TAMPA — When deputies found their murder suspect Tuesday, he was seated alone in a rear church pew.
Jovany Edgardo Rivera, 28, didn't resist.
He told them his name, raised his hands when ordered, then confessed to stabbing his mother and pregnant sister to death Sunday in an effort to end the "strife" between them.
Eighteen-year-old Yesenia Rivera and her mother, Sara Rivera, 50, were found dead Monday at the Riverview apartment at 10118 Majestic Palm Circle that all three shared.
Sara Rivera was a retired police records clerk. Yesenia Rivera was two months pregnant.
Hillsborough sheriff's Maj. Harold Winsett said Jovany Rivera calmly described to detectives how he slashed his sister to death Sunday evening, then turned his rage on his mother.
He said the two women had been bickering all day Sunday over Yesenia's pregnancy and the life changes it would bring.
"He saw this as a way to help end the arguing," Winsett said.
When he killed his sister, Winsett said, Rivera thought he was doing what his mother wanted.
Winsett wouldn't comment on how many times the pair had been stabbed, but said detectives took several weapons into evidence.
After the slayings, Winsett said, Rivera tried to clean the mess but found it impossible.
He handwrote a confession and fled, Winsett said.
Around 2 a.m. Monday, Jovany Rivera encountered his sister's boyfriend along Big Bend Road, near U.S. 301, and they got into an argument, Winsett said.
When a deputy showed up, the boyfriend said Rivera was keeping him from seeing his girlfriend.
Rivera told the deputy that his family didn't want anything to with the boyfriend because he had gotten the sister pregnant. In fact, Rivera said, his mother and sister had gone to Tampa.
Winsett said the deputy gave the boyfriend a ride back to his car, which was near the family's apartment, and knocked on the family's door. Getting no answer and having no reason to suspect a crime, he left.
Monday night, the boyfriend called Sara Rivera's sister, saying he was worried because Yesenia had not responded to his text messages since Saturday night.
She called deputies, who returned to the home and found the bodies and confession, Winsett said.
As deputies searched for Rivera Monday, he wandered through woods. Winsett said he slept on a bench took shelter at St. Anne's Catholic Church in Ruskin.
The husband of a sheriff's sergeant who happened to be at the church noticed a dirty, disheveled man behaving strangely, and called authorities, Winsett said.
Rivera was charged with two counts of second-degree murder and was held without bail.
His prior arrests include marijuana possession, grand theft, burglary, loitering and carrying a concealed weapon. None of his past charges indicate a pattern of violence.
Winsett said he did not know if there would be a third murder charge because Yesenia was pregnant, calling it "a complex legal issue" that will be left in hands of prosecutors, medical experts and the court.
Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3383.