June 17, 2003- Federal authorities say evidence found in a car on St. Croix has led to what may be a major breakthrough in the investigation of the June 8 shooting death of Hector Luis Rivera. It also links the homicide to what U.S. Attorney David Nissman called one of the most "prolific" cocaine busts in Virgin Islands history.
In an affidavit in support of a search warrant filed in District Court on Friday and obtained by WVWI Radio on Tuesday, FBI special agent Robert F. Lasky said Rivera's death may have been the "payback" for his involvement as an informant in high-profile drug and money-laundering bust that took place in April. (See "Investigation nets eight arrests, $1 million".)
Rivera was shot more than a dozen times with high-powered rifles as he drove his girlfriend to her home; she also was critically wounded. According to the affidavit, Rivera had been identified by Craig Hendricks, whom it identified as the drug cartel ringleader, as one of the informants in the case. The affidavit says, in fact, that Hendricks, a St. Thomas business owner, had identified all of the informants.
Hendricks had told his own mother, according to Lasky's affidavit, that he would "pay back" Rivera, and that "what goes around, comes around twice."
Another St. Thomas man placed on St. Croix the day that Rivera was gunned down in the ambush-style shooting has been questioned by Lasky in the investigation.
The man, Cedric Rouse, is alleged to be a close friend and associate of Russell Robinson, a pilot and alleged co-conspirator arrested in the April raids.
Rouse was questioned by Lasky on June 13 in connection with reports by several witnesses of a reddish-brown car fleeing the Rivera shooting scene on Sunday, June 8. That fit the description of a 1994 Volvo 850 sedan belonging to the mother of Rouse's child.
Rouse made two trips to St. Croix over the weekend of June 6 on Friday, returning to St. Thomas on Saturday, and again on Sunday, returning to St. Thomas on Monday. The first trip, Rouse told Lasky, was to attend his daughter's graduation. There was no explanation in the affidavit for the second trip.
During both visits, Rouse stayed with his child's mother and used her car, it said. Investigators found three pieces of broken glass in the car that appeared to be from a vehicle other than the Volvo itself. The owner, when questioned, said Rouse "had used her vehicle to leave the house for food and other reasons during both visits," the affidavit stated. She also said her car had not been broken into, nor had it ever had a broken window. She told investigators she did not know where the glass came from.
Although a search warrant has been issued, Rouse was not in custody, nor had he been charged in the Rivera case as of Tuesday night.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.