Escaped killer Hector Manuel Rivas was a good cook, a helpful man and a gentle lover, according to a woman who spent three days with him.
“I’m a rafter,” Rivas told the mother of two last week after they were introduced by a neighbor. “Could I stay here until tomorrow?”
The woman accepted, and her life hasn’t been the same since.
“I slept with an assassin,” said the woman, who asked the Miami Herald not to publish her name because she is married. Her husband is working in California.
Rivas, 32, is one of five men who dug out of the Glades Correctional Institution near Belle Glade, Fla., on Jan. 2. Rivas was arrested Wednesday. Florencio Alvarez, 39, and Jesus Martinez, 47, have also been caught. A fourth escapee, Armando Junco, 62, was shot and killed by police. Only Juan Jesus Fleitas, 30, remains at large.
Doyle Jourdan, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s regional office in Miami, refused to discuss the woman’s story.
This is her story, which has been verified by two law enforcement sources.
The evening of Jan. 5, a neighbor named Tony knocked at her door with Rivas. Tony introduced Rivas as his long-lost cousin, a recent arrival from Cuba who needed a place to stay for the night.
“My name is Octavio,” Rivas said in Spanish, extending his hand.
The woman said she allowed Rivas to stay because Tony was a “trusted friend from the neighborhood.”
At dinner time, the woman prepared Rivas a plate of pork chops, yellow rice with mixed vegetables and soda. “He ate very well,” she said. “He had a great appetite and wonderful table manners. He knew which fork and knife to use.”
Rivas played games with the woman’s two young boys, huge fans of the Power Rangers. They listened to Spanish music on the radio. Soon, the boys went to sleep in their mother’s bed. She closed the bedroom door.
Rivas and the woman sat next to each other on her living room couch with the windows open so the breeze could cool the apartment.
“I miss Cuba,” Rivas said. “I have two daughters over there, and I really need them.”
It was near midnight. Rivas and the woman kissed. They moved to the living room sofa bed.
“We made love,” she recalled. “He was very gentle, very kind.”
Afterward, she went to sleep in the bedroom with her children. “I don’t allow any man other than my husband in our bed,” she said.
The next morning, Rivas cooked fried eggs for the boys and prepared bowls of corn flakes. He then washed and dried the dishes, swept the floor and helped wash and fold the laundry.
Then he told her: “Tony’s not my cousin. I’ve only known him for several hours. I live on Miami Beach but my roommate is not home. I hope you forgive me.”
The woman said she did. “He seemed sincere.”
Rivas neglected to say that he drowned a boat captain in 1993.
Later that morning, another escapee, Jesus Martinez, stopped by with Tony. He brought Rivas some cigarettes and a large can of shaving cream.
When Rivas was not walking around East Little Havana, the woman said, he sat on her couch and listened to the radio with his eyes closed. By Friday evening, the woman began to wonder why he wasn’t leaving for Miami Beach. She was afraid to ask, so she called Tony.
“I want him to leave,” she told Tony, who said he didn’t know Rivas or Martinez was an escapee. “Tell him my husband is coming back to town.”
Friday night, Rivas agreed to leave. He and the woman slept apart.
The next morning, she wrote her phone number and “I love you” on a scrap of paper. He placed it in his pocket. They hugged at the front door.
“I’m never going to forget what you’ve done for me,” Rivas said, holding her close.
Four days later, police called her. They had arrested Hector Manuel Rivas.
“Who?” she said.