A Vallejo man was arraigned in Martinez Wednesday on charges that he murdered a man in his home in Bay Point, stole property, including a custom-made gold-plated flute, and then set the man's house on fire, prosecutor Harold Jewett said.
The two men got into an argument on Dec. 3, during which Rivera allegedly strangled Neff.
At some point after the murder, Rivera allegedly went back into Neff's home at 542 Bustos Place in unincorporated Bay Point, stole property and allegedly set the house on fire, Jewett said.
Firefighters pulled Neff from the burning building Dec. 3, but he was dead. An autopsy revealed that he had been strangled and that he was already dead when the fire was set.
Rivera was charged Tuesday with murder, arson and burglary, Jewett said.
He made his first appearance in court today, but did not enter a plea. He is scheduled to return to court Dec. 24 to be assigned an attorney and enter a plea. His bail was set at $1.3 million.
Contra Costa County Sheriff's Capt. Daniel Terry said that investigators got their first break in the case when a flute teacher told them that Neff owned several flutes, including a custom-made, gold-plated Nagahara flute that had been sold to him by a dealer in New York. The flute, which was worth $23,000, was missing from Neff's residence, Terry said.
Investigators contacted Nagahara flute dealers in New York and Boston.
The Boston dealer later called detectives back and said they had received a call from someone who offered to sell them a gold-plated flute. They had told the caller they would pay $15,000 for the instrument, Terry said.
Later that day, the dealer in New York called the sheriff's office and said a man had called them as well, inquiring if they would buy a gold-plated flute. The man left a phone number, which had a 707 area code, Terry said.
Investigators looked up the phone number and found that it belonged to Rivera, Terry said.
Investigators also found that Rivera was allegedly a male escort who advertised his services on Craigslist, Terry said.
When investigators initially contacted Rivera, he believed he was only being investigated in connection with his escort business, Terry said.
Eventually, Rivera allegedly admitted that he had made an arrangement to meet Neff and had ultimately strangled him and set his house on fire, Terry said. He was placed under arrest Friday night.
Investigators found several of Neff's flutes in Rivera's possession, including the gold-plated Nagahara, Terry said.
According to Jewett, Rivera allegedly stole other items from Neff as well.
Terry said investigators were not sure whether Rivera allegedly set Neff's apartment on fire to cover up the homicide or to make sure Neff was dead.