The lead suspect in the murder of the 21-year-old Bogotá DJ, Valentina Trespalacios, was apprehended Tuesday evening by Panama’s National Migration Service as he attempted to board Turkish Airlines flight 904 from Panama’s Tocumen to Istanbul.
John Nelson Poulos, a 35-year-old US citizen from Wisconsin, and resident of the state of Texas, had left Bogotá to the Central American country late Sunday, hours after the body of Trespalacios was discovered inside a blue suitcase, allegedly belonging to the suspect. Poulos’ grey rental car was captured entering Bogotá’s El Dorado at 4:32 pm.
The suitcase, wrapped in black industrial tape, was placed inside a dumpster not far from Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport. Gruesome images circulating on social media, allegedly show the victim’s head sticking-out of the suitcase. Early reports claimed Trespalacios’ body had been dismembered. The country’s coroner, Medicina Legal, confirmed the woman died by “mechanical asphyxia” – or strangulation – most likely caused by a rope.
In a mugshot taken by Panamanian Police, Poulos shows visible scratch marks on the left side of his face. A Panamanian judge authorized Poulos’ extradition to Colombia on Wednesday.
Poulos, a private investor with a US-based securities company, had met the young woman through a dating site app.
Trespalacio’s body was found by a homeless man searching the industrial dumpster for plastics and paper. “My body turned to jelly when I saw her,” he told local reporters.
At the time of his arrest, Poulos had among his personal documents a boarding pass on Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Podgorica, Montenegro. The small Balkan nation of Montenegro does not have extradition agreements with the US or Colombia. Poulos had also purchased in cash a First Class ticket from Panama to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to possibly elude authorities. The Turkish Airlines flight from Panama to Istanbul was also in First Class.
The US citizen who had traveled to Colombia on several occasions while dating the young woman, was escorted from Panama to Bogotá by members of Colombia’s Interpol and Bogotá Police Chief Carlos Triana. Poulos planned on marrying Trespalacios whom he had been dating for a year. According to the victim’s family, Poulos wanted to start a new life for himself in Colombia. “I handed you over my only daughter, why did you have to return her in the trash?” stated Valentina’s mother, Laura Hidalgo on Semana TV.
Poulos arrived at 5:00 am on Thursday in the Colombian capital where he was processed by judicial authorities. He has been transferred to the bunker at the Fiscalía General de la Nación, the building of the Attorney General. Poulos will be charged Thursday before a Colombian judge on charges of femicide and obstruction of justice.