James Riva claimed to hear the voice of a vampire before he shot his grandmother four times in the spring of 1980. He then tried to drink her blood from the wound in attempts to achieve eternal life. Finally, he set her corpse on fire.
Riva claimed his actions were in self-defense, and that he drank her blood while he was asleep.
He believed that everyone was a vampire and that he needed to do something to be like everyone else. He was told that in order to be like everyone else, he needed to kill someone and drink the person’s blood. Then vampires would throw a party for him in celebration.
Riva arrived at his delusion from progressive mental illness, coupled with a helpless family and a medical system that didn’t have proper procedures to deal with him.
Riva’s parents were ordinary people. His father was an engineer, and his mother was a an astrology teacher. Riva interpreted astrology as witchcraft. He claimed that his mother abused him, but his accounts varied, putting the claims in doubt.
At five years old, Riva developed pneumonia. During this time, he would draw pictures of bloody needles and open wounds. He became enraged by something his father has done and rigged a mechanism that intended to hit him in the head with a hammer. Riva’s depictions of death became so graphic that one of his teachers notified his parents.
At the age of 13, Riva began fantasizing about vampires, drawing pictures of violent acts.
He began eating things that possessed a blood-like consistency. He killed animals to drink their blood. He even punched a friend in the nose and tried to spear another in order to procure blood from them. Riva claimed to have attack strangers to get blood, but he didn’t want to kill anyone. He kept an ax by his bedroom door. He told a psychiatrist that he was going to kill his father.
After he told a psychiatrist that he was hearing male voices that warned him to watch out for vampires, he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Riva went through several hospitalizations but failed to recover, especially being that he drew blood from other patients.
His family was terrified of him, so Riva eventually went to live with his grandmother.
While living with his grandmother, he decided that she was using an ice pick to draw blood from him in the night, while he slept, but his grandmother was an invalid in a wheelchair. He also believed that she was poisoning his food.
On the day that he killed his grandmother, Riva was convinced he was going to die. He got a gun, painted the bullets gold, dressed in a suit, and confronted his grandmother. She begged him not to hurt her, but he shot her in the heart.
Riva was convicted of second-degree murder, even though his mental illness was definitely questioned. He went to prison, where he stopped drinking blood but only because he said he couldn’t get enough and he thought his body was metabolizing its own tissues. When he tried to kill a guard, Riva was reassigned to a forensic hospital.
It is said that James Riva is a clinical vampire, suffering from delusions and the belief he could become a real vampire.