The trial of Alejandro Hernandez
Rivera, who is accused of leaving a gay senior in a burning home,
began Monday in a Contra Costa County, California courtroom, the
Contra Costa Times reported.
The 24-year-old Rivera pleaded not
guilty last year to the murder of Theodore Neff, 66, a retired gay
Neff and Rivera met through an ad
listed in the adult services category of the classifieds website
Craigslist. Friends say they believe the relationship began in July
On December 3, 2008, authorities say
the two men got into an altercation that turned violent, and Rivera
allegedly strangled Neff.
Afterward, the escort returned to
Neff's Bay Point townhouse to retrieve several items including a
gold-plated Nagahara flute worth $23,000 and set the house on fire.
Firefighters who were called to the
two-alarm fire at 10PM retrieved Neff's body but said he was already
dead. An autopsy revealed Neff died from strangulation.
Police investigators say they caught up
with Rivera when he attempted to sell the Nagahara flute to dealers
in New York and Boston. Several of Neff's flutes were found in
The case has been nicknamed “the case
of the golden flute.”