What is the Opposite of Being Nice? The Story Behind the Startling Murder of Michelle Rivera Nyce (2004)Read Now
On January 16, 2004, authorities in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, found a lifeless body belonging to a Filipina inside her Sports Utility Vehicle in the bottom of a ravine near her residence covered in snow during that time of the year. Initial investigations suggest that she was a victim of a foul-play made to look like an accident.
It is no secret that foreigners are attracted to Filipina women, particularly white males from the United States. Despite the almost perfect pairing between two distinct cultures, many assume that Filipino women who marry an American would go ahead and have better lives.
However, that does not seem to be the case with Michelle Rivera Nyce's gruesome killing in 2004. Her murder was one of the most sensationalized cases on the East Coast of the United States that involved having affairs, jealousy, blackmailing, and anything opposite to being nice.
Michelle Rivera Nyce was a 39-year-old Filipina woman who grew up in an impoverished region in her home country, particularly in Orion, Bataan. Due to the lack of opportunity to gain financially in the Philippines, Michelle found plenty of ways to escape her hardships at home. She also had six siblings.
By the time she was 19-years-of-age, social media was not a thing back then to meet other people. Instead, she posted personal ads of herself in a local newspaper. Through this means of meeting someone, Jonathan Nyce stumbled upon her advertisement and was quick to engage with her via mail.
In a year, both would exchange romantic letters and intimate phone calls with one another. Jonathan would eventually fall in love with Michelle despite the significant age gap and being far away from each other.
Things between the two have already been sketchy in the beginning. Before personally meeting, Jonathan and Michelle would send photographs of themselves aside from the love letters with each other. Though Jonathan, who was nearing 40-years-old at that time, would send younger and much more well-groomed photos of himself rather than his current photo, while Michelle would send out the best version of herself to further attract her foreign lover.
Subsequently, Jonathan became more eager to meet her Filipina sweetheart. He finally decided to visit the Philippines to meet Michelle personally.
However, according to Michelle's confidants, she was disappointed with how Jonathan really looked in person and initially wanted to run away from him. Though she eventually liked Jonathan's attitude, which made her reconsider her affection towards him.
In an interview with a known media outlet in the United States, Jonathan described Michelle's home in Orion as an informal settler's turf "perched unsteadily on bamboo stilts above fetid Manila Bay" with no electricity and "no bathrooms except for trap doors."
Like other American-Filipina relationships, both got married right away after a week of personally meeting one another. Soon, Jonathan would take Michelle away from the Philippines, with the blessing of Michelle's family, to bring her home to the United States, which meant there would be many significant changes to her life as she moved forward.
As soon as the newly-wedded couple arrived in the United States, Jonathan's family and friends were not enthusiastic about his decision to marry a Filipina woman. The couple also lied about the means of their interaction and told friends and colleagues from the United States that they met on a beach in Hawaii.
Nevertheless, doubts around the couple did not affect their decision to jumpstart their married lives in the state of North Carolina. Both lived in a huge $800,000 house and had two sons and one daughter.
Jonathan Nyce was a very successful doctor who founded his own pharmaceutical company, EpiGenesis Pharmaceuticals, specializing in drugs to cure asthma. He was described as a charismatic person and was very passionate about his work and representing his company.
In 2000, his company became more formidable. Jonathan and Michelle moved to a much more wealthy suburban area in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, an hour away from New York City.
It seemed that Jonathan and Michelle were living the American dream. They were wealthy, had stable careers, together with their three children.
Also, Jonathan was kind enough to buy Michelle's family new homes in the Philippines and allowed Teodoro Rivera, her father, to stay with them to cook Filipino delicacies for their family in New Jersey.
However, things would get harder for Jonathan and Michelle after reaching the peak of their lives. Later on, Jonathan's jealous side would be unraveled.
As stated by a colleague, Michelle was really attractive, so she would be stared at by men while outside eating, shopping, and doing outdoor activities. On the other hand, Jonathan would bring out his possessive trait and hound Michelle with many questions whenever she came out of their residence without him.
His jealousy reached a point that he forbade Michelle from going to the gym so other men won't see or get potentially attracted to her. Instead, Jonathan had built her a gym inside their mansion to suffice Michelle's workout needs.
In Michelle's first few years living in the United States, she heavily depended on Jonathan to provide the needs for her and her family in the Philippines. However, when Michelle reached the age of 30, she became more independent, even landing a modeling job, but was stopped by Jonathan.
It became apparent to Michelle that her husband was controlling her. Instead, Jonathan was lenient in allowing her to fix up their mansion.
Due to her husband's possessive ways, Michelle had no choice but to oblige Jonathan's only option for her to take the lead. She planned on purchasing $50,000 worth of trees to be inserted in their vast land.
It meant that they would hire landscaping services for the addition of the trees. Through this project, Michelle met a Guatemalan landscaper named Alexander Castaneda. It was said that she became attracted to him because he was good-looking and much younger than Jonathan.
In three to four months since they met, Michelle and Alexander would go on lunch dates without the knowledge of Jonathan. Both were attracted to one another, which escalated into a romantic affair.
They exercised their intimate relationship at Mount's Motel, also located in New Jersey.
However, Jonathan would eventually get suspicious after stumbling upon an unfamiliar phone number while snooping through his wife's cell phone. He confronted Michelle about his worries, and she undeniably confessed to the affair she was having with Alexander.
The affair damaged Jonathan and Michelle's marriage. From happily being married, their relationship became filled with extreme jealousy and resentment.
After heavily enduring the marriage problems, Michelle promised her husband that she would break up with Alexander. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case because Alexander was not willing to give up on what he had with Michelle that easily.
Afterward, Alexander would go on to harass the Nyce family. He resorted to stalking Michelle, which led Jonathan to file a restraining order to protect his wife.
However, that did not stop Alexander from asserting himself to Michelle. He escalated to extortion. Alexander threatened Jonathan and claimed that he would release sex videos of Michelle if he did not give him $500,000.
The problems wouldn't stop there as Jonathan was also facing problems at his workplace because the financial capabilities had been stagnant due to his inability to produce the drug that could potentially cure asthma.
Jonathan's failure led the new group of investors and board members of the company he founded to banish him. This major setback affected the Nyce family financially.
In dealing with Jonathan's collapse, Michelle worked as a beauty consultant at a local mall to help provide their family's expenses. Things between the Nyce husband and wife would further worsen as they fought more often than ever due to the added financial burden they were experiencing.
Despite her promises to her husband and the court that granted a restraining order towards Alexander Castaneda, she violated its terms and reconnected with him.
On a day before her tragic death, Michelle would again meet Alexander at Mount's motel. It would become the most crucial decision of her life as the rendezvous with her lover would play a big role in what really happened before she got killed.
The following day, she was found at the bottom of a ravine near her house. After examining Michelle's lifeless body inside her SUV, investigators claimed that her death was poorly staged to make it look like an accident.
First, she had a head wound suspected of having been inflicted violently by another person rather than obtaining it from an accident.
Second, her SUV had no signs that it had been in an accident. The driver seat, where Michelle's body was found, had no damages or whatsoever, which means her body was probably placed there on purpose to make it look like an accident had happened.
Also, the alignment of the driver's seat was not consistent with Michelle's leg area. Authorities described it that there was no way that her legs could've maneuvered the vehicle in its placement where her body was found.
Lastly, blood was found at the vehicle's back seat together with a traveler's suitcase filled with G-string thongs, lingerie, and brassieres. There were fresh footprints that came presumably from a different pair of shoes with significantly larger feet than Michelle outside the vehicle heading away from the crime scene.
Through these initial findings from the police, the perpetrator may have killed Michelle from a different place, stuffed her body at the car's back seat, drove to the ravine, and placed her at the driver's seat to make it look like she drove herself at the crime scene.
Authorities already had two suspects in mind, Michelle's husband, Jonathan Nyce, and her paramour, Alexander Castaneda.
First, they interviewed Alexander. According to him, he did meet Michelle at Mount's motel and had sex. Afterward, he accompanied Michelle to her car, which was the last time he saw her.
Authorities also tried matching Alexander's shoe size to the footprints they found in the crime scene, and it was not a match.
Next, they interviewed Jonathan. He told the investigators that Michelle threatened to leave him during a heated altercation that happened at 4:00 pm the same day his wife and Alexander met during the evening. Initially, Jonathan claimed that it was the last time he saw his wife alive.
However, there was an instance amid the interview that Jonathan claimed that he last talked to his wife in the evening, which prompted the authorities to think he was hiding something.
Jonathan's inconsistencies with his statements made the investigators obtain a search warrant to search their residence. After arriving at his home, the authorities found portions of a boot in Jonathan's basement matching the footprints from the crime scene.
In the basement, they also noticed a saw machine with pieces of the boot's rubber texture, indicating that the portions of the shoe were recently split into pieces.
Furthermore, authorities found traces of Michelle's blood all over the house's premises, particularly in the garage area. They also discovered blood in Jonathan's snowblower, showing that he recently cleaned up the original crime scene.
After discovering these crucial pieces of evidence, the authorities went on to confront Jonathan. At first, he denied the allegations being thrown against him and was heavily pointing them towards Alexander Castaneda as his wife's killer.
Hours later, Jonathan finally admitted that he killed Michelle. However, he claimed that he was only acting in self-defense.
According to Jonathan, when Michelle arrived at their home, he confronted his wife about her whereabouts earlier. She was startled and reacted violently. Jonathan claimed that Michelle took out a knife from her bag and tried to attack him.
He was able to defend himself, which led to his wife hitting her head on the pavement. Jonathan went to a cabinet to get bandages for Michelle's head.
However, when he returned to Michelle to try and help with her head wounds, she continued to swing her hands at Jonathan in an attempt to hurt him. It made him apply more force in controlling her by kneeling at her back and pounding her head on the garage floor.
Unfortunately, Jonathan used too much force on Michelle, which got her killed. He then proceeded to stage his wife's death to make it look like an accident as initially predicted by the police.
According to Jonathan, he decided to stage his wife's accidental death because he thought it was the best possible scenario for him and their three children not to know that their mother tried to kill him.
However, detectives were not convinced about the part where Michelle tried to kill her husband because the only abundant evidence was that he killed her and that he seemed to be a jealous husband who had gone out of control based on his wife's infidelity. They also did not find the knife that Jonathan claimed Michelle was supposed to use to kill him.
Prosecutors sided with the investigators and charged Jonathan with first-degree murder.
The trial stunned the prosecutor's office after a grueling seven-week trial that began in June 2005.
Jonathan hired a prominent defense attorney, Robin Lord, and helped him convince the judge to release him on a $1.7 million bail. It meant that the high-profile suspect was out of jail amid the ongoing trial for the killing of his wife.
Meanwhile, the prosecutors' strategy was to emphasize Jonathan's jealous and angry persona that will do whatever it takes to stay out of prison.
As for the defense, Jonathan's attorney focused on Michelle's infidelity and that she provoked her husband to act in self-defense.
Amid the trial, the defense presented the suitcase's contents found at the crime scene, which belonged to Michelle. Dramatically, Jonathan's attorney put Michelle in a very bad light after uncovering the suitcase's contents, such as G-string thongs, lingerie, and brassieres.
The move hurt the prosecution because the defense made it look like Michelle was having an intense extramarital affair with Alexander Castaneda with the implied information that Michelle was exerting much effort in her marital affair.
Jonathan Nyce's defense team became successful as the jury only convicted him for eight years worth of prison time on the charge of voluntary manslaughter through provocation and passion.
He went on to serve less than the 8-year-sentence due to showing good conduct in prison. Since then, he has claimed that he was completely innocent and published a book titled "Under Cover of Law."
Jonathan Nyce may have gotten away with murder, but another lengthy prison sentence awaits him after being released in the early 2010s for the killing of his wife, Michelle Rivera Nyce.
In 2020, authorities in Pennsylvania found out that Jonathan was involved in an alleged medicine for pets scam that claims that it could cure cancer for ailing animals.
Jonathan’s scam involves pet owners and enthusiasts investing thousands of dollars to his clinical trials that, in reality, were not approved by the United States Food and Drug Authority and were nothing more than a collection of medicinal ingredients he mixed with no effect whatsoever.
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