AP NEWS

Investigation continues into Greenwich worker accused of taking photo of murder victim

February 15, 2019

GREENWICH — An investigation is continuing into a town employee accused of taking photos of the crime scene where the body of 24-year-old murder victim Valerie Reyes was found last week on the side of Glenville Road.

The town of Greenwich has not released the name of the worker, but he has been independently identified as James Clifford, a foreman for the town Department of Public Works for its west side operation.

Another DPW worker found Reyes’ body in a suitcase on Feb. 5 about 15 feet of the side of the road in a wooded area. After being called to the scene, Clifford allegedly took photos of her body and the crime scene and disseminated them.

The photos have reportedly become widely shared digitally.

On Feb. 7, First Selectman Peter Tesei issued a statement that a town employee had been placed on paid administrative leave until the conclusion of an investigation and when “appropriate action has been taken.”

“This thoughtless and insensitive behavior by an employee is inexcusable,” Tesei said in the statement.

On Tuesday, Greenwich Police Department, while announcing the arrest of Reyes’ former boyfriend Javier Da Silva in the murder, indicated that it was not handling the investigation into Clifford’s alleged actions.

Greenwich police Capt. Robert Berry said all questions about the matter should be directed to the town. On Friday, Public Information Officer Lt. John Sluzarz did the same, saying that “at this time” he could only refer questions to the town.

The town of Greenwich did not immediately return a request for comment.

Clifford is a member of the Teamsters Union Local 456. Calls to the union have not been returned.

Local attorney Lindy Urso is representing Clifford. Last week, Urso noted Clifford’s 26 years of service to the town and said that as a single father of three and grandfather of three, Clifford had been “stunned and devastated by what he saw” at the crime scene. Urso said it was an “error in judgment” to take a picture, but said that Clifford had no ill will or bad intention and had tried to assist police with the investigation.

On Thursday, Urso said he was hopeful there would be a resolution to the investigation.

“Mr. Clifford is a local success story, having grown up here, served in the U.S. Army and worked and educated himself from town laborer all the way to foreman,” Urso said. “We are hopeful that he will be able to keep his foreman position after paying a reasonable penalty for is momentary lapse in judgment.”

Federal authorities have taken control of the investigation and prosecution of the case, after both New Rochelle and Greenwich police officers were involved in the investigation, which led to Da Silva’s arrest on Monday night.

Da Silva has been charged with kidnapping resulting in death, a federal charge that could lead to the death penalty if he is convicted.

DaSilva, who is a citizen of Portugal with a passport from Venezuela, is in the country illegally on an expired visa. According to court documents, Da Silva claims Reyes hit her head in her New Rochelle apartment after falling to the floor and he then placed packing tape over her mouth, bound her hands and legs and put her in the suitcase, which he dumped in Greenwich.

A preliminary hearing for Da Silva, who is held without bail in federal custody, has been set for March 13.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, which is prosecuting Da Silva, could not be reached for immediate comment.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com