AP NEWS

Cause of death released in Valerie Reyes murder

May 6, 2019

GREENWICH — Valerie Reyes, a 24-year-old woman who was found bound and inside a suitcase on the side of a road in Greenwich three months ago, died from a lack of oxygen.

Reyes’ official cause of death was ruled as “homicidal asphyxia,” according to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington, which confirmed its findings Monday morning.

Reyes, who lived in New Rochelle, N.Y., was reported missing by her family at the end of January. Her body was found Feb. 5 by a town Department of Public Workers employee off the side of Glenville Road.

After a weeklong search for her killer, a former boyfriend, Javier Da Silva, also 24, was arrested Feb. 12, the day before her funeral Mass. Da Silva, a recent immigrant from Venezuela, has been in custody since then on a federal charge of kidnapping resulting in murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Reyes was described by family and friends as a creative and kind woman who worked at Barnes & Noble in Eastchester, N.Y.

According to the federal complaint, Da Silva, who was living in Queens, N.Y., and working as a barista in New York City, claimed Reyes fell in her New Rochelle apartment on Jan. 29 while the two were together. Da Silva said he then bound her ankles and wrists, covered her mouth with tape, stuffed her body into a suitcase and dumped it in Greenwich, where it was found about a week later.

Da Silva allegedly used Reyes’ debit card to withdraw $1,000 at a New Rochelle bank branch at 5 a.m. Jan. 29, the federal complaint said.

She had suffered a severe injury to her head, which Da Silva blamed on a fall, the complaint said.

“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 reads.

Reyes dated Da Silva for a short time about a year ago, her family said. Relatives of the slain woman said Da Silva was controlling and stubborn.

They had dated for several months in 2017, after apparently meeting through a dating website, but broke up about a year ago, according to her mother. Da Silva also appeared capable of manipulation, said Reyes’ mother, Norma Sanchez.

Da Silva traveled regularly and took photos of his excursions around New York City, Washington, D.C., and Latin America, which he posted on his Instagram account. He wore his hair long, with a cropped beard, giving him the look of an urban hipster.

Greenwich police worked on the investigation with the FBI and detectives in New Rochelle. Da Silva was arrested at his apartment in Queens.

Da Silva, who also holds Portuguese citizenship, came to this country in May 2017 and overstayed his visa.

In April, Da Silva’s lawyers were talking to prosecutors and undertaking a process that may result in a plea bargain.

“The government and defense counsel have had discussions regarding a possible disposition of this case as recently as March 2019,” according to court papers filed by a federal prosecutor. “The negotiations have not been completed and we plan to continue our discussions.”

The prosecutor was given another month for negotiations, into early May.

Da Silva made an initial appearance in the U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., for a proceeding called a presentment. He has not entered a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty” in the case, and he has not yet been formally arraigned.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, Nicholas Biase, said a plea deal was being discussed in the case. “There are discussions, working to find a resolution of the case without a trial,” Biase said on April 12.

A judge must sign off on any agreement that is reached. Discussions and negotiations over a settlement can also lead to an impasse and then a trial.

Da Silva’s lead attorney, Jason Ser, did not respond to a request for comment last month.

This story includes previous reporting by Staff Writer Robert Marchant.