John Poulos faces prison during indictment for murder of Bogotá DJ

Murder suspect John Poulos arrives in Colombia after being detained by Panamanian authorities. Photo: Fiscalía.

The chief investigator of Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office – Fiscalía General de la Nación – gave a detailed account in the murder case of the 21-year-old Bogotá DJ, Valentina Trespalacios, of suspect John Poulos’ movements and evidence against him since he entered the country on the night of January 19, 2023.

The 35-year-old Texan who was had been in a long-distance relationship over eight months with the young woman, arrived in Bogotá on a DELTA flight from Atlanta. Screen captures from a CCTV near the exit doors of International Arrivals, show the US citizen hauling a blue trolley suitcase believed to be the same one he placed the body of his victim, less than 72 hours later.

Poulos then proceeded in an UBER to his AirBNB apartment in Bogotá’s Chico Navarra neighborhood. The rental agreement for apartment 802 at Edificio Kappadocia (Calle 101 No.21-17), was in both their names, and rented to the couple until Sunday, January 22 – same day in which Trespalacios was murdered. In a sworn testimony to the Fiscalía, the UBER driver exchanged phone numbers with Poulos, who during the 45-minute drive from the airport asked “where he could get ‘tusi’” – a synthetic drug known as “pink cocaine.”

The traveler, who according to the investigator is a resident of Texas “showed no intent on establishing community ties in Colombia” – as he arrived with only one suitcase and a carry-on. Poulos entered the building at 8:53 pm.

Valentina, a student of international business at UNINPAHU, first arrives at the AirBNB on Friday, January 20 at 7:18 pm. In video surveillance cameras on the Eight Floor, Valentina is seen carrying her personal belongings in the company of Poulos. The only suspect arrested in this case had rented that Friday morning a VW Voyager to help with the temporary move. Poulos was in Valentina’s family building at 5:57 pm to help the woman put her clothes and other items into the car.

The investigator refuted that the couple were planning on living together. “A woman who he claimed to love, yet treated as waste, is a threat a society, and should be incarcerated as a preventive measure,” warned the investigator. “The accused took the life of Valentina, and destroyed the dreams and aspirations of a young woman. He showed total disregard for any human dignity and treated her body as a disposable object.”

On Saturday, January 21, at 2:59 pm, Valentina and John are seen leaving their apartment. At 3:30 pm the couple head to the Nexus Night Club, and during almost four hours, the couple are out together. They return to the building at 7:08 pm.

At 10:43 pm, the surveillance camera outside John and Valentina’s AirBNB shows the suspect leaving the apartment alone and heads to the elevator. “He looks very worried and moves around anxiously,” noted the investigator. In a split second, Valentina stands at the door with a cellphone and remarks something to Poulos. He enters the apartment several minutes later.

Last image of John Poulos and Valentina Trespalacios together, taken at 10:43 outside their rental apartment.

This is the last footage of the couple seen speaking, and of Valentina alive.

According to the national coroner the Bogotá DJ died around 9:00 am on Sunday by “mechanical asphyxia”. The autopsy report confirmed Trespalacios had “male body fluids in her mouth and vagina”, as well as “saliva on her breasts” at the time of her death.

On Sunday, January 22, at 9:12 am, Poulus leaves the apartment with two black bags believed to belong to Trespalacios. At 9:51 am, Poulos then enters the apartment with a shopping cart, in which he places a blue suitcase, partly covered in a grey blanket. The grey blanket is believed to have covered the victim’s face given that the entire body did not fit into the suitcase.

Street cameras from Channel 1 in Fontibón, show Poulos’ VW parking at 3:05 pm “close to the sidewalk” and next to a district trash dumpster. At 3:08 pm, the suspicious car leaves this low-income neighborhood adjacent to the airport’s second runway, and turns East toward El Dorado.

The investigator confirmed the suitcase was missing one wheel, and same suitcase found at the bottom of the dumpster. The UBER driver also noticed Poulos’ suitcase was missing a wheel. During the indictment, the uncensored image of Trespalacios’ bruised and protruding face inside the dumpster was shown by the prosecution.

The suitcase was wrapped in two strands of 3M black duct tape. “It is clear that the disposal of the body was planned, given the long distance from the crime scene, to where the body was identified,” highlighted the investigator. Poulos is believed to have thrown the victim’s cellphone – without SIM card – into a grassy field near the airport. “There is no record of incoming or out-going calls with this cellphone that could clarify the motives behind Trespalacios’ death,” stated the prosecutor.

The Louis Vuitton-encased cellphone was found by a man searching for missing car documents. The man handed the phone over to authorities after he matched the opening screen profile of Trespalacios with similar pictures of the victim in the news.

Gruesome images circulating on social media, after a garbage recycler discovers the body , at 4:23 pm, shows the victim’s head protruding from the suitcase. The victim had been dumped near Fontibón’s Los Cámbulos park (Cra 109 No.23G-25), and 20-minute drive from the International Airport. Poulos’ rental car was identified entering the airport’s ramp just before 4:00pm. At 5:23 pm, the suspect passed through the security check point inside the immigration hall at El Dorado, before boarding a flight to Panama.

Among Poulos’ personal items recovered at the time of arrest inside Panama’s Tocumen airport was a used roll of black industrial tape by the same manufacturer, as well as a boarding pass to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, three USB memory sticks and iPad.

According to the investigator, when Poulos returned the silver VW Voyager at El Dorado, the receiving agent of the rental car company Alamo, noticed the suspect had a “scratch mark along his left side of his face.” Poulos’ had a rental agreement dated January 20, 5:00 pm to January 23, 5:00 pm. “The suspect only had the intention of staying in Colombia three days,” remarked Miguel Del Río, attorney for the Trespalacios family. “The length of his stay in Colombia is contrary to what the victim was led to believe, as well as her family, and friend María Silvana Núñez.

According to Núñez’s testimony, Valentina was “very much in love with another man,” but her relationship with Poulos “seemed normal.” Santiago Luna, a cryptocurrency “investor”  regularly chatted with Valentina via WhatApp, and sent a last message to the DJ on Saturday. Núñez claims Poulos was known on webcam pages as “The Man of the Magic.”

All evidence has been given under oath to the Fiscalía. The investigator asked the judge to send Poulos to prison, as “his attitude shows contempt of the legal system,” and he remains a “threat to the community.”

In other key evidence, the Attorney General Office confirmed John Poulos “sent Valentina money on a weekly basis, and on one occasion, he found out that she had gone to Aruba. Valentina then asked John to transfer US$1000 via MoneyGram to the account of her friend and fellow DJ, María Silvana Núñez.

Poulos who was born on May 19, 1987, in Wisconsin, USA, met Trespalacios through the dating website Tinder. He first traveled to Colombia in September 2022, and spent six days living with Valentina and her family. John and Valentina vacationed in Cancun, Mexico, where the accused mentioned that he was recently divorced, and “struggling with a difficult separation.”

The prosecutor argued that Poulos “dragged Valentina into a cycle of violence” and treated her as “a thing of his property.” The prosecutor claims Poulos’ harassment of Trespalacios “begins with his checking her Instagram account, her followers and who she followed.” The prosecutor affirmed that “this harassment grew in intensity to the point of physical aggression.” Silvana Núñez also issued a statement through Valentina’s mother, Laura Hidalgo, in which, she claims Valentina knew that Poulos had paid a private investigator to track her movements, and those of her family, during the Electronic Music Awards in Bogotá.

At one point, as the prosecutor was speaking, Poulos exchanged words with his defense attorney and was reprimanded by Judge 59 of the criminal court. Poulos responded to judge in English, stating: “I am making notes, pages of notes. I hope the judge does not take offense at my legal right to build my defense.”

The prosecution has asked for a 40-year prison sentence for John Poulos, given that femicide is among the most severe crimes that can be committed under Colombia’s criminal code. The prosecutor ended her intervention saying that the “World Health Organization – WHO – considers violence against women a public health crisis.”