Article written by Nakia Cooper/ khou.com
HOUSTON—Mary Ann Rivera, a 70-year-old ailing woman accused of killing her husband more than 40 years ago, appeared before a Harris County judge Friday to hear charges on the cold case killing.
Investigators said Rivera’s husband, Cruz Rivera, died after his wife doused him with a pot of hot grease at their Moody Park home in November 1970. Prosecutors said she threw the grease and other liquids on her husband after the two argued. The husband was severely burned and died from liver problems a few days later.
Rivera was indicted back then, but was released after she posted a $10,000 bond. The mother of three then took her children and fled town.
The case was recently picked up by the Harris County District Attorney’s Cold Case Fugitive Apprehension team, who got busy trying to track her down.
An investigator first found one of Rivera’s sons, then eventually located her in Georgia, where she’d raised her kids and worked as a waitress. Her health had declined to the point where she was forced to wear an oxygen mask.
Too sick to fly by plane, Rivera was driven back to Houston to be held accountable for her husband’s death. Rivera was charged with murder by omission.
“It’s always good to get a case where someone has hurt someone in the past or killed someone, or is responsible for a death, to bring them to justice,” said Tina Ansari, prosecutor. “It was very good that we have her here today.”
The case could be somewhat complicated because many of the witnesses from 1970 may not be easily located.
“We do have some complications because of the age of the case and maybe some possible witness issues, but I’m not going to comment on that,” Ansari said.
Ansari said Rivera has been cooperating with investigators since they tracked her down.
“She didn’t seem like she was trying to conceal anything about her guilt. She admitted it voluntarily and free willingly, and it didn’t take much to get her to admit what she did to her husband,” Ansari said.
Prosecutors said even though this case is very old, justice has no expiration date.
“It’s very uncommon to have a case that is 40 years old, but there is always a first time,” said Ansari. “This is a case that shows if you keep after it, you never know what happens and you can still have justice.”