The man charged with allegedly killing his 24-year-old ex-girlfriend, Valerie Reyes, before stuffing her into a suitcase and disposing it on a Connecticut roadside admitted to cops that he dumped her body. But he insists he did not kill her.
According to Javier Da Silva, 24, Reyes accidentally died while they were having sex.
“At some point [she] fell to the floor and hit her head” while they were at her New Rochelle home on Jan. 29, Da Silva told investigators, according to a federal complaint filed Tuesday in the Southern District of New York.
The 24-year-old Venezuelan national claimed that, in a panic, he then covered Reyes’ mouth with packing tape, bound her arms and legs, and stuffed her body into a red suitcase. Da Silva then drove for some time with the body, the complaint alleged, until he left the suitcase in a forest in Connecticut—about 20 minutes away.
Six days later, the suitcase was found by highway workers about 15 to 20 feet from the road. Inside, Reyes was found barefoot, her shirt and jeans unbuttoned, and her hands bound behind her back with a “white twine and packing tape,” the complaint said.
“There were obvious signs of head trauma including bruising around the face and a large hematoma to the deceased female’s forehead,” prosecutors noted, though her official cause of death has not been determined.
Norma Sanchez, Valerie’s mother, described her daughter as “kind and creative artist” that, before her murder, called her to reveal that she felt someone was going to kill her.
“The only thing that’s weird is she was frightened for her life and then somebody killed her,” Sanchez said. “She didn’t mention anything specific but now we just want to know what happened.”
The mother added: “We are just happy they found who murdered our daughter quickly and now we can get answers.”
Da Silva was charged Tuesday with one count of kidnapping resulting in death—a charge that carries a death sentence, though prosecutors have not yet indicated if they will seek the death penalty.
“While today’s arrest is certainly a welcome conclusion, it in no way alleviates the pain and suffering Valerie's family will continue to feel for years to come. The reality of their situation is utterly unimaginable, as is the crime with which Da Silva is charged” William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a press release.
In a brief federal court appearance in White Plains, prosecutors revealed that authorities “zeroed in” on Da Silva after he tried to use Reyes’ ATM card to withdraw $1,000 from her bank account the day she was reported missing after failing to show up for work at a Barnes & Nobles in Eastchester.
“I was praying that wasn’t her in the suitcase. I was praying her family would have her back. She’s the oldest sibling. To lose your first born, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,” Sanchez’s neighbor, Brenda DeGiacomo, told CBS2.
According to the complaint, surveillance video revealed a man wearing a black hoodie arriving in a Honda vehicle, parking across the street and walking into the bank around the time of the withdrawal. Investigators then traced the vehicle to a rental-car company in Flushing, which confirmed that Da Silva was an “authorized driver” for a vehicle rented from Jan. 28 to 29.
“As alleged, Javier Da Silva is charged with committing a gruesome kidnapping that resulted in the death of a young woman,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Tuesday.
Prosecutors also revealed that Reyes’ family told police she was dating someone named “Javier,” but that they broke up more than a year ago. They dated for about eight months, during which time Reyes would tell her family that she helped Da Silva cope with his mother’s battle with cancer.
“She wanted to help him but he got really pushy, and wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Sanchez recalled. “My daughter started getting really frustrated with him, and it ended quick.”
When investigators searched Reyes’ room, they found a drawing that matched Da Silva’s social-media accounts. “We are confident that the pursuit of justice for Valerie will be successful and we continue to work with the family to provide closure to this tragedy,” Greenwich Police Capt. Robert Berry said.
On Tuesday, Da Silva, who remains in federal custody, asked the federal judge that the Venezuelan consulate not be notified of his arrest because his U.S. visa expired last year, the New York Post reported. “Not Venezuela, Portugal,” Da Silva allegedly begged, referring to his other country of citizenship.