Eric Rivera’s own words, hatching a plan to tamper with a key witness in the Sean Taylor slaying, came back to haunt him Wednesday.
Jurors heard from a letter written by Rivera while in jail, in which he instructed his cousin in Fort Myers to persuade the witness, Areyale Boston, to lie to police.
“Ya’ll just handle Areyale ASAP and I’ll be straight,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Reid Rubin said, reading Rivera’s letter aloud in court.
Rivera, 23, is accused of gunning down the former University of Miami and Washington Redskins football star during a botched burglary in November 2007. Prosecutors say Rivera and four pals drove in a rented SUV from Fort Myers to Palmetto Bay, looking for a stash of cash.
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Rivera, surprised that Taylor was home, fatally shot Taylor just outside the master bedroom, according to prosecutors. Rivera, in a video-taped statement not yet presented in court, confessed in detail to the murder, authorities say.
Cellphone and toll records place the group of friends in South Miami-Dade at the time of the shooting. Boston, a friend of the group, testified Tuesday that the young men all showed up together to her home in the rented SUV, soon after the homicide, at about 3 a.m. She also testified that they ditched tools — police believe they were used to break into Taylor’s home — outside her home.
Police came into possession of Rivera’s letter by pure chance.
Lee County deputies testified Wednesday that months after Rivera’s 2007 arrest, they tried pulling over a car for speeding in Fort Myers. Rivera’s cousin, Jairus Brice, the passenger, leaped from the car and ran away.
When a deputy caught him, he found the letter in the man’s back pocket. He saw the word “murder” in the first few lines and turned the letter over to Miami-Dade homicide detectives.
Rivera’s DNA was found on the seal of the envelope.
In the letter, which had been kept by the court under seal until Wednesday, Rivera did not admit to the killing, but acknowledged that Boston’s testimony was “gonna hurt the worst.” He told Brice to schmooze Boston, suggesting if she didn’t change her story she would run afoul of Brice’s “people.”
Rivera wrote that all he needed was for “Areyale to say the story I want her to say and the prosecutor won’t have no case against me.” He also wrote: “Check this out cuz, the murder case is the hardest case to get someone on. They ain’t got enough on me whatsoever. All they got is [my] statement.”
Rivera also instructed Brice to burn the letter.