Samuel Olson case update: Mug shot released of Theresa Balboa’s roommate charged in connection to 5-year-old’s death

HOUSTON – Theresa Balboa’s roommate, the man who told investigators that he helped move Samuel Olson’s body to a storage unit in Webster, has now been charged in connection to the 5-year-old’s case, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Benjamin Rivera, 27, has since been charged with tampering with evidence - a human corpse in Samuel’s case. He was arrested Wednesday around 12:05 a.m.

A magistrate judge set bond for Rivera at $100,000.

Benjamin Rivera (Houston Police Department)

Balboa, who was the girlfriend of Samuel’s father, has also been charged with tampering with evidence, a human corpse.

Records show that on May 5 Rivera received a text message from Balboa saying: “I need to talk to (you) before you come inside.”

According to Balboa’s charging documents, Rivera revealed to investigators that he was called by Balboa on May 10 and was told that Samuel was dead. Rivera said he then left for work and later returned to the residence and found Samuel laying on the bed unresponsive, according to court documents. He said he noticed bruising on the child’s body, according to court documents.

Rivera said that he and Balboa placed the body of the child in the bathtub where he remained for two days, according to court records. On May 13, the roommate said he bought duct tape and a plastic tote from Wal-Mart and that he and Balboa wrapped Samuel’s body in a plastic sheet, placed it into a tote bag, and put the body in his vehicle, according to court documents. He said he and Balboa drove to a storage unit located at 16650 Highway 3 in Webster, Texas, according to court documents.

On June 1, court documents said Balboa called another man to drive her and the plastic tote to Jasper, Texas. That man called in a Crime Stoppers tip and Samuel’s body was found, authorities said. Prosecutors have said Balboa was on her way to Louisiana.

Police believe Samuel died weeks before he was reported missing on May 27 by Balboa, according to an arrest affidavit. He would have turned 6 years old on May 29.

Samuel’s cause of death has been ruled a homicide but additional details of how he died have not been released by authorities.

Prosecutors have said they plan to file additional charges against Balboa.

KPRC 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said Rivera’s case is important to prosecutors’ larger investigation into Balboa.

“There is nothing more incriminatory, nothing stronger than a defendant’s words to law enforcement,” Wice said, referring to Rivera’s initial statements to Houston Police in charging documents for Theresa Balboa.

Rivera’s testimony makes him a key witness in the state’s case against Balboa.

“The criminal justice system functions on a very simple premise: the little fish give law enforcement the big fish.  This is a situation where, if the allegations that law enforcement is brought to bear are to be believed, and are proven in court beyond a reasonable doubt, certainly Mr. Rivera is in a position to give the state of Texas Ms. Balboa on a platter,” Wice said.

KPRC 2 reached out to Rivera’s lawyer but she refused to comment at this moment on the case or his arrest.

Terms of bond agreement

Under a bond agreement, Rivera is required to turn over his passport. He is also forbidden from coming into contact with anyone associated with Samuel Olson, including Theresa Balboa, Balboa’s mother, as well as Samuel’s parents, Dalton and Sarah Olson.  Rivera is also forbidden to possess a firearm, ammunition, or other weapons.  The bond agreement requires Rivera to wear a GPS tracking device and stay away from children 17-years-old and younger.


Samuel Olson case: Bond set at $500K for Theresa Balboa, woman charged after child’s body found in motel room

TIMELINE: Samuel Olson case

Father of 5-year-old Samuel Olson denies being involved in child’s death, lawyer says

‘I can barely breathe’: Samuel Olson’s father tells KPRC 2 what he would say to his jailed girlfriend Theresa Balboa about his son

Samuel Olson case: Father’s girlfriend charged after child found dead in Jasper motel room, HPD says

New court docs reveal 5-year-old Samuel Olson was dead 2 weeks before being reported missing

Attorney speaks on behalf of mother of missing 5-year-old Samuel Olson

Theresa Balboa, woman jailed in Samuel Olson case, seen for first time in law enforcement photo

Body found in Jasper motel room positively identified as 5-year-old Samuel Olson, cause of death revealed

About the Authors:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.