Carlos Rivera, 25, is being remembered by his coworkers at a gay strip bar in Windsor as a nice guy, a hard worker and someone whose life ended far too early.
Rivera, who worked at The Tap on Wyandotte St for the past month and a half, was found strangled to death in the apartment of 22-year-old Jesse Imeson.
The incident launched a nationwide manhunt for Imeson, who is also the primary suspect in the double-murder of an elderly straight couple in rural Grand Bend, on the shores of Lake Huron northwest of London. Imeson’s picture is even featured on the website for America’s Most Wanted.
Rivera, a native of El Salvador, began working at The Tap earlier this summer after new owner Eddie An recruited him to help in the grand reopening (the bar was previously known as The Happy Tap).
“He knew this business. Plus he was a sweet guy and a hard worker,” says An, noting that Rivera had a day job at the local mall and was an architectural student at St Clair College. “He treated customers really well and the other bartenders liked him.”
An says Rivera was more than just a bartender, however. He DJed and helped audition dancers. “He really loved being surrounded by a gay environment,” says An.
Imeson was seen for the first time at The Tap on the night of Jul 17.
“He was looking to become a dancer,” An says. “But he didn’t have all the proper identification. So we told him to come back tomorrow. Carlos talked with him, but it was Carlos’s job to talk with everyone. It wasn’t until afterward that I found out from customers that Imeson was trying to pick Carlos up, that he wanted to take Carols to another bar or someplace private.”
An describes Imeson as someone who seemed “troubled, confused and maybe unable to accept” that he’s gay.
Rivera helped close the bar around 2am and was reportedly last seen around 6am riding in his Honda Civic, which Imeson was driving. His body was found the next day, Jul 19, in Imeson’s Windsor apartment. His car was found outside a hotel in Grand Bend on Jul 20.
While mainstream media reported on how residents in rural areas around Grand Bend were afraid to go outside while Imeson was on the loose, An says the same sentiment was felt in Windsor’s gay scene.
“I’ve talked with bar owners, and we are all seeing business affected by it. Plus, it’s hard to keep our employees’ morale up,” says An.
But An says Rivera would want the party to go on. “Carlos wouldn’t want us to be down all the time. He wanted this place to be fun. He wouldn’t want us to feel terrorized and afraid.”
The bar is paying tribute to Rivera in a number of ways. A photo of him is prominently featured on the bar’s website (www.thetapwindsor.com) and the story is being followed on the site’s blog. The bar closed the night after his murder, and on Jul 24 the bar held a night of remembrance. Staff and regular customers gathered to talk about Rivera. “He was really well-liked,” says An. “He had no enemies.”
An says he would like to hold a candlelight vigil in honour of Rivera. There’s also talk of starting an educational fund for Rivera’s three younger brothers. Staff attended Rivera’s funeral, which was held Jul 25 at Windsor’s St Vincent de Paul Church.
At the funeral Rev Tom Ashton called the murder “a tragedy,” but added, “Don’t remember that single day. Let Carlos’s life be a witness to us of what is truly important,” he said, according to the Windsor Star.
“Tragedy took his life, [but] it cannot erase the 24-plus years he lived among us.”