A Greek-American man has been arrested for the murder of his Colombian girlfriend in Bogotá. He is being charged with femicide and obstruction of justice.
According to Colombian media, John Nelson Poulos, a resident of Texas, murdered his girlfriend, Valentina Trespalacios, and stuffed her dismembered body in a suitcase before trying to flee Colombia.
However, Poulos was intercepted in Panama and extradited to Colombia where he now faces charges for Trespalacios’ murder.
Discovery of the murder victim
The victim Valentina Trespalacios was just 23 years old and worked as a DJ in Bogotá, the Colombian capital. Her body was reportedly discovered in a suitcase on Sunday, January 22 in a dumpster near Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport.
The victim’s remains were found by a homeless man who was searching through the industrial dumpster for discarded items. “My body turned to jelly when I saw her,” the man told the local press.
Trespalacios’ dismembered body was found inside a blue suitcase that had been wrapped in black industrial tape. Colombian authorities said that the murder victim died by “mechanical asphyxia” (strangulation). She was most likely strangled with a rope. According to some Colombian media sources, she was “hanged, suffocated,” and “beaten.”
The lead suspect, 35-year-old Greek-American John Nelson Poulos, was apprehended at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama on Tuesday, January 24, following an alert issued by the Colombian branch of Interpol.
According to a report issued by the Panamanian police, Poulos “intended to travel on flight 0904 of Turkish Airlines, bound for Istanbul-Turkey“ when he was arrested. In the mugshot taken by Panamanian police, scratch marks can be seen on the left side of the suspect’s face.
La Policía Nacional informa que Interpol Panamá detectó la presencia del ciudadano estadounidense Poulos John Nelson, tras la alerta dada por la República de Colombia, por el homicidio de la DJ Valentina Trespalacios. pic.twitter.com/fDkaE65gRj
— Policía Nacional (@ProtegeryServir) January 25, 2023
On Thursday, January 19, Poulos arrived at a flat that he and Trespalacios were planning to move into. He was carrying the same blue suitcase that the victim’s remains were discovered in days later.
Trespalacios arrived carrying luggage at the flat on Saturday, January 21, with Poulos. The two then decided to head out to a club and returned to the apartment later using a rideshare app. The driver later told the press that Trespalacios sent him a message saying “Help, I’m in danger,” but Poulos re-entered the car and reassured him that she had sent the message by accident.
According to the driver, the couple was behaving normally in the car, although they may have been mildly drunk. Trespalacios was last seen alive by the driver at 3:48 am that morning.
The theory of the Colombian police is that Poulos then strangled Trespalacios to death in the apartment.
“[Poulos] had sexual relations with Mrs. Valentina Trespalacios and proceeded to beat her violently with his own fists,” said Colombian prosecutor Daniel Gómez. “Then he exerted pressure with his hands around her neck until she died.”
Gómez alleges that Poulos left the blue suitcase containing Trespalacios’ body in the dumpster in “the hope that it would be dumped in a landfill.”
The alleged murder motive, according to the Colombian authorities, is that Poulos was driven by jealousy to kill Trespalacios, who is said to have been his girlfriend.
The relationship between Poulos and Trespalacios lasted for approximately eight months. They were planning to move in together in an apartment in Bogotá before the murder happened, the family of Trespalacios told Colombian news outlet Caracol.
“He wanted to marry her, to make a life here with her,” said Trespalacios’ mother, Laura Hidalgo. “He was obsessed with my daughter, a bit jealous. I had a discussion in December with her and it was about jealousy.”
Poulos allegedly hired a private investigator to track Trespalacios’ movements. Some media sources say that he thought Trespalacios was cheating on him, and he grew jealous.
Gómez believes that Poulos was driven to murder Trespalacios by “jealousy” and “obsession” and that Poulos thought of Trespalacios as his “personal object.”