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James P. RIVA






A.K.A.: "The Schizophrenic Vampire"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: History of mental illness - He said he was a 700-year-old vampire who needed to drink her blood - Arson
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 10, 1980
Date of birth: 1957
Victim profile: Carmen Lopez, 74 (his handicapped grandmother)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Marshfield, Massachusetts, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder and arson in 1981
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The Schizophrenic Vampire

In April of 1980, James P. Riva shot his handicapped grandmother twice as she sat in her wheelchair. The gun was loaded with golden bullets. He drank the warm blood gushing from the wounds before trying to cover his tracks by burning her body and her home.

Jimmy Riva was a troubled youngster who developed a bloodlust in his kindergarden days. He became obsessed with the notion that his infirm grandmother was a vampire predator, who was robbing him of his blood as he slept. He believed that his only hope lay in shooting her with golden bullets. Not only did he shoot her, but he also stabbed her repeatedly because a "vampire told him that was what he had to do."

Riva had a history of mental illness dating back to 1975 - 78, when he spent time in a mental institution. The diabolical plot to slaughter his grandmother was the culmination of a whole series of bizzare incidents in the life of James Riva.

He began by drawing horrific pictures and slowly moved to killing and drinking the blood of animals, until finally, he snapped completely. He gave two separate stories when confronted about his crime. He told his mother that he was a vampire who would gain strength from drinking his grandmother's blood.

He also told psychiatrists he thought his grandmother was a vampire who came to feed on him as he slept. He believed he was satisfying his masters or superiors in the netherworld of vampires by making a human kill. He thought that if he killed "everybody who was bad to him, he would come back as a handsome man and have a car and girls and his life would be fine."

At the conclusion of his lengthy trial, the jury deliberated for 3 hours and found him guilty of second degree murder. He was also found guilty of arson, and assult and battery on one of the arresting officers. He showed no emotion at the reading of the verdict. Judge Brady sentanced James Riva to life imprisonment in Walpole State Prison on the murder charge, and concurrently to ten to twenty years on the arson charge.



Marshfield's 'vampire killer' up for parole

By Jennifer Mann - The Patriot Ledger

Aug 01, 2009

Marshfield - James P. Riva told police the devil made him do it.

The then 23-year-old had stabbed his disabled grandmother in the heart and shot her four times with gold-painted bullets, then set her house on fire to cover the evidence.

He said he was a 700-year-old vampire who needed to drink her blood, but that she was too old and dried up.

That was in 1980. A year later, he was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder and arson.

Tuesday, he is up for parole.

Three decades of new residents in Marshfield have no knowledge of the crime, but those who were around back then recall how it shook the town.

“It was a disaster to Marshfield,” says Frances Cipullo. Her brother-in-law, Louis Cipullo, was acting deputy fire chief at the time. She recalls, “everybody was scared to death.”

Tuesday will be the second time Riva has come before the state Parole Board. In 2004, the board turned down his request, telling him to return in five years – the maximum delay for a second request.

Riva is expected to be at the hearing, which is open to the public.

After the hearing, the board will meet alone and make a decision, typically within 30 days, said Michelle Goldman, a spokeswoman for the board.

One of Riva’s aunts, who lives on the South Shore, declined to comment on the hearing, saying the case was difficult for the family.

Residents who were around in 1980 said the Riva murder violated the town’s sense of itself as a safe community.

“The minute you said his name, it all came back to me,” said Anne Lariviere, who then was an assistant town clerk. “It was terrible. There were so many stories going around.”

“I was kind of flabbergasted by what happened in country Marshfield,” said Robert Cheeseman, whose brothers were Marshfield police officers in 1980. “That was something you’d hear about happening in the city.”

“Jimmy” Riva had been battling mental illness for some time before the April 10, 1980, murder. His attorney, John Spinale, told the court that Riva had been in at least four institutions in the five years before that.

Carmen Lopez, his 74-year-old grandmother, was wheelchair-bound from a spinal tumor and weighed about 75 pounds. Riva had lived at her Rexhame Beach house for three months while she was in the hospital. He moved to an uncle’s house two weeks before the crime.

Riva’s mother, Janet S. Jones, was the first to hear his sordid confession.

Jones, in tears, testified during the trial that her son believed a 200-year-old vampire he met in Florida told him to paint the bullets he used for the murder gold. He also told her he tried to suck his grandmother’s blood, but could not because she was too old.

In the rubble of the fire, firefighters found a box in which Riva kept several .38-caliber gold-painted bullets like the ones found during Lopez’s autopsy. In Riva’s car, police found a white candle and handmade circle enclosing a five-pointed gold star, a pentacle, a symbol associated with magic.

At the trial, Riva’s attorney warned jurors that they would hear evidence “so bizarre it staggers, it shocks the imagination.”

He told how Riva had been a loner as a teen, roaming the countryside at night. Riva felt the need to drink animal and human blood, Spinale said, and when at home he would consume concoctions of ketchup and oil because it resembled blood.

Spinale said this past week that he hasn’t heard from Riva in many years and he declined to comment on the parole hearing.

He still has a canvas that Riva painted and sent him from prison shortly after he was sentenced.

The painting, which hangs in Spinale’s office, is of the Boston skyline. The buildings are all in black.

The events that led to Vampire Killer's request for parole

  • April 10, 1980: Carmen Lopez, 74, is found dead after a fire consumes her Rexhame beach home.

  • April 11, 1980: James R. Riva, Lopez’s grandson, is arraigned in Plymouth District  Court on charges of murder  and burning a building. He pleads innocent.

  • June 18, 1980: Riva’s mother, Janet Jones, testifies at a probable cause hearing that her son confessed to killing Lopez because he has been a  vampire for four years and needed her blood to live, at a probable cause hearing.

  • July 15, 1980: Riva indicted on murder and arson charges.

  • Nov. 7, 1980: Attorney John Spinale announces he will pursue insanity defense.

  • Aug. 4, 1981: Riva is deemed mentally fit to stand trial.

  • Oct. 22, 1981: Riva’s murder trial begins.

  • Oct. 30, 1981: A jury finds Riva guilty of second-degree murder, arson, and assault and  battery on an officer. Judge Peter F. Brady recommends a  life sentence for the murder charge, followed by a 19 to 20- year term for the arson charge.

  • Oct. 31, 1984: Riva loses his appeal for a new trial.

  • June 24, 1991: Riva is found not guilty by reason of insanity for slashing a prison officer.

  • August 2004: The state parole board denies Riva’s first parole request, telling him to  come back in five years.

  • Aug. 4, 2009: Riva will appear before the parole board for a second time.


'Vampire killer' gets no sympathy from relatives, parole board

By Jennifer Mann - GateHouse News Service

Aug 05, 2009

NATICK — Marshfield police officer Ralph Poland remembers finding the body of 74-year-old Carmen Lopez in the fetal position at the base of her bed. It looked like she was praying.

Both her body and her home had been torched.

On Tuesday, Poland sat about 20 yards from Lopez’s confessed killer, 52-year-old James P. Riva.

Riva shot Lopez, his grandmother, four times with gold-painted bullets, stabbed her in the heart and burned her body in her Marshfield home in 1981. He said he was a 700-year-old vampire who needed her blood to live.

Now, 29 years later, he’s saying he’s sorry.

Calm before members of his crying family, Riva on Tuesday asked the state Parole Board to be released from prison, where he is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder and arson.

“The name penitentiary came from the word penitent – and you learn how to be penitent in prison,” he said, adding that he has gained an education and converted to Islam while behind bars.

Riva said years of prison therapy and medication have helped him control the mental illness that convinced him he was a vampire and led him to torture animals, attack a prison officer and kill the elderly woman who cared for him.

But four members of Riva’s family said the vampire claim is a contrived defense that has only worsened their pain, subjecting the family to endless media attention over the years.

They described Riva as a callous, calculating killer who took the life of a frail woman who loved her family and only wanted to live simply at her Rexhame Beach cottage.

“She deserved to die surrounded by her loved ones and according to God’s plan, not James Riva’s plan,” said Cheryl Toccio, Lopez’s grand-niece. “James Riva deserves not even a glimmer of hope of living one day in a world he so viciously took away from his grandmother.”

Christine Nelson, Lopez’s daughter, said, “What James did to my mother 29 years ago was a planned, premeditated attack. His release simply cannot be compatible with the welfare of society.”

Members of the Parole Board, who will issue a decision in six to eight weeks, expressed doubts about Riva.

They said he showed a lack of remorse and seemed fixated on a claim that his mother abused him when he was 5. Riva said his mother used to dunk his head repeatedly in a sink full of water, threatening to drown him, and that contributed to his mental illness.

“You’ve taken a person’s life ... in a horrific way, a sadistic way, if I can be frank,” said board chairman Mark Conrad. “If you were to do it to somebody who was on your side, who cared for you and supported you, it shows us you could do it to anybody.”

Parole Board members said they were worried by letters Riva has sent his mother from prison, demanding that she confess to her alleged abuse.

They also questioned why prison officials do not trust Riva to take his medication.

In 1991, Riva slashed a prison officer with a homemade knife and beat him with a mop handle. Riva said he was off his medication at the time, and that caused him to believe the officer was sneaking into his cell at night and draining his spinal fluid.

Poland, the Marshfield officer, sat silently through the hearing. He said afterward that he went to support Riva’s family and make sure the man never gets out of prison.

“He shot her once. She threw a glass of water at him. He then shot her again,” Poland said.

“She didn’t die instantly; she burned alive. That’s the viciousness of this thing, and in that room, no remorse,” he said. “God forbid if he got loose in society. Somebody would die.”


Parole denied for Marshfield killer who claimed to be a vampire

By Jennifer Mann - The Patriot Ledger

Sep 10, 2009

MARSHFIELD — A Marshfield man who has spent nearly 30 years in prison for killing his grandmother and trying to suck her blood will remain behind bars.

James P. Riva, 52, claimed he was a vampire when he murdered his elderly grandmother, Carmen Lopez, in 1980.

He was 23 at the time of the murder, which is remembered as one of the South Shore’s most gruesome.

Riva went before the state parole board in early August, claiming he was a changed man and requesting a release from prison, where he was serving two consecutive life sentences.

Riva said years of prison therapy and medication had helped him control the mental illness that led him to torture animals and kill his grandmother, and later, attack a prison officer.

Members of the parole board voiced their skepticism at the time. Several members of Riva’s family also spoke, saying he couldn’t be trusted and urging that he remain locked up.

The parole request brought renewed attention to the case, which was hardly known to a new generation of Marshfield residents.

In the decision released Thursday, the board noted that Riva has been committed to Bridgewater State Hospital four times since the 1980 murder. He is diagnosed with schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder.

Riva kept a job while in prison and has used the time there to earn academic degrees, the board noted.

Still, the board wrote, “Mr. Riva continues to pose a serious risk to public safety . . . Moreover, he shows limited remorse and lacks insight into his violent behavior and the causative factors leading up to his offense.”

The board mentioned in particular “threatening” letters Riva sent his mother while in prison. Riva also failed to show how he would successfully re-enter society, the board wrote.

The state parole board turned down Riva’s request to be released once before, in 2004. Riva will have an opportunity to appear before the board again in five years – the maximum time period the board can set between parole requests.



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