On April 10, 1980, James P. Riva II brutally murdered his disabled grandmother because, as he later told investigators, he was a vampire who needed to drink her blood.
Riva beat 74-year-old Carmen Lopez in her wheelchair, stabbed her through the heart, shot her with gold-painted bullets, and set her body on fire before burning her house down. The crime shocked the small town of Marshfield, Massachusetts.
Riva, who was nicknamed “Vampire killer,” later told police that he drank the blood from her gunshot wounds, but said, “She was old and dried up, and I kept telling the voices all day I couldn’t do it.”
At his trial, Riva pleaded not guilty to murder by reason of insanity. He claimed that the voices in his head told him that he would die unless he killed his grandmother, who he believed was also a vampire and was planning to kill him by drinking his blood while he slept.
Riva had a long history of mental issues and animal abuse — including killing a cat and drinking its blood, and beating a horse on the head so that he could draw up blood in a syringe.
At his trial in October 1981, his mother testified that her son told her that he was a creature of the night for four years prior to the murder and that he had been talking with the devil. She also said that Riva claimed to have met 200-year old vampires, who told him to use gold-tipped bullets to kill other vampires.
The jury rejected Riva’s insanity defense, and he was convicted of second-degree murder. The fact that he took steps to cover up his crime, including burning his grandmother’s body, worked against his plea. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at Walpole State Prison, and also received a 19- to 20-year sentence on the arson charge to be served concurrently.
Riva has appeared before parole boards in 2004, 2009, and 2014. His parole has been denied three times. According to the parole-board records, Riva has been committed to Bridgewater State Hospital four times since the 1980 murder, and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and antisocial-personality disorder.