A woman who had her dream job in a bookstore was gagged and tied up before being pushed into a suitcase by her killer who threw her body into a forest.
Valerie Reyes, was murdered by Javier Da Silva Rojas, whom she met online in January 2018.
The couple would continue to have a three-month affair, but it was a short-lived relationship, according to Reyes’ family, claiming that “stubborn” Rojas were more interested in the romance that Valerie was, which led to tensions.
In the weeks leading up to her disappearance, the 24-year-old struggling with depression told her mother on the phone that she feared someone would kill her.
It was January 30, 2019, when Valerie, who dreamed of becoming a tattoo artist, was reported missing after failing to show up for her work. She had not been seen for two days and the worries grew.
Working in the bookstore in Eastchester, New York, meant that Valerie was surrounded by her favorite things – books – according to her family, who say she loved to catch up with her siblings and mom on Sundays.
She became known for being hardworking and strived to create a good life for herself, according to Mirror Online.
Javier Da Silva Rojas worked at a restaurant, but unknown to most around him, he was in the country illegally when his visa had expired.
He claimed to Valerie that he was an immigrant with common Venezuelan and Portuguese citizenship, living in Queens, NY, after fleeing political and economic unrest the previous year, on his way to the United States in search of a better life.
The couple started dating, but it was a short-lived union, and Valerie stopped all communication with Rojas, however, he tried to keep talking to her, but she refused.
It was a chapter she wanted to put behind her.
When Valerie told her mother that she feared for her life, she would not say why she believed in this, but she was clearly scared and suffering from anxiety attacks. Norma, her mother, tried to push for details. Had anyone been to her apartment? Had she been threatened? But Valerie would not reveal more.
Norma intended to follow it up during a shopping trip with her daughter. But when Valerie did not show up, Norma assumed she had changed her mind about meeting her.
On February 5, Valeries’ dead body was discovered by a group of highway workers in Greenwich, Connecticut, about 16 miles from her home. In a wooded area, about 20 feet from the road, they saw a red suitcase. The body was inside it.
Valerie’s legs and arms had been tied with duct tape and twine before she was stuffed into the suitcase. Several layers of tape had been laid over her mouth and there were signs of a head wound and bruises on her face.
It was a devastating discovery for Valerie’s family. A forensic pathologist determined she had died of suffocation.
A week later, it was revealed that someone had used her bank card to withdraw money from her account.
Surveillance footage showed a man wearing a black hoodie. He was in a rental car that was tracked down to the man who rented it – Javier Da Silva Rojas.
After he was arrested, police found that his DNA matched it on the suitcase handle and under Valerie’s fingernails. When questioned, Rojas admitted that he had visited her on the night of January 28th.
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Despite not having been together for nine months, he claimed they had had “hard sex” where Valerie had fallen and hit her head. He had panicked and had tied her in duct tape before pushing her into the suitcase and dumping it.
Investigators did not believe his story. If it was an accident, why had he not just called for an ambulance? Valerie did not die of the head wound – she had died of suffocation.
A consequence of his actions.
Rojas had gone to Valerie’s apartment in a rental car. Before entering, he had turned his cell phone to airplane mode and turned off the location setting, indicating that he was covering his tracks from the start.
Inside, the couple had a violent altercation that resulted in Valerie getting hit in the head. She was still alive when he tied and gagged her with duct tape and put her in the suitcase.
He then put the case in the car and drove it to the landfill in Greenwich, where he threw it into the woods without knowing if Valerie was dead or alive.
He also threw away her phone before he started stealing her money. In the hours after her death, Rojas began withdrawing cash from his account.
A total of $ 5,350 was eventually taken. He also sold her iPad. These were not acts committed by a person trying to cover up an accident – he was hiding a crime.
Rojas, 25, was charged with kidnapping resulting in death and pleaded guilty in February 2020 in a court in White Plains, New York.
Under an appeals agreement, which meant he avoided life imprisonment or the death penalty, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison followed by two years of supervised release. He will probably be deported afterwards.
The court heard about the call Valerie called her mother the day before her death when she said she feared she would be killed. Although she had not given more details, she had clearly been scared.
What had Rojas done to make her so sure she was going to die?
During his sentencing in September this year, members of her family wore badges with her picture.
While prosecutors claimed Rojas committed a “horrific kidnapping” that resulted in Valerie’s death, his lawyer maintained that he felt remorse for his crime.
But it was pointed out that while Valerie’s family was desperately trying to find her, he had stolen her money and tried to cover up evidence of his deed.
In a statement in court, her mother said: “You, Javier, deserve nothing but pain and rejection. I want you to hear the words of a mother whom you crushed by taking my little girl away.”
She cried as she described the joy Valerie had brought to others and described her daughter’s killer as a “worthless soul”.
In tears, Rojas replied, “No words can express how repulsed I am by the actions I committed. I will never forgive myself for that. I can not ask [her family] to forgive me because I do not deserve it. I want them to know that I am very sorry. ”
The judge said to Rojas: “What you did to this woman was nauseating. Anyone who could do such a thing is by definition not a good person. Anyone who can do such a thing is an evil person. Justice requires that an evil the offense is punishable by a long prison sentence. “
It is still unclear why Rojas killed Valerie, but her last moments were unthinkable.