Longform

"I WAS JUNE CLEAVER"

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One person he met through business was a heroin dealer named Roberto Macaluso. In 1977, Roberto Macaluso's skeleton was found in the desert near Scottsdale, still wearing boots. At the time, Scottsdale police accused Dan of ordering his "enforcer," a Coachcraft employee named Mark Koch, to stab Macaluso to death in the desert. They said Dan Rivera was angry because Macaluso stole heroin from him.

Dan was arrested and charged with murder. He said he was innocent. He still does. "Koch got in a fight with Macaluso," he says. "He accidentally killed him. It was a total accident. He hit his head on a drainpipe and died." Koch was sent to prison for Macaluso's murder by then-Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor. Dan's murder charges were dropped, although he pleaded guilty to importing narcotics, and served four years of a ten-year sentence in several Arizona prisons. According to court records, he has not been in trouble with the law since he was released.

Dan used his time in prison well. He painted, and even had a jailhouse art show. He also decided that when he got out, he'd be a singer. "My past is an open book, I even used it as a promo thing for my musical career," he says.

As soon as he was a free man, Dan began hanging around rich people in places like Avanti's and Mancuso's. He trumpeted the fact that he was a rehabilitated ex-con with substantial artistic talent. He showed off his portraits of lonely but wise Hispanic people--old men, children and nude women--staring out at stark Southwestern vistas.

He also began singing in clubs and at weddings. But his musical abilities were to help him most during the kidnaping. After being taken to Nogales, Dan was sent to a Sonora jail. According to Scottsdale police, the capitana, or head jailer, discovered that Dan was a professional singer and set another prisoner free with instructions to telephone Dan's family in Arizona. To repay the capitana for his kindness, Dan listened to dozens of impromptu auditions by members of the capitana's family. It was typical of the way Dan could butter up people he thought were important. After he got out of prison, he socialized with Charlie Keating, and defends the embattled savings-and-loan czar with as much fervor as he defends Ned Warren. He also met Elan at this time; she was similarly dazzled by power. Dan has photos of Elan and himself at Charlie Keating's house during a fund raiser for Senator Dennis DeConcini, now one of the infamous Keating Five. Dan provided paintings for the fund raiser.

But the most interesting snapshot taken that evening at Keating's house is of Dan and Elan standing together. Dan is wearing a tux and looking bored. Elan stares blankly at the camera. Her expression contrasts pitifully with her festive white frilled gown. The photograph says it all: This is not a relationship made in heaven.

DAN SAYS HE MET ELAN through a mutual friend at a party. At the time, she was going by the name Jodie Ferguson. Later, she took Dan's name and became Elan Rivera, despite the fact they never married. She was tiny--less than five feet tall and only 95 pounds--and, says Dan, witty.

When they met she was selling real estate. But it was not the career she'd dreamed of. She'd hoped to be a dancer, but that was cut short after she injured a leg dancing on the Merv Griffin Show, Elan told Dan.

He thought Elan was wealthy. He knew she came from a rich family: Her mother Betty had married her stepfather Don Faull, a Phoenix contractor, when Elan and her sister Dinee were kids. Dinee grew up to be a Jehovah's Witness who liked to ride Arabian horses. Elan, on the other hand, became wild. Don Faull grew to dislike her, and told her she was not welcome in his north Scottsdale house.

"She was a hot little fox," Dan recalls of Elan. The 32-year-old "little Caucasian" appealed to him sexually, and for him, that was the basis of their relationship. "I never lived with this woman," Dan says. "I never dated her exclusively. She knew it."

But Elan, as Dan tells it, wanted to get married. Dan refused, even after Elan got pregnant in 1986.

The custody fight between Dan and Elan began the minute Justin was born. Dan says he was present at his child's birth. The way he describes the event is significant: "I pulled the baby out of his mother. From then on I was his mommy and his daddy."

Shortly after Justin's birth, Elan began her bizarre pattern of disappearing with Justin. The first time was after Dan's father died. Elan attended the funeral with the baby. As Dan was shoveling dirt on the coffin, the two got in a fight, says Dan. Elan and the baby disappeared for a month.

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Terry Greene