Statements released in Rotterdam double homicide
Document tells of finding victims, discovering fire
ROTTERDAM On the morning of April 10, Brad McCormack got a phone call from one of his mother’s coworkers, worried she hadn’t shown up for work. McCormack tried his mother’s cellphone, then his sister’s. When he got no answer, he rushed to the home in Rotterdam that the two women shared.
“I got to my mom’s house in about 10 minutes,” Brad McCormack told police in a statement later. “I saw both her and my sister’s cars parked in the driveway. That’s when I got nervous, because if they are home, they should have answered their phones.”
Inside that 1142 Inner Drive home, authorities found the bodies of Brad McCormack’s mother, Tammy, and sister, Jessica. Charged in the horrific crime would be Jessica McCormack’s former boyfriend, Brice Rivenburgh.
Brad McCormack’s statement to police, as well as statements from officers and search warrant applications, were included last week in a new defense filing in the case.
Rivenburgh’s attorney, Sven Paul, filed motions, including one hoping to have evidence found at Rivenburgh’s Oaklawn Avenue home and car thrown out, alleging authorities did not have probable cause to support the search warrants. Exactly what was found as a result was not included. The prosecution is expected to oppose.
The filing also included new details in the case, building upon previously released information about what happened that morning in a homicide that shocked the community.
The filing includes information about what Rivenburgh was seen doing that morning; that his mother, with whom he lived, saw him come home with a television; that an officer who spoke with Rivenburgh before the Inner Drive discovery observed Rivenburgh to be intoxicated; and that officers who spoke with him later saw him with an injured hand and what appeared to be scratches on his face, under his left eye and along the left side of his nose.
In Brad McCormack’s statement, he gave police Rivenburgh’s name and information about possible motives for the attacks on his mother and sister. Jessica McCormack, her brother told police, had once dated Rivenburgh, but there had been problems.
“They are on again and off again,” Brad McCormack told police. “My mom doesn’t approve of him because of the way he treated Jessica.”
Rivenburgh, McCormack told police, often lied. The last time Brad heard from Rivenburgh was about three weeks prior, on March 19, in a Facebook message.
“Brice messaged me and was basically saying that he was sorry for treating my sister so bad,” Brad McCormack told police. “I didn’t acknowledge his message.”
Rivenburgh, 28, of 2501 Oaklawn Ave., Rotterdam, was indicated weeks after the killings on 26 separate counts, the top counts being first-degree murder, rape, burglary and robbery. The first-degree rape count accuses Rivenburgh of raping Jessica McCormack before killing her.
Rivenburgh is also accused of re-entering the Inner Drive home twice after the killings, the final time in an attempt to set a fire to destroy the crime scene, authorities said. He is also accused of attempts to cover up his involvement in the crime.
Rivenburgh allegedly set the fire minutes before Brad McCormack arrived and summoned authorities. Police discovered the bodies and the fire, which was doused before it could spread.
That April morning, after seeing the cars belonging to his mother and sister in the driveway, Brad McCormack parked and went to the front door. He told police he punched in the security code out of habit, without checking to see if the door was locked.
The first thing he saw was that the television in the living room wasn’t where it was supposed to be. It was laying on a chair. He yelled out for his mother and sister. Nobody answered.
“I heard rattling coming from the upstairs and I felt like something was wrong and maybe there were people still in the house,” Brad told police. “I stepped back outside and called 911.”
As he waited for police to arrive, Brad McCormack walked around to the backyard. A gate was open that was always shut to keep the family’s dogs in. The dogs were later found inside the home and returned to the family.
Police then arrived, but unbeknownst at the time, the evidence gathering had already begun, though the significance of that wasn’t known at the time. Just after 6 a.m., while on routine patrol, town police Officer Stephen Dixon spotted a small fire on Outer Drive at Roberta Road, according to Dixon’s written statement.
A closer look revealed it to be a gray sweatshirt with a paper on top. Dixon quickly extinguished both, kicking them into a puddle.
A neighbor then came out and told police a black car had just been parked where the fire was. The neighbor said he’d never seen a car parked there before.
Dixon then examined the envelope, which contained a letter from Citizen’s Bank addressed to Brice Rivenburgh. Dixon ran Rivenburgh’s name and learned he had previously been arrested for drunken driving and his plates had also been surrendered.
Dixon drove to Rivenburgh’s Oaklawn Avenue address and found him there, sitting in his black car.
Rivenburgh, Dixon wrote, “appeared to be intoxicated and looked disheveled.” Dixon noted Rivenburgh was not wearing a shirt, and his pants were unbuckled. On his lap was a Tupperware-type container filled with what appeared to be food.
Rivenburgh told the officer he was just out in his car to eat. He said he had no idea why an envelope and paper with his name would be found on Outer Drive. Dixon seemed to suspect that Rivenburgh had been driving drunk, but did not have proof that he was driving. Dixon also made no reference to any injuries Rivenburgh may have had at the time.
At one point, Rivenburgh’s mother, Verna “Joanie” Rivenburgh, came outside. Dixon advised her everything was OK and told her to go back inside.
Later, after the bodies were discovered at the Inner Drive home, Verna Rivenburgh was interviewed. She told police she saw her son about 2:15 a.m. carrying a television into the house that she did not recognize. She noted his car was gone about 5 a.m. and returned about 6:15 a.m. She also told police that Jessica McCormack would often give Brice Rivenburgh food containers.
Women had multiple jobs
In his statement to police, Brad McCormack also told them about his mother and sister.
The last time he’d spoken with his mother was two days prior. His mother was owner of the family business, Lyle’s Hoagies, and also worked at Mont Pleasant Middle School in Schenectady.
The last time Brad spoke with his sister was the previous afternoon. They had texted about plans to go to an Albany Devils hockey game the next week.
His sister, Brad told police, was a hard worker. She worked at the family business and two other jobs, all while going to school at night to be a dental assistant.
As Brad McCormack waited for police at 10 a.m., he also called a neighbor to wait with him.
The officers arrived and went in. They spotted the television tipped over in the living room. In a family room, they spotted a cable box, but no TV.
Upstairs, they encountered a locked door, and in an unlocked room, they discovered the body of Tammy McCormack.
The officers then started to smell smoke. They broke through the locked door, finding the body of Jessica McCormack. They also found the fire. Officers used buckets and water to douse those flames before the fire department arrived.
As the officers went into the home, Brad McCormack stood outside.
“I kept asking the cops what was going on and what they found inside,” Brad McCormack said in his statement.
Finally, Brad McCormack’s statement reads, one of the officers told him they found two female homicide victims.
Brice Rivenburgh remains held at the Schenectady County Jail without bail. If convicted of the top murder counts against him, he faces up to life in prison, without parole.