An ex-boyfriend has been arrested in connection with the death of Valerie Reyes, whose body was found bound in a suitcase on a street in an upscale Connecticut suburb last week, police and Reyes' mother said.
Officers arrested Javier Da Silva at his home in Flushing, Queens, after he fraudulently used Reyes' ATM card, Greenwich Police Captain Robert Barry said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
"At this point, Mr. Da Silva is the only one identified as a suspect, but the investigation is ongoing," Barry said.
A federal criminal complaint says Da Silva claimed in interviews with investigators that he and Reyes had sex in her New Rochelle apartment and at some point she fell and bumped her head. That's when he put her body in a suitcase and brought it to Greenwich, then dumped it in a wooded area off the street, he told investigators. But he denied killing her.
Both Greenwich and New Rochelle police departments made the arrest; the FBI was then contacted because of the interstate nature of the case. Da Silva was charged with one count of kidnapping resulting in death, which carries a sentence of death or life in prison. It's not clear if he has an attorney who could comment on the charge.
The criminal complaint describes law enforcement finding the body of Reyes, barefoot with an unbuttoned shirt and jeans, inside the suitcase on Feb. 5. She was bound at the feet and knees, and her hands were bound behind her back with what appeared to be white twine and packing tape. She had bruises on her face including a large one on the forehead.
Reyes' debit card was used at an ATM on Jan. 29 to withdraw about $1,000, the complaint said. The rental car captured on surveillance video leaving the bank after the withdrawal was traced to an account held by Da Silva.
Police reviewed hours of surveillance video and conducted a number of interviews as they investigated Reyes' murder, Barry noted.
Investigators saw "continued" use of Reyes' ATM card past what they believe to be the time of her death, he added.
Reyes, who was from New Rochelle, was last seen on Jan. 29, and reported missing on Jan. 30.
News of Da Silva's arrest comes the same day Reyes was being mourned at a wake. Her mother said it's been a heart-wrenching, bewildering day.
"I've been really angry. Really angry because I don't have my daughter no more," said Norma Sanchez, who said "my heart dropped" when she learned Da Silva had been arrested.
"It's like emotions of so much anger and hate, but relieved [too]," she said.
Sanchez said she met Da Silva once before, and that he seemed nice and polite. But when her daughter broke up with him after dating eight months, he refused to stop harassing her.
"He became possessive and not taking no for an answer," said Sanchez. "My daughter started getting annoyed, and she would tell me, 'I don't want nothing to do with him,' but he just keeps looking for her. But then it just stayed under the rug. She never told me he was bothering her again or anything, so I would never have imagined it was him."
"We lost everything," she said. "I lost my daughter. I lost a sister to my kids. A friend to many friends."
"It's different when your child dies of natural diseases but when somebody, a monster, comes and takes your daughter away, your child away -- for what. For what!," said Sanchez, anguished.
When Sanchez spoke to News 4 last week, she recalled her last phone conversation with her daughter, who was panicked and frightened.
"We asked if her ex-boyfriend made her feel a certain way, and she said no. If anything, 'he made me feel safe,'" Sanchez said last week, though it's not clear if Da Silva was the ex in question.
Reyes had taken bed sheets and towels from her New Rochelle apartment before heading into Manhattan, where she took out money from a bank near Rockefeller Center. Days later, she took out more money at another bank. Her family thought she was seeking help in the city for her anxiety and depression. that she "was strong enough to just leave and seek help in the city," said Sanchez. "We were hoping. We were hoping she was seeking therapy."
"We just went about our day, 'She's fine, she's gonna come back, they're gonna find her,'" said Sanchez. "But not this way. This is a mother's worst nightmare."
Sanchez said her daughter, whom she called Val, was vibrant and friendly. She worked at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Eastchester since it opened two and a half years ago.
"She was very hard-working, very dedicated," said Sanchez. "She didn't show up for work on Wednesday. That was something very unusual. She didn't call, so that's what made us worried even more."
Reyes was passionate about art and enjoyed drawing and painting, according to Lauren Bradford, who said she worked with Reyes at the bookstore for about 10 months before Bradford left the job to go to college a few months ago. Reyes had plans to train to become a tattoo artist, Bradford said.
"Horrified. Absolutely horrified," said Bradford, 19. "I'm just like totally shocked. She was a confidant. She really encouraged me and my aspirations. She had a really bright future. She was really excited about her art and her goals."
Highway workers found Reyes' body inside a full-size suitcase off of Glenville Road, north of Stillman Lane, at around 8:15 a.m. on Feb. 5, police said. Reyes' hands and feet were bound inside the suitcase, according to police.
Police said it was difficult to tell how long Reyes had been dead due to the environment and fluctuating temperatures in the particular area where the victim was found. The chief medical examiner will determine a cause and manner of death.