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Sheriff David Gee: Arrest made in Avila double murder

2:52 PM, Jan 11, 2012   |    comments
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Video: Arrest made in Avila double murder


Tampa, Florida -- Julian Florez, the man accused of shooting and killing a prominent couple in their Avila home will remain in the Falkenburg Road Jail.

He appeared before a judge from the jail Wednesday morning. Judge Walter Heinrich told Florez through a translator, "The story you claimed is inconsistent with the physical evidence at the residence."

Detectives say Florez called 911 two minutes after neighbors reported hearing gunshots, claiming he had been attacked by an unknown male inside the house and bound in the bathroom.

Detectives found no evidence of forced entry.

While the evidence is great and presumption is great, it is still a circumstantial case at this point in time, so the judge ordered a pre-trial detention hearing for Friday at 10 a.m. to determine his bond, if he will get one.

Prosecutors have until 5 p.m. today to file for the hearing. At that hearing they can call witnesses and present evidence.

Florez is facing two counts of first degree murder for the shooting deaths of 76-year-old Hector Rivera and his wife, 55-year-old Debra Rivera.

He was the couple's driver/assistant for Debra Rivera's home business, Distinctive Creations.

Detectives say they recovered the gun they believed was used in the crime, which was registered to Florez.  Detectives also say they recovered ammunition in his vehicle at the house and a receipt from a local Walmart, showing he purchased that ammunition last month.

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee told reporters late last night that Florez was not in good standing with Debra Florez because she believed he was stealing from her.

Earlier story:

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tuesday night, a little more than 24 hours after the brutal crime happened, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said an arrest has been made in the double murder case of 76-year-old Dr. Hector Rivera and his wife, 55-year-old Debbie Rivera.

Sheriff Gee says the suspect, Julian Ospina Florez of Tampa, is someone who worked for Mrs. Rivera, who owned a high-end costume jewelry and designer handbag business. He also says the murder was premeditated.

Gee says, "It was a very brutal killing. He was definitely making sure that nobody left that residence."

Related Story: "This is unbelievable," says Rivera family member

Florez worked as a driver and assistant to Mrs. Rivera for her home business called "Distinctive Creations." Sheriff Gee says he'd help her at different jewelry parties and charity gatherings as well as jewelry shows across the state.

Florez and Mrs. Rivera had just returned from the Sarasota Ritz Carlton to replenish merchandise for her business. Gee says shortly after returning to the couple's million dollar home in the exclusive Avila community, Florez attacked Mrs. Rivera, shooting her multiple times with a 9 millimeter gun.

Dr. Rivera wasn't at home at the time, but was watching the National Championship football game with neighbors when he decided to bring some food home to his wife. That's when Sheriff Gee says Florez shot him in the driveway multiple times.

The sheriff says the suspect actually called 911 from the victim's home phone to tell dispatchers "that he was attacked by an unknown male inside the residence and he had been bound and forced into a bathroom."

But Sheriff Gee says there were no signs of forced entry. He says, "During the investigation, a firearm was discovered inside the residence. A database search of the firearm revealed that the firearm is currently registered to the defendant Florez. Also, a box of ammunition matching the same brand and caliber used during this incident was recovered inside the defendant's vehicle."

Gee adds, "A receipt was recovered from the defendant indicating that he'd purchased a box of ammunition from a local Walmart on December 7, 2011."

When asked about a motive in the case, Sheriff Gee says, "I will tell you the relationship between Mrs. Rivera [and Florez]...she'd become mistrustful of him. She had reported a theft a week or so ago at her residence of some jewelry that had been stolen. We know that he was not in good standing with her."  

He says they are investigating whether she confronted Florez before the shootings but he says Florez, "Has not been forthcoming with his interviews with us."

Sheriff Gee says Florez is from Columbia but has been a U.S. citizen for the past 10 years. He'd worked for the Rivera's for a year.

He was arrested Tuesday night and faces two counts of first degree murder with a firearm. He's currently being held at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office where he remains with no bond. He's set to appear for his first appearance in court on Wednesday, Jan. 11th at 7:30 a.m.

Tammie Fields and Laura Byrne, 10 News

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