There were many things that Nicole Montalvo regretted about her marriage to Christopher Otero-Rivera, but she was very thankful for one thing that had come out of their ill-fated match.
Their relationship had given her the most important thing in her life – her eight-year-old son.
Nicole, 33, had finally broken free from Otero Rivera after years of abuse by her husband.
In a horrible twist of fate, Nicole was forced to leave her husband of 33 years.
Otero-Rivera had been involved with other women and was fighting Nicole for custody. Otero-Rivera and his girlfriend at that time allegedly lured Nicole into a remote location.
Otero Rivera allegedly beat Nicole several times and threw her to his death. She was badly beat and gagged with a rag in her mouth. Nicole stated that her ex attempted to break her neck and then released her from his grasp, robbing Nicole.
Terrified and bleeding, Nicole claimed that her ex threatened to kill her if she went to the police. Nicole reported the incident to authorities, even though she was terrified by the threat of repercussions.
Otero Rivera was initially arrested for domestic abuse and kidnapping. However, she later pleaded guilty in a lesser case to battery and unlawful possession of a card.
After receiving credit for time served, Nicole’s abuser spent just eight months in prison and was released on probation. An electronic tag was attached to his ankle to help him keep track.
He wasn’t allowed to contact Nicole except through a parenting app – which allowed them to make arrangements for their son.
Nicole believed it was in the boy’s best interests to see his father. She was certain that her ex was trying to kidnap her son, but she was still adhering to the court agreement.
Loved ones said that Nicole had finally broken free from her husband’s control and wanted to move on. Her son was in school and she was earning money at a pizzeria. He was everything she cared about.
She confided to friends that Otero Rivera and Angel Luis Rivera (now 66) were planning to take custody of her little boy.
She believed that they’d tried to hack into her social media account to obtain a naked photo of her in an attempt to discredit her. What she didn’t know, was that they’d also offered people money to plant drugs on her – and worse still.
On 21 October 2019, Nicole dropped her son off to see Otero-Rivera at his parents’ house in St Cloud, Florida. The next day she was due to pick her child up from school, but she didn’t appear. Rivera, Nicole’s grandfather, picked up the boy and claimed that Nicole had asked him to.
Nicole was reported missing.
Rivera claimed that Nicole had asked him and Wanda to care for their grandson for just a few days. “I’m really sorry about everything,” It said.
“I should have listened to you. I made a bad mistake. I need you and Wanda to take care of [my son] for a few days until I get things figured out… I am with a friend that is going to help me through this. Tell [my son] Mommy loves him.”
However, Nicole hadn’t told anyone else that she was going away, and officers suspected the text was sent by someone else – but who? More disturbingly, records showed that Nicole’s mobile phone had never left her former father-in-law’s home.
A witness said that they’d seen an excavator digging at the property, but while usually Nicole’s son would join them working on the land, his grandmother had kept him away. They had thought it was unusual.
Four days after she vanished, investigators found Nicole’s body parts buried at Rivera’s house – and at another of the family properties.
Rivera rented an excavator to cover her mutilated corpse. It had been burnt and then cut into pieces. Otero-Rivera’s ankle monitor placed him at the scene as well.
Investigators believed Nicole had been ambushed, killed and buried at the hands of the father and son – because she was an obstacle to Otero-Rivera gaining custody.
Two men were arrested for second-degree murder, abusing a body and evidence manipulation. They both pleaded not guilty
and hired separate legal teams – while they blamed each other for Nicole’s murder.
At the trial in April this year, the defence said that despite Nicole being found on the family’s property, the evidence was “circumstantial”. They said that Nicole could have been killed on the spot and there would have been even more blood.
Otero-Rivera’s lawyer laid the blame firmly with his father.
“He was unquestionably the boss of the Rivera family,” According to the lawyer. “He controlled things. He manipulated things.”
The prosecution said that Otero-Rivera and his dad were willing to do anything to get Nicole’s son and wanted her to “disappear”. Witnesses testified that they’d been asked to plant drugs on Nicole. While two others told the court they’d been offered money to
A crime scene technician described the gruesome task of searching a trailer that contained some of Nicole’s remains.
“Immediately upon discovering the fleshy material, a foul odour was present,” She told the court. “A very strong odour, and in addition to that, flies began coming to the area.”
The cutting up of the body had been so extreme that a medical examiner couldn’t say how Nicole was killed. She had been “dismembered to a level she had never seen before”, so the death certificate could only list the cause of death as “homicidal violence of unspecified means”.
After a two-week trial, the jury deliberated for just 90 minutes. Both men were found guilty on all charges.
Nicole’s family gave emotional victim impact statements during sentencing in July and shared how devastating her death had been. Nicole’s sister Christina said the grieving process is “never-ending”.
“When people ask me what happened to Nicole, I always say she passed away from an act of domestic violence,” She stated. “It physically pains me to say my sister was murdered by her estranged husband… and his father.”
Nicole’s twin brother, Edward Montalvo, said the family had constantly begged her to leave her husband but when she did, she was “butchered and discarded like she never mattered”. It was deeply upsetting to them that Nicole’s remains were burned, and that several parts were still missing.
The judge agreed that this was a very disturbing case. “I cannot ignore the brutality of your efforts to cover up that crime – and the
pain that it brought to the family as they desperately searched,” He told Otero Rivera and his father.
Both men were sentenced for murder and 20 years each for other charges, including abuse of a body or evidence tampering.
Nicole’s son is now being raised by his maternal grandparents.
The little boy lost his mother who tried to provide the best possible life for him. He might find out one day that his struggle to keep him safe ended in brutal violence.
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