If you are a suspect desperate not to get busted by police, an alligator-infested pond might seem like a good hiding spot — until it isn’t. Unfortunately for 22-year-old Matthew Riggins, this would be his last big mistake.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Riggins and an unnamed suspect traveled to Barefoot Bay, Florida, to commit burglaries between November 12 and 13. Somehow, the two men thought being clad in all black while creeping around the backs of houses in the late evening hours wouldn’t look remotely suspicious. A resident spotted them walking around the backs of houses along Tequesta Drive and decided to contact the police as a precaution.
The Sentinel said that the two men were spotted at Royal Palm Boulevard, but soon after fled. A pursuit of Matthew Riggins and his accomplice was unsuccessful. The second man was later identified by police, although he refuses to cooperate with their investigation.
Riggins would turn up days later, but under comparatively grim circumstances.
— David Nelson (@DavidNelsonNews) December 8, 2015
Deputies from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office stated that the last known contact anyone had with the escaped suspect was a phone call placed to his girlfriend. Riggins reportedly called her not long after he’d been spotted by authorities, informing her that he was on the run for attempted burglary.
The suspect was reported missing on November 13. Police searching the area around that time said that they heard yelling, but were unable to determine the source. The “source” was likely Matthew himself.
It turns out that in order to evade Brevard County officials, he decided the best place to hide was near Barefoot Bay lake. This would seem like a good idea, given the fact that police were unable to locate him. Unfortunately, this also meant that there was no help for the startled suspect when an 11-foot alligator grabbed a hold of him.
The suspect is thought to have screamed for help, but his cries went unanswered because no one could find him or knew exactly where he was hiding. The alligator is believed to have drug the man to the depths of the pond, where he drowned.
— Slate (@Slate) December 8, 2015
USA Today reports that the suspected burglar’s body was found ten days later. It’s not reported how officials came to determine the location of Matthew’s remains, which the Sentinel writes were recovered just north of Ocean Avenue Way on November 23.
Reports indicated that by the time his body was recovered, parts of Riggins’ body were missing. There was also evidence of bite wounds consistent with an alligator attack. As Sheriff’s dive team members worked to recover the suspect’s body, they were approached by an alligator behaving aggressively.
The animal was trapped by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and later euthanized. An autopsy of the dead alligator revealed it had, indeed, attacked and killed the missing suspect.
Medical examiner confirms alligator attack killed Florida swimmer https://t.co/V7H10oVvJZ pic.twitter.com/W3SR5kEKxA
— WPTV (@WPTV) October 22, 2015
It turns out that this isn’t the first time someone has been killed by an alligator this year. NBC News reported that Florida-native James Okkerse died following a fatal encounter with a 12-foot gator. The 61-year-old was attacked and killed by the reptile while swimming at Blue Spring State Park.
NBC News also reported an attack on a swimmer that occurred in August. The woman survived, but the animal took her arm. That article claimed at the time that the last fatal alligator bite in Florida happened in 2007.
— Dylan Higley (@higley11292) August 15, 2015
As for drowned burglary suspect Matthew Riggins, this situation is a reminder that when in areas of Florida known for alligators, it’s best to practice caution and common sense. Failure to do so can — and probably will — be a fatal mistake.
[Image via Handout by Brevard County Sheriff’s Office]