Ronald G. Hight killed family friend Craig M. Rivera after years of ridicule, deputies say

Deputies say Ronald G. Hight's birthday party ended when he put a bullet in a family friend's chin.

Hight, 24, "could not take it anymore," he later told investigators.

The victim, Craig M. Rivera, had been taunting Hight for the past four years, according to an arrest report. Even Hight's mom Kathy Gise and step-dad Willis Gise III told a Palm Beach County Sheriff's detective that Rivera, 41, "tormented and ridiculed Ronald."

Hight gathered with family and friends on Dec. 1 in the backyard at the family's La Mancha Avenue home in Royal Palm Beach. His 24th birthday was a few days earlier, on Nov. 28.

Rivera, of Wellington, was close with the family and enjoyed an open-door policy at the home. Even though he made fun of Hight, he had never fought or physically injured Hight in the seven or eight years they knew each other, deputies said.

But Rivera also wore out his welcome on at least one occasion.

In an incident two months before the shooting, Rivera "began to badger Ronald and put him down." At that time, Hight's mom asked Rivera to leave, so he did.

A call to a number listed for Hight's mother on Wednesday was answered by a friend who said the family had no comment.

Also, two weeks before he died, Rivera was arrested Nov. 18 and charged with cruelty toward child, according to Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office records. Prosecutors dropped the case on Dec. 17 — after Rivera's death.

An arrest report from that case said that Rivera, slurring and smelling of alcohol, threw a drink at the victim's face and slapped her twice after calling her names. He also punched her in the face and pulled her hair. The victim's name was redacted from the arrest report.

Rivera had been arrested six times since 1992, three times for cruelty toward child, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.

Hight had no arrests prior to his murder charge, Florida records show.

The day of the birthday party, Rivera grew angry with Hight and said he was going to hit him, deputies said. Hight had a "bad feeling" about Rivera and knew he couldn't defend himself against the larger, older Rivera in a fight.

The normally passive Hight "made the decision to arm himself," the arrest report said.

At the party, Rivera was "belittling Ronald on the patio."

A Sheriff's detective wrote what happened next:

"Craig stood up and began to approach Ronald like (he) had done many times in the past," the detective wrote. "Unlike the many times before, Ronald was now armed with his .40-caliber Glock handgun and also stood up and walked toward Craig."

Standing face to face, Hight thought Rivera would punch him. He pulled the handgun and "pressed it up against Craig's chin," the report stated.

"I'm not scared of that s---," Rivera said. He bumped Hight with his shoulder, but not hard enough to move the gun away from his chin.

Hight shot Rivera. At least two other people, a friend and Hight's brother, witnessed the shooting.

On Tuesday, Hight was charged with one count of second-degree murder with a firearm.

Asked about the length of time between the Dec. 1 shooting and Hight being charged Tuesday, Palm Beach County Office of State Attorney spokesman Mike Edmonson said "it was an ongoing investigation." He said he couldn't comment further because the case was active.

Hight remained in the Palm Beach County jail Wednesday.


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