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Florida man eaten by alligator while hiding from deputies

Posted: 11:36 AM, Dec 08, 2015
Updated: 2015-12-08 11:36:13-05

BAREFOOT BAY, Fla. — After a night of allegedly burglarizing a Florida neighborhood, a suspected criminal was eaten by an 11-foot alligator while hiding out from a team of deputies combing the area in search of him.

New details about the suspect's bizarre end emerged Monday from Barefoot Bay, Fla., a neighborhood on the state's east coast, Central Florida News 13 reports.

It was there on Nov. 13 that Matthew Riggins and an accomplice allegedly broke into homes in the middle of the night, according to authorities with the Brevard Sheriff's Office.

The 22-year-old had allegedly called his girlfriend to tell her he was "going to do burglaries" in the Barefoot Bay area, sheriff Maj. Tod Goodyear said.

Neighbors had called 911 to report seeing two men dressed in black lurking behind homes, sparking a search team of sheriff deputies, K-9 units and a helicopter to descend on the area.

Deputies were walking near a pond when they spotted a patch of matted-down grass. Then they heard screaming. Then it went silent.

The search was called off that night and soon after, officials said, Riggins' family reported him missing. Investigators believe he met a violent end.

"He probably went into the lake to hide from the officers and the dog, and at some point he came across that gator," Goodyear told Central Florida News 13.

Ten days after deputies heard screaming coming from the pond, Riggins' body was found floating in the water.

As they searched the pond, sheriff's divers encountered an 11-foot gator, which was then euthanized. Inside the animal's stomach the Medical Examiner found proof of how Riggins was killed, Central Florida News 13 reports.

Goodyear said he's never seen a suspect eaten by a gator in his years on the force.

"To hide somewhere to try and get away, and then meeting up with an animal like that? No, I've never had that happen before," Goodyear said.

As for the accomplice, Central Florida News 13 reports investigators have a man in custody but that he is not cooperating with the investigation. He has not been charged in the case.

"I would say it was poetic justice, if you want to sit there and steal from people," neighbor Chuck Stokes said when he learned of the ordeal.