The Unanswered Questions of Unsolved Mysteries' Rey Rivera Episode

Unsolved Mysteries returned to life and its first episode about the death of Rey Rivera has many asking questions about exactly what happened.

By Chris Harnick Jul 08, 2020 1:30 PMTags
Unsolved MysteriesNetflix

Unsolved Mysteries returned to life with a new look, but the same hook: The stories at the center of the show don't have conclusive explanations for what occurred to the people profiled.

The first episode of the revived show, "Mystery on the Rooftop," told the story of Rey Rivera, his disappearance and subsequent death. Unsolved Mysteries co-creator Terry Dunn Meurer called it her favorite case of the new season.

"The Rey Rivera case is—out of all of those cases we've ever produced—is one of the most baffling. It is a real head-scratcher mystery," she told E! News. "I was very involved in that."

The episode charts Rivera's disappearance, the family's search for him and the struggle to clearly say how he ended up seemingly jumping to his death. His cause of death was left undetermined by the medical examiner, but police called it a suicide.

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According to Claudia, a houseguest and coworker of Rivera's wife Allison, Rivera received a call one evening in May 2006 and left the house in a rush. Who is this mysterious Claudia who played a pivotal role in recounting Rivera's final moments at home? She wasn't mentioned again in the series after relaying what she overheard, but Meurer said police talked to Claudia.

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"The great thing about Claudia is that if she hadn't been there, no one would know what happened to Rey. No one would know that he received that phone call and that he ran out of the house. She is a huge key to the investigation and to the, you know, the theory that there was foul play," Meurer said.

So, who called Rivera from work? What was up with the note that was found taped to his computer? These were all questions Meurer had herself. She even went up to the roof of the building Rivera's body was found in to see for herself.

"I tried to get to the roof—needed help finding the way to get to the roof, just as anyone would—and then being up on that roof, you just don't understand how Rey's body landed where it did. And there's so many pieces. Who was the person who called him that day to get him out the door? And what was up with the letter? Even though he did kind of write that way it wasn't so unusual, but, still, it was unusual where it was located...[The FBI] looked at it, and they said, 'No, it's not a suicide note.' Just so many questions, I guess, without answers in that case. So, I would say that that is one of the most intriguing mysteries we've ever told," Meurer said.

The mystery of his death only deepened after many questioned how he would have accomplished the leap, the placement of his flip-flops, and why his glasses and cell phone remained unscratched or broken. Where was the footage of him in the hotel? Where was footage of him on the roof? Meurer had the same question.

"Well, there's two theories...It's one of the things that was difficult to develop in the [episode], because the camera's back then, sometimes what they would do is after 72 hours, they would record over themselves. And there's a possibility that that could have happened," she said.

Meurer also noted Rivera's car wasn't found for six days after he was reported missing. Investigators didn't get the connection to the Belvedere until eight days after he went missing.

"So, there was no connection, nobody went back and looked at that footage until eight days later. There is one camera that was on the roof that was disconnected...Maybe it was a nefarious situation or maybe employees just went up there to smoke and didn't want to get caught," Meurer theorized. "There are different theories about that, but it is puzzling. And Gary Shivers, the concierge, he swears that when he got those tapes back from the police that they had been erased."

Unsolved Mysteries is asking for anybody with information on the disappearance of Rivera to contact authorities. Viewers can also submit tips to Should there be any changes in the case, Meurer said they'd like be shared via social media.

Get the scoop on why Unsolved Mysteries came back to life with all the changes below.

Why is now the right time to bring back the show?

"We had always wanted to bring it back ever since it went off the air. There's just so many stories unsolved, unsolved cases that still need to be told. We feel that the Netflix streaming service and its global reach was just the perfect fit for Unsolved Mysteries, because we want to tell international stories and we want to be able to solve cases that can be solved internationally," Terry Dunn Meurer said. "In the past, with the original episodes, there were cases, especially wanted fugitives or missing people, who we found in other countries. So the global reach is really, really important to the brand. I mean, mostly just because we've never lost our passion for solving mysteries. It's just— it's what we do. That's what we've done and what we want to continue to do."

Why isn't there a host?

"We had a lot of discussions about that and just didn't feel that anyone could fill Robert Stack's shoes. The documentary world these days is primarily host-less. It's rare to see a host in a show like this," Meurer said. 

When the original version was on, having a host was common, but the new episodes take a more documentary feel having "evolved beyond" the format featuring several cases per episode. "We included more archive, we used drone, we use steady-cam and tried to create a mysterious, creepy look using those...We didn't have those when we were doing this back in the day. [Laughs.] It was great to be able to use different equipment to create that mood as well," she said.

However, there is a Robert Stack Easter Egg

Robert Stack hosted the show from 1987-2002. The actor became synonymous with the show, so much so that they didn't feel like anybody could step into his shoes as serve as host. Virginia Madsen joined Stack as cohost in 1999 and when the show moved to Spike, Dennis Farina served as host. In the new opening credits on Netflix, Stack's image is seen over the title as an homage.

"I mean, he just brought so much to the [show]. He's one of the reasons I think it's so iconic and that it has been so successful all these years. He just was the perfect person to tell these stories. Such a beautiful, wonderful voice. He was very involved in the series too, he was a prince of a guy," Meurer said.

Where did the reenactments go?

Along with losing the host and focusing on just one story per episode, the new Unsolved Mysteries scaled back on using the reenactments, despite how iconic some are from the original series. 

"One of the conscious decisions was to let the people who the mysteries are about, have them be their own storytellers. So, we use their voices a lot more than we did in the previous episodes. We tried to develop them as characters so that the audience gets to know them a little bit more than we did in the old show. Those are all the conscious decisions," Meurer said.

How will viewers get updates?

"I think that with social media, if there are updates to these cases, I think we'll have to probably push them out on, on social media, and news and YouTube. We want to keep the shows as fresh as we can…So, I think we would certainly start with social media and because the shows are in...[20 languages] or something, there's a challenge of getting that information out to all the different countries because it's international," Meurer said. "We would leave that to Netflix to figure out how to do that, but we definitely want to keep the world updated on any leads that come along on these cases.

Why do audiences keep coming back?

The main difference between Unsolved Mysteries and traditional true crime is what the very title of the show describes: "I think it's because the cases are unsolved," Meurer said.

"I think that it's a lot of the true crime that's out there, they're retelling cases that have already been adjudicated and have been solved. Our show, it's intriguing. It's intriguing on a different level. And I think there's a hope that the audience has, there's certainly a hope that the people that are involved in the episodes have that the cases will be solved. When we first started Unsolved Mysteries, we weren't sure that the audience was going to hang in there for four stories in one hour of where none of them have endings...We had our doubts about that, but then when the show started solving cases and we could put updates in, I think that's also what is intriguing, is that these cases actually could get solved. It gives people hope," she said.

Unsolved Mysteries is now streaming on Netflix.

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