Yesterday marks the 10th anniversary of `prime-time’ suspect Brian Larriva’s death.
NORMA COILE and DAVID MADRID Citizen Staff Writers
Ten years ago yesterday, as law officers moved in to arrest him, a 35-year-old loner put a gun to his left temple and fired.
The blast put an end not only to his life, but also to the biggest manhunt in Tucson history – and to a string of rapes that had terrorized the city.
Brian Frederick Larriva, the man believed to be the “primetime rapist,” killed himself as lawofficers finally tracked him down and surrounded his home.
But the pain of his crimes didn’t die with Larriva.
For many families, the memory lives on.
A local man who was robbed by the rapist and whose daughter was raped by him said that although time has a way of healing things, 10 years later his family lives in a fortress.
When he drives alone at night, he constantly looks in the mirror to make sure no one is following him.
“The memory will be there forever,” he said. “But we don’t talk about it much.”
For this family, the brutal acts of the rapist were only a portion of the harm he did.
“He called us up and said if we reported what he did, he would see to it we were all killed, that he would even get us individually if he had to.”
For the family, that meant living in hotels for six months until the rapist finally killed himself.
The father has no doubts that Larriva was the rapist.
Investigators gave the case its name because the rapist sometimes broke into homes as families watched prime-time television in the evenings.
He often held whole families hostage, tying up husbands as he sexually assaulted their wives and daughters at gun- or knife-point.
As attack after attack occurred, the fear spread:
Feb. 5, 1984: A 41-year-old woman and her 15-year-old daughter are raped by a man who enters their home near East Speedway Boulevard and North Wilmot Road through an unlocked door. Three other people – including the woman’s 11-year-old daughter and 14year-old son – are home at the time. The family is attacked as they watch evening television.
Dec. 20, 1985: A gunman forces his way into a home near North Campbell Avenue and East River Road. He holds four family members at gunpoint, rapes a 34-year-old woman and a 5-year-old girl, then forces the husband to withdraw more than $15,000 from his bank account. The gunman flees in the family’s car, which he later abandons.
And on and on, until the rapist racks up attacks on 90 people, from children to the elderly, in 30 incidents from 1983 to 1986.
Police assigned 10 detectives to a special task force in early 1986 to hunt for the rapist.
A break in the case came when a victim saw the rapist’s face, recalls Weaver Barkman, a former sheriff’s detective who helped put together a detailed psychological profile of the attacker.
Investigators launched a media campaign to let the rapist know how much they knew about him.
“For six months, he was just bombarded with messages that `We know everything about you but your name,’ and we knew that he was terrified,’ Barkman said.
Later, investigators would learn they had come heartbreakingly close to Larriva Á without knowing who he really was.
They had visited the duplex in which he lived, interviewed his parents, run down leads virtually under his nose.
But finally, tips from informants and other information led heavily armed officers to Larriva’s home the morning of Sept. 24, 1986 – this time to capture him.
Detectives said Larriva was a loner who never married, a cocaine and crack addict who lived in Tucson most of his life and a graduate of Catalina High School. He was the “black sheep” of a good family, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik had said.
Larriva was released from state prison April 11, 1983, having served sentences for armed robbery, burglary and drug possession – but no sex crime convictions.
The prime-time attacks started just eight days later.
He was an electrician and air-conditioning mechanic whose work, while sporadic, gave him access to people’s homes.
And the majority of the attacks occurred within a two-mile radius of his home, in the 5000 block of East First Street.
Larriva arrived at his home shortly after 9 that morning a decade ago, after being out all night.
He spotted the officers through a window and came out the back door, gun in hand.
Police said they tried to talk him out of shooting himself.
Before he pulled the trigger, he said he was sorry, that he had “never really hurt anyone,” and that he did not want to return to prison.
Police believe they tracked down and cornered Larriva just a day before he had planned to skip town.
Citizen Staff Writer Joseph Barrios contributed to this report.