RIVERVIEW — Detectives searched late Monday for a man they say killed his sister and mother, a retired police records clerk.
Jovany Edgardo Rivera, 28, wanted on two counts of second-degree murder, was last seen leaving the apartment he shared with Sara E. Rivera, 50, and Yesenia Ashley Rivera, 18, who were found dead Monday, Hillsborough County sheriff's authorities said.
For 27 years, Sara Rivera was a Miami police records clerk on whom officers and crime victims alike depended and leaned.
She greeted Cmdr. Delrish Moss with a hug, kiss and the salutation, "Mossy baby," and her warmth extended to the public.
"Just a great representative of the Police Department," Moss said.
In the South Florida office where Rivera worked until her 2006 retirement, employees wept openly Monday upon hearing that homicide could have claimed one of their own.
Deputies found the bodies of Rivera and her daughter after a 10:40 a.m. emergency call brought them to apartment 203 at 10118 Majestic Palm Circle.
Deputies visited the apartment twice on Sunday night to check on the well-being of the women in the Rivera home. But neither Sara Rivera or Yesenia Rivera was present, said Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway.
"It's freaky," said neighbor Gabriella Bendeck, 18. "I just want to know what happened, since I live really close."
James Mechlin's apartment shares a wall to the Rivera home. The 26-year-old said detectives asked him whether he'd heard any gunshots around 8 p.m. Sunday. He said he was home but heard nothing. He said they also asked him whether he'd seen a woman walking a dog. He said he hadn't.
Jovany Rivera has been arrested at least nine times on drug, burglary and other charges in South Florida and Hillsborough, according to a state arrest report.
He was last arrested on May 1, charged with misdemeanor loitering or prowling and carrying a concealed weapon. He had been looking through windows of Riverview homes about 3 miles from his own, according to an arrest report.
Jeannette Jones said Rivera tried to stare through her curtained window for what seemed like five minutes while her Shih Tzu scratched to get out the front door.
Jones said her husband went outside and questioned Rivera, who said he had just moved from Miami and wanted to see what area houses were like. He came up with an excuse when asked why a Realtor wasn't with him, she said.
A few minutes later, Jeannette Jones got in her car and saw Rivera doing the same thing five houses down, so she called 911.
A sheriff's deputy caught up with Rivera and discovered a kitchen knife with a 3-inch blade hidden under his shirt and boxers during a patdown, the arrest report said. After telling some inconsistent stories, Rivera admitted to looking into houses, the report stated.
Hillsborough court records show that he was found guilty of loitering or prowling and sentenced to time served in jail.
State arrest records say he worked as a laborer, although a jail booking sheet lists him as unemployed. In 2007, a woman with the same last name filed a domestic violence injunction against him.
Sara Rivera's children often visited her at work at the Miami Police Department over the years. Everyone seemed friendly, said Moss, who didn't remember much about her son.
Sara Rivera didn't share too many details about her retirement plans with fellow employees, Moss said, but every Saturday she called clerks she once worked with to stay in touch.
She was steady and dependable, Moss said. She often stood up from behind the counter to give officers hugs and mingled with co-workers every afternoon as she washed out her Cuban coffee pot.
Times researcher John Martin and writer Stephanie Bolling contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3368.