wait for Allison, and also that she didn’t feel comfortable turning off the lights in, say, the master bedroom and in Rey’s study. I still find it a little strange that she would have left without switching off some lights or cleaning up the counter. But this is a very small point.

Rey Rivera was gone, as well as his car, keys, and phone. Allison began to panic. She called Rey’s mother to see if she’d been in touch with Rey, but she hadn’t. She called Rey’s brother Angel. And she called Porter, Rey’s best friend. By the next day, a whole team had assembled to search for Rey.

His car turned up first. Allison’s parents found it while checking lots in downtown Baltimore. It was parked in a lot not far from the old Belvedere Hotel — by then converted into condominiums — which was, in turn, not far from the Stansberry headquarters. There were no signs of foul play in or on the vehicle. It had a ticket showing that it had been parked the night Rey disappeared, May 16. 

Allison, Porter, and Angel decided that it was a good idea to search the Belvedere. Porter had enlisted the help of Stansberry employees. It was a few of these employees who noticed a hole in the roof of one of the structures adjoining the Belvedere. They alerted the concierge of the Belvedere, who went into the conference room with the hole in its ceiling. There, he found the decomposing corpse of Rey Rivera on May 24, eight days after Rey had gone missing. 

Rey Rivera and his wife Allison

The body seemed to have fallen a great height, and had at some point — either in the fall or before it — suffered extreme injury. The only injury the medical examiner found inconsistent with the fall were breaks in the shins. But there were a number of problems with the theory that Rey had flung himself off the roof of the Belvedere or of the neighboring garage structure. The location of the hole was such that it would be impossible to land there from either of those two locations. The only remaining possibility was that Rey had thrown himself from a ledge on the eleventh floor of the Belvedere. But the ledge wasn’t easily accessible and would have been difficult to balance on besides.

Found on the roof of the conference room, near the hole, were Rey’s glasses and his cell phone. Miraculously, both were completely unscathed. This caused the lead detective on the case to believe they had been planted at the scene. Though the Baltimore PD’s stance leaned towards suicide from the get-go, the detective wasn’t sure.

He had traced the phone call Rey had received on the evening of Mat 16 back to Stansberry and Associates. But because it had come from the switchboard, he couldn’t tell who had placed the call. And by now, Rey’s best friend Porter had clammed up and even issued a gag order on his employees, making it impossible for them to speak to the police without facing repercussions. I’ll talk a little more in a bit about why I think Porter’s attitude changed so quickly. 

One last note: The search had turned up exactly that, a note that had been taped to the back of Rey’s computer. It had been shrunken down, and made little sense. To me, it seemed like the kind of written rambling you might expect from someone having a schizophrenic or psychotic break. It contained a list of movies, most with a strong cryptic element to them, as well as what seemed to be dialogue — and lots of references to Freemasons. It also featured a list of various important people in Rey’s life. The assumption was that it was written by Rey, which no one has really challenged. The only fact I saw against that was that Allison was surprised he typed it out instead of handwriting it. The note was handed over to the FBI, who determined that it did not display suicidal intent. Based on this evidence, as well as the injuries inconsistent with falling, the medical examiner marked Rey’s cause of death as undetermined, meaning that the case would stay open.

Possible scenarios that could have led up to the death of Rey Rivera

Because there’s so little evidence in this case, there are a lot of ways this could go.

We can know with reasonable certainty that the caller on the evening of May 16 worked for Stansberry and Associates, since the call was placed from Stansberry and Associates. We also know for a fact that Rey Rivera knew the caller, because it’s highly unlikely that he would have rushed out of the house after getting a call from a stranger. 

We know that Porter and Allison were both out of town when Rey died, which clears both of them of any direct guilt in the matter. (Not that I necessarily suspect either, but just to set the record straight.)

We know that twice in the weeks leading up to Rey’s death, the alarm had gone off. Allison noted that Rey came rushing out with a bat, and she saw fear in his eyes. She believes, for this reason, that he had “turned over a stone he shouldn’t have turned over,” and that he was murdered. 

However, I think that this paranoia could also point to a personality shift that might signify an impending psychotic break, which could have led Rey to compose the bizarre note and to commit suicide. This is just one possibility, though. One of the first thoughts I had when I saw the hole was that Rey had been dropped straight out of a helicopter onto the conference room roof, since it seems unlikely to me that he pitched himself off either the upper roof of the Belvedere or the lower roof of the garage neighboring the conference room. Theorists on Reddit have pointed out the mention of the movie The Game in Rey’s note. The Game involves a man who is convinced to jump off a roof, but he doesn’t die because he lands on an air cushion after falling through a glass ceiling. The conference room Rey landed on did once house a swimming pool, and it is an unlikely although distinct possibility that he and whoever helped him go off the edge may have believed that the pool still existed there. 

A lot of people have pointed fingers at Porter Stansberry, Rey’s friend. Some have gone as far as to say they think the men had a romantic relationship. I don’t necessarily see this, although of course it’s possible. In terms of why Porter started out helpful and turned unhelpful as the case progressed, I believe that he became aware of something around the time Rey’s body was discovered that made him believe that either he or his company had a hand of guilt in the matter of Rey’s death. Here is my basic run-down of what I believe happened (minus the exact mechanics of Rey’s death):

Rey receives the call, which summons him to the Belvedere. He arrives and whatever leads to his death ensues. 

Porter receives a call from Allison. She tells him that Rey is missing. He assumes that Rey is just missing, and helps out with the search, even offering a financial reward to anyone who comes forward with a tip. 

Rey’s body is discovered. At around the same time, someone makes Porter aware of the fact that somebody within Stansberry and Associates was involved in Rey’s death. (Either killed him, led him to his death, or Rey got into hot water for something he’d done at Stansberry.) Porter clams up and issues the gag order to prevent further losses to his company. (He was likely worried about facing the same sorts of fines he’d faced in the previous SEC lawsuit about the fraudulent investment advice.) And Rey’s death remains a mystery. 

Two things that I think could change the course of the case and lead to a solution:

The discovery of Rey’s card carrier, a silver accessory given to him by Allison that he wore on his person at all times. He kept his IDs and credit cards there. It was not discovered with his body, nor with his glasses and phone on the roof, nor in his car, nor was it found in his home. It seems likely, therefore, that it was taken by someone, and that whoever took it must have had some kind of involvement in his demise. 

An identification for the caller would also help to lead towards a solution. If we knew the caller’s identity, we might be able to figure out their motive for calling Rey and summoning him to the Belvedere. (If in fact he ever went to the Belvedere. I will note here that none of the cameras captured footage of him, although the rooftop camera was broken.)

Barring those two pieces of evidence (or a proper decryption of his note, if in fact it is encrypted), it seems likely that the intricacies of the death of Rey Rivera will remain unsolved. 

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