BAREFOOT BAY — An accused burglar is dead after Brevard County deputies said he hid in a pond while on the run and was killed by an 11-foot-long alligator.
Matthew Riggins, 22, of Palm Bay was reported missing Nov. 13. His body was found 10 days later floating in a pond near Latan Court and Barefoot Circle, in Barefoot Bay. Investigators said it had the makings of a gator attack.
Shortly before Riggins was reported missing, he called his girlfriend and told her he’d be in the area breaking into homes, deputies said.
“He was going to do burglaries in the Barefoot Bay area with another individual,” said Maj. Tod Goodyear, with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.
Neighbors reported to authorities that they saw two men dressed in black lurking behind homes. Deputies began searching the area and were later joined by more deputies, K-9 units and a sheriff’s helicopter.
Investigators said Riggins then called his girlfriend to tell her they were being chased and lying low.
“Do you still hear them hollering, or did they hunker down?” deputies could be heard saying on radio traffic.
Deputies called off the search that night, but then Riggins’ family reported him missing less than 24 hours later.
“He probably went into the lake to hide from the officers and the dog, and came across that gator,” Goodyear said. “To hide somewhere to try and get away, and then meeting up with an animal like that, no, I’ve never had that happen before.”
“He hid in the wrong place,” said Laura Farris, a Barefoot Bay resident.
The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office dive team encountered the same gator while recovering the man’s body, and the animal had to be euthanized by a trapper from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Inside the gator’s stomach, the medical examiner found proof of how Riggins was killed.
“I would say it’s poetic justice, you want to sit there and steal from people,” Barefoot Bay resident Chuck Stokes said.
Investigators said the other man thought to be breaking into homes with Riggins has not cooperated with the case, but so far he has not been charged.