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24-Year-Old New York Woman Found Dead, Bound in Suitcase on Connecticut Road Had Suffocated, Officials Say

Valerie Reyes, 24, of New Rochelle, was last seen on Jan. 29; her body was found in a suitcase along a Connecticut road six days later

What to Know

  • A young New York woman whose body was found in a suitcase off a Connecticut road six days after she vanished this year was suffocated
  • The medical examiner's office released a cause of death Monday for 24-year-old Valerie Reyes, who was from New Rochelle
  • Reyes' ex-boyfriend is being held on a federal charge of kidnapping resulting in death and could face the death penalty if convicted

The 24-year-old New York woman found dead in a suitcase on the side of a road in an upscale Connecticut suburb about a week after she vanished earlier this year had suffocated, authorities said Monday.

The Connecticut medical examiner's office said Valerie Reyes, of New Rochelle, died of homicidal asphyxia, though the office did not say whether the young woman died before she was in the suitcase.

Reyes was last seen on Jan. 29 and reported missing on Jan. 30. Employees with the town of Greenwich found her body six days later, on Feb. 5. Her ex-boyfriend, Javier Da Silva Rojas, of Queens, was arrested after authorities say he fraudulently used Reyes' ATM card. He remains held on a federal charge of kidnapping resulting in death and could face the death penalty if convicted.

A federal criminal complaint says Da Silva Rojas claimed in interviews with investigators that he and Reyes had sex in her New Rochelle apartment and at some point she fell and bumped her head. That's when he put her body in a suitcase and brought it to Greenwich, then dumped it in a wooded area off the street, he told investigators. But he denied killing her.

His attorneys haven't commented.

The criminal complaint describes law enforcement finding the body of Reyes, barefoot with an unbuttoned shirt and jeans, inside the suitcase on Feb. 5. She was bound at the feet and knees, and her hands were bound behind her back with what appeared to be white twine and packing tape. She had bruises on her face including a large one on the forehead.  

Reyes' debit card was used at an ATM on Jan. 29 to withdraw about $1,000, the complaint said. The rental car captured on surveillance video leaving the bank after the withdrawal was traced to an account held by Da Silva Rojas. 

Reyes' mother, Norma Sanchez had told News 4 she met Da Silva Rojas once, and that he seemed nice and polite. But when her daughter broke up with him after dating eight months, he refused to stop harassing her, Sanchez said. 

Sanchez's anguish over the discovery of her daughter's body was hardly mollified by the fact he was arrested.

"It's different when your child dies of natural diseases but when somebody, a monster, comes and takes your daughter away, your child away -- for what. For what!," said Sanchez. 

Sanchez said her daughter, whom she called Val, was vibrant and friendly. She worked at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Eastchester for about 2.5 years.

Reyes was passionate about art and enjoyed drawing and painting, according to Lauren Bradford, who said she worked with Reyes at the bookstore for about 10 months before Bradford left the job to go to college. Reyes had plans to train to become a tattoo artist, Bradford said.

"Horrified. Absolutely horrified," said Bradford. "I'm just like totally shocked. She was a confidant. She really encouraged me and my aspirations. She had a really bright future. She was really excited about her art and her goals."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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