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Hillsborough Prosecutors File First Degree Murder Charges in Shooting of Avila Couple

Julian Ospina-Florez, a naturalized citizen from Colombia, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder this week after a Tampa physician and his wife were shot and killed. The Hillsborough County Sheriff and prosecutors accus Ospina-Florez of shooting Hector Rivera and Debra Rivera on Monday night in their mansion in the Avila community.

He is being held in jail until Friday, when there will be a hearing to determine whether he can be held without bail until his case is disposed of.

Ospina-Florez was arrested the night after the homicides. He had previously worked as Debra Rivera’s driver and assistant, according to law enforcement. If convicted, he faces life in prison with mandatory prison sentences of possibly 25 to 50 years. The State may still choose to pursue the death penalty.

At a short hearing this morning, the judge told Ospina-Florez that the case is “known as a circumstantial evidence case from an evidentiary standpoint.” He proceeded to tell Ospina-Florez, “You were employed by the alleged victims. You were the only person at the residence at the time of the shooting. The gun that was registered to you was the same type of gun that was a used to kill the two victims. They recovered the gun and the bullets inside the residence. … The ammunition was found inside your car. The story that you claimed about being attacked was inconsistent with the physical evidence at the residence.”

Prosecutors asked that Ospina-Florez be held without bail. The public defender objected and the court directed the prosecutor to file a motion for pretrial detention because of circumstantial nature of the case. According to news reports, the judge indicated that he was not satisfied with the strength of the case, noting that law enforcement has not specifically linked the defendant’s gun to the crime, “just the caliber of the gun that was used.”

The judge said the government will need specific information in order to justify holding the defendant without bail.

Authorities allege that Ospina-Florez shot both Riveras multiple times with a 9mm handgun. Ospina-Florez then called 911 and told the dispatcher there had been a shooting at the home. He said he had been attacked by the assailant. When deputies arrived, they found the couple dead and Ospina-Florez in the home.

Authorities say there was no sign of forced entry and no injuries to Ospina-Florez. A 9mm gun was found in the home and a box of ammunition was discovered in Ospina-Florez’s car. They also claim that the relationship between Debra Rivera and Ospina-Florez had deteriorated and that Debra Rivera had recently reported the theft of a substantial amount of jewelry.

Based upon the judge’s commentary, it looks like prosecutors will need to bring some physical evidence to Friday’s hearing before he will order Ospina-Florez held without bond.


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