A warrant officer stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, faces a general court-martial next year for the alleged murder of two toddlers he adopted in 2017, according to charge sheets.
Two years after the alleged murders, Warrant Officer 1 Anthony S. Rivera was also accused of sexual assault by a woman with whom he previously had a relationship, according to emails and other records obtained by Army Times.
When reached by Army Times via text message, Rivera provided contact information for his court-appointed attorney, who declined to provide public comment on his behalf.
Rivera is assigned to D Company, 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, charge sheets say.
Despite the murder charges, Rivera has never been confined by civilian or military authorities.
UCMJ expert and retired Navy Capt. Lawrence Brennan, a professor at Fordham Law School, explained that 82nd Airborne Division commander Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue can order pretrial confinement or other restrictions for Rivera as the court-martial’s convening authority. But Rivera would also be able to appeal the decision.
A division spokesperson said their decision not to jail Rivera is in line with normal practice.
“[I]n general, the determination to assign pretrial confinement under the rules for courts-martial is largely based on a Soldier’s likelihood to fail to appear at trial,” said Lt. Col. Brett Lea, the 82nd Airborne’s chief of public affairs. “Our commanders consistently examine whether pretrial confinement is warranted in any situation.”
“Due to the ongoing nature of this case, it would be inappropriate to discuss specific details regarding this pending trial,” Lea added. “As in all cases brought to court-martial, charges are merely accusations and the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Rivera and his wife adopted a two-year-old and a three-year-old toddler in April 2017, according to a military source familiar with the case who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Nine months later, both children were dead.
Their deaths occurred less than two months apart, the source said, and both kids had “similar” spinal injuries caused by blunt force trauma.
The charge sheet confirmed that the children died from blunt force trauma, though it did not specify how the injuries occurred. Rivera also allegedly failed to obtain medical care for the first child, according to the charge sheet.
The first death occurred at their home in Cameron, North Carolina, on Nov. 18, 2017, according to the charge sheet. The second toddler died there on Jan. 14, 2018.
The Army preferred charges against Rivera in March this year for the murder of his two adopted children, according to charge sheets. He was arraigned Aug. 18 at Fort Bragg.
A military source who was not authorized to officially discuss investigative details said that the investigation took so long because civilian authorities with Harnett County Sheriff’s Office initially took the lead on the case. Prosecutors for Harnett County ultimately declined to pursue the case and ceded it to CID in early 2020, the source said.
The same month Rivera was charged for the toddlers’ deaths, he also came under scrutiny for an alleged sexual assault incident.
A woman who previously had an intimate relationship with Rivera reported him to the Army for a coercive sexual encounter that occurred in February, according to documents provided to Army Times by the woman. The UCMJ considers it sexual assault when a servicemember utilizes coercion or blackmail to obtain consent for a sex act.
A CID investigation found probable cause that Rivera sexually assaulted the woman, according to April 21 emails sent from CID to her special victims’ counsel. However, there wasn’t probable cause to support other charges that involved allegations of stalking, the emails added.
Lea, the 82nd Airborne spokesperson, indicated that the Army may still court-martial Rivera for the alleged sexual assault, but there’s no charges filed as of yet.
“A final determination regarding alleged additional misconduct related to this case not been made,” he said. “However, all allegations of wrongdoing in the Division are treated seriously and are addressed accordingly.”
Pre-trial confinement is difficult to secure in the Army. But it wouldn’t have prevented the alleged assault in this case because the incident took place before the murder charges were preferred.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.