Army Spec. Anthony Riggs fulfilled his vow to come back alive from the Persian Gulf but was shot to death by a car thief in front of the house where his wife had been living.
Riggs recently had written home from Saudi Arabia saying, "There's no way I'm going to die in this rotten country. With the Lord's grace and guidance, I'll walk American soil once again."The letter arrived Monday morning, just hours after Riggs, 22, was killed.
Riggs, of Las Vegas, Nev., had arrived in Detroit just 24 hours earlier, family members said. He was packing his car to move his family to a new home when someone walked up, shot him in the head and stole the car.
Police recovered the car Monday on a nearby street but said no one was arrested.
Homicide inspector Gerald Stewart said he believes the killer is from the neighborhood, which residents described as crack-infested, because whoever fired the gun was on foot.
Family members said Riggs was sent to the Persian Gulf region in August and helped launch Patriot missiles during the war. He was given two weeks of leave and arrived in Fort Bliss, Texas, on March 8.
At Fort Bliss, he spent a week with his wife, Toni, and her 3-year-old daughter, Amber, both of whom had been staying with her relatives in north Detroit while he was away.
Sunday morning, the three returned to Detroit, and the adults spent the day packing belongings from the Detroit home for their new apartment in suburban Warren. The couple wanted a permanent home in the area, and Toni Riggs wanted to go back to the school.
The couple worked into the early morning because they didn't want to leave loaded vehicles on the street overnight. At 2:15 a.m. Monday, Toni Riggs went inside for a moment as her husband loaded a rented truck and the car.
Five shots rang out, and neighbor Walter Phillips ran out and saw Riggs lying in a pool of blood behind where his car had been.
"He was outside loading up his car with some luggage and some clothes, and we heard five shots. The car sped off, and when we looked out there, Anthony was on the ground," said Marjorie Cato, 30, Toni Riggs' aunt.
"A man goes out to fight for his country and comes back and - not home barely a week - and something like this happens," she said.