Connecticut medical examiner’s office confirmed that 24-year-old Valerie Reyes, from New Rochelle, New York, had died from “homicidal asphyxia.”
The office didn’t specify whether Reyes had died before she was put in the red suitcase.
JUST IN: the Office of the Chief Examiner has released the cause of death of the New Rochelle woman found dead in a suitcase in Greenwich. Valerie Reyes died from homicidal asphyxia. @News12CT pic.twitter.com/xlDMxzgAPj
— Marissa Alter (@MarissaAlter) May 6, 2019
Reyes was last seen on Jan. 19, and was later reported missing by her family on Jan. 30, according to Pix11.
The Greenwich Police Department said workers who were doing a routine sweep of the area found her body on Feb. 5, around 10-15 feet off Glenville Road in Greenwich, reported Greenwich Time.
Reyes’ ex-boyfriend, Javier Da Silva Rojas, was arrested after authorities said he had fraudulently used her credit card to withdraw $1,000 on Jan. 30, according to the New York Post.
He is currently held on a federal charge of kidnapping resulting in death and, if convicted, he faces the death penalty.
Da Silva Rojas, 24, holds dual citizenship in Venezuela and Portugal, and had entered the United States via a visa waiver program back in May 8, 2017. He did not leave within the specified 90-day timeframe, ICE officials told Greenwich Time in a statement.
Photo shows Valerie Reyes with suspected killer Javier da Silva Rojas https://t.co/OJk9Xq24Lr
— Ted Graham (@TeddGraham) February 14, 2019
Claims of Accidental Death
Prosecutors said in a federal complaint that Da Silva Rojas said he and Reyes had been at her apartment in New Rochelle on Jan. 29.
“He [said that he] had sex with the Victim at the Victim’s Residence,” the federal complaint read.
“Da Silva Rojas noted that at some point the Victim fell to the floor and hit her head.
“Da Silva Rojas then indicated that he placed packing tape over her mouth, bound her legs and hands, and put her in a suitcase. He then said that he placed the suitcase in his car and drove away. After driving for some time, Da Silva Rojas stated that he placed the suitcase in a forest.”
The federal complaint said Reyes’ body was found barefoot. Her shirt was unbuttoned and her hands were bound behind her back with white string and packing tape. On Feb. 6, following an autopsy, her death was ruled to be a homicide.
“There were obvious signs of head trauma including bruising around the face and a large hematoma to the deceased female’s forehead,” the federal complaint read.
In an exclusive interview with Da Silva Rojas in February, the New York Post reported that he said he had tried to revive Reyes before disposing of her body.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Da Silva Rojas told the NY Post. “I don’t know what happened. I didn’t mean to do it … I’m a bad person.”
Rojas said “she fell, we fell together,” when he was asked how Reyes had died. He then nodded when asked if she fell off the bed, according to the NY Post. The Post summarized Da Silva Rojas’s version of events as being “that Reyes fell on the floor and cracked her head open” while they were having sex, and that she died accidentally.
“She wasn’t responding. I went and put my mouth on her mouth. I tried to put air in,” Da Silva Rojas said. He also told the Post that he had bound her body because “she didn’t fit in the suitcase.”
— Popular Crime (@popular_crime) May 7, 2019
He added that he didn’t call the police because thought they would blame him, and said that he had withdrawn money from Reyes’ credit card in hopes that police would find out and catch him.
But back in February, a source told CBS2 that the cause of death was asphyxiation and not a head injury.
Following Da Silva Rojas’s comments to the NY Post, one reporter commented on the inconsistencies of his version of events.
“One question that has been raised is, if Da Silva Rojas loved Reyes so much and her death was only an accident, why not just leave her if he was too afraid to call the cops?” Courtney Deeren of the Brockport Stylus wrote.
“Although Da Silva Rojas claimed his relationship with Reyes was good, he couldn’t remember how long they had been together,” Dereen noted.
“Taping someone’s mouth after they are already dead seems unnecessary, as does tying up her hands and legs. It doesn’t seem as though someone who allegedly loved a person would be willing to dispose of them on the side of the road as if they were trash,” she added.
“While Da Silva Rojas has apologized to the Reyes family, he can never take back what happened. His apologies won’t mend the broken hearts of friends and family who loved Reyes.”