A missing Baltimore man was puzzlingly found dead in a local hotel in 2006, but a bizarre note added even more mystery to the baffling case.
The perplexing death of 32-year-old Rey Rivera, whose body was discovered at the Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore in 2006, is examined in the first episode in the new reboot of “Unsolved Mysteries.”
According to family and friends, Rivera vanished shortly after receiving a seemingly urgent phone call — later traced by police to the research and publishing firm Stansberry and Associates, where Rivera’s best friend Frank Porter Stansberry had hired him — which prompted him to rush out of his home.
His car was later found in a parking lot near the Belvedere Hotel, which led authorities to search the area. Eight days after Rivera vanished, his damaged flip-flops were spotted on the hotel's lower roof, next to a hole in the structure. In the room below, investigators found Rivera's decomposed body, which had sustained brutal injuries including fractured ribs and punctured lungs. Because the roof was metal, investigators believe he crashed through it, like a projectile, possibly from a fall. A camera that might have have captured the incident was disconnected when he died.
Rivera's cell phone and glasses were discovered near his noticeably damaged sandals. Strangely, the cell phone was still in working order and neither it nor his glasses had a scratch. While investigators theorized that Rivera may have died by suicide, his wife Allison and family maintained he wasn't suicidal. A medical examiner listed his cause of death as undetermined.
To add further mystery to this case, Allison discovered a note in Rivera’s office, folded up, tucked in plastic and then taped to the back of his computer screen, along with a blank check, WBAL-TV reported in 2007. Rivera, a writer and aspiring filmmaker, had typed up the multi-page note and then shrunk it down to a very small size and folded it; it was only a few inches wide. Allison told the producers of “Unsolved Mysteries” that she knows the note was written the day Rey vanished because there were scraps of it in the trash can.
It starts off: “Brothers and Sisters, right now, around the world volcanoes are erupting. What an awesome sight. Whom virtue unites, death will not separate.”
One of the pages of the note contained a list of names: celebrities who had died, as well as a list of some people Rivera knew on a personal level with a request for them to become five years younger. It also included a collection of movies that he liked, the significance of which still perplexes Allison. And it contained mentions of Wi-Fi, genetic engineering, bluetooth and airbags. Jayne Miller, a reporter at WBAL-TV, theorized that the note may have been written in code.
Was this code referencing the Freemasons, a secretive fraternal organization that's often the subject of conspiracy theories due to its perceived power?
“Because it [the note] was so weird, I just took that first sentence [referencing virtue] and laid it into Google search and the first thing that came up was Freemasons,” Allison explained.
One site that analyzes Masonic symbolism claims that "Whom virtue unites, death shall not separate” is the translation of the Latin motto “Virtus junxit mors non separabit,” which is sometimes found on Masonic rings.
“He definitely was, you know, kind of curious in just secret societies, the Freemasons,” Allison noted in "Unsolved Mysteries." “And, maybe he was looking to do a screenplay.”
The day he vanished, Miller reported for WBAL-TV that Rey had talked with a member of the Freemasons lodge in Maryland to see if he could join. That same day, he also bought the book “Freemasons for Dummies.” Miller learned that he was also reading "The Builders," another book on Masonry. In a 2018 book about the case, “An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere,” Allison said her husband had recently become fascinated with the Freemasons.
"Based on what we've seen, his interest in the Masonic order was not to do charitable work," Baltimore Police Commander Fred Bealefeld told WBAL-TV at the time. "Somehow it was linked to his interest in the movie industry and this theory that somehow there was control being exerted by the Masonic order."
He, like Miller, believes that the note found in Rivera's home was written in some sort of code.
The note was sent to the FBI which concluded it wasn't a suicide note. In addition to his family maintaining that he wasn't suicidal, “Unsolved Mysteries” pointed out that he would have had to take a running leap off the main roof to land where he did. It also wasn't an easy feat to simply make it up to the roof; it would involve knowledge of the building and possibly help from the staff. “An Unexplained Death” adds that Rivera also had a known fear of heights.
There were even more puzzling details: A money clip, a beloved gift from Allison that Rivera always had on him, was also nowhere to be found. No witnesses saw Rivera enter the hotel. Immediately after his body was located, a gag order was put on all employees at Stansberry and Associates and Stansberry himself never commented on the case. Stansberry's firm was no stranger to controversy. Before Rivera's hiring, the company, now known as Stansberry Research, was accused of fraud and a year after Rivera's death, Stansberry was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution and civil penalties for providing false stock information in their financial newsletter and defrauding public investors, the Baltimore Sun reported in 2007.
"Unsolved Mysteries" producer Terry Dunn Meurer told Oxygen.com that the note "still drives Allison crazy." She said she hopes that the episode, which hit Netflix on Wednesday, will result in more leads in the case.
"One of the things that we appreciate about the show is that it gives people hope," she said.
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