AP NEWS

Portrait of a suspected killer: the man behind Valerie Reyes’ death

February 15, 2019

GREENWICH — He traveled regularly and took photos of his excursions around New York City, Washington D.C. and Latin America. He wore his hair long, with a cropped beard, that gave him the look of a New York City hipster. He came Venezuela and overstayed his visa, got a job in New York, and made it clear he did not want to return to the country where he came of age.

Now, Javier Da Silva Rojas - Javi to his friends and numerous followers on social media - is facing life in prison in the death of an ex-girlfriend, Valerie Reyes. Friends and relatives of the victim, as well as investigators, are seeking clues about how a young man who loved travel and nature photography turned into a killer.

Da Silva, 24, was working in a coffee shop in New York City at the time of his arrest, according to a friend. His social acquaintances from Latin America said this week they were surprised he was arrested in connection with a murder.

According to his social media profile, Da Silva grew up in Venezuela, and he also holds Portuguese citizenship. He appears to have grown up in comfortable circumstances in a suburban community near Caracas, with ample opportunity to travel regularly to the United States, and attend college. In 2017, he came to New York and overstayed his visa, according to immigration authorities.

News of his arrest came as a surprise to Oriana Mangenelli, a friend and college classmate of Da Silva at the Universidad Católica Santa Rosa in Caracas.

“But … that cannot be possible,” she said over Facebook messenger. “Javi is such a kind soul.” Da Silva left Venezuela to escape dictatorship, Mangenelli said, as the country deteriorated under the rule of an autocratic socialist regime.

“He even tried to help me get out of here,” Mangenelli wrote.

Mangenelli said Da Silva attempted to help her with cancer treatment in the U.S. in 2017. “He wanted to buy me a plane ticket so I could have better medical attention with my lumps,” said Mangenelli. “That’s why I’m in shock. He couldn’t be capable of doing such thing like killing someone.”

Mangenelli said the two didn’t keep in touch as much since last year, but the last she heard Da Silva was working in a coffee shop in New York. The last time she spoke to Da Silva, Mangenelli said, his dad and brother were visiting him the U.S.

But another portrait has emerged — a far more sinister one.

The accused killer was charged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with kidnapping resulting in death this week. Federal authorities said he was responsible for her death, the illicit use of her debit card, and transporting her body to a quite residential street in Greenwich. Law enforcement officials indicated he had used tape and twine to constrain Reyes, and inflicted a severe blow to her head, according to federal court documents.

Da Silva was dating Reyes for several months in 2018, after apparently meeting her through a dating website. He took photos of New Rochelle, Larchmont and Pelham in Westchester County, N.Y., in 2018, indicating a familiarity with the northern suburbs outside New York City.

Da Silva’s social media accounts have also been filling up in recent days with insults and derogatory comments. The Reyes murder has drawn widespread interest from the public, along with Reyes’ supporters and friends, and outrage has followed the news of her death and his arrest.

“Your new home [behind bars] is where you belong. Away from society where you can no longer victimize the innocent,” wrote one commenter on Instagram. “Cage this monster and throw away the key. So he can no longer victimize the innocent,” wrote another.

Da Silva also appeared capable of manipulation, said Reyes’ mother, Norma Sanchez. She said Reyes took pity on da Silva when he claimed his mother in Venezuela was dying of cancer.

“She said, ‘Mami, his mother has cancer and I just want to be there for him a little more.’ She was an angel. She just wanted to support him more,” Sanchez told Channel 2 News this week. It was unclear if Da Silva’s mother was actually ill.

Sanchez told Greenwich Time that Da Silva was controlling and “would not take ‘no’ for an answer.”

According to the criminal complaint filed by federal agents, there are suggestions that Da Silva may have taken steps to cover his tracks.

On the afternoon of Jan. 28, Da Silva was seen on video leaving his Queens apartment wearing dark clothing. When he was seen returning to his residence on Jan. 29, he was wearing a different outfit — a tan overcoat — and carrying a duffel bag, the criminal complaint states.

When Da Silva appeared before a federal judge in a White Plains courtroom this week, he told the judge he was not interested in gaining assistance from the Venezuelan consulate. He asked for his case to be referred to the consulate of Portugal, the New York Post reported, where he also holds citizenship.

The death of Reyes, 24, a creative and kind woman who worked at Barnes and Noble, was causing anguish among family and friends.

A former boyfriend came to her grave to place flowers, and pay Valentine’s Day respects, on Thursday.

“Couldn’t believe it when you told me no one ever gifted you flowers. I went to shower you with flowers and love when you told me. You were looking forward to Valentine’s Day, and so I stand here, still giving you the endless love you deserve. Happy Valentine’s Day, Val,” wrote the friend, Justin Orda, on social media.

rmarchant@greenwichtime.com