WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A New York man was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in federal prison for kidnapping his ex-girlfriend, stuffing her into a suitcase and dumping it in Connecticut, where she suffocated.
Javier Enrique Da Silva Rojas, 26, of Queens, pleaded guilty in February 2020 to kidnapping 24-year-old Valerie Reyes from her New Rochelle home in January 2019.
According to prosecutors, Da Silva brutally beat Reyes before binding her hands and feet, placing packing tape over her mouth and putting her in a large red suitcase.
He then drove to Greenwich, about 12 miles away, and dumped the suitcase along the side of a road, leaving her to die. Public works employees stumbled upon her body several days later.
In the days following the murder, Da Silva used Reyes’ debit card to drain $5,350 from her bank account and sold her iPad. Two days after Reyes’ body was found, as her family and friends mourned her death, Da Silva used an online marketplace to trade the iPad for an Apple monitor and a laptop.
He later took a photo of himself showing off his new tech gear.
Because Da Silva crossed state lines with Reyes, he was charged in federal court.
Audrey Strauss, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement Thursday that Reyes was in the “prime of her life” when she was slain.
“Javier Da Silva committed a horrific kidnapping that resulted in the death of a young woman,” Strauss said. “In the days after, he used her ATM card to empty her bank account and then attempted to cover up the evidence of his conduct.”
Reyes’ mother, Norma Sanchez, said her daughter was her best friend. Speaking at Da Silva’s sentencing, she called him a “selfish, greedy, soulless person.”
“I want you to hear the words of a mother who you devastated by taking away my baby girl,” Sanchez said in court, according to the New York Daily News. “You deserve nothing but pain and rejection. Today, I hope Valerie finds the justice she deserves.”
The Westchester Journal News reported that Da Silva, a former New York City barista, wept and expressed remorse for what he had done.
“No words can express how repulsed I am by the acts I committed,” Da Silva said. “I will never forgive myself for that. I cannot ask (Reyes’ family) to forgive me because I don’t deserve it. I would like them to know I’m very sorry.”
Along with photos of Da Silva with loved ones, the defense submitted more than two dozen letters from Da Silva’s parents, extended family and friends attesting to his character. Many of the letters, translated into English, arrived from overseas, where much of his family still lives.
The Venezuelan-born Da Silva was in college until he was forced to flee the “deteriorating political situation in his country” in 2017, according to the defense.
“Mr. Da Silva, who is an intelligent, generous and soft-spoken man, has accepted responsibility and is incredibly remorseful for the crime that he has committed,” his defense attorney wrote.
U.S. District Judge Vincent Briccetti said Da Silva’s murder of Reyes was “sickening,” the News Journal reported.
“Anyone who could do such a thing is not a good person, by definition,” Briccetti said. “He is an evil person, so what you did was evil.”
Da Silva’s visa to be in the U.S. was expired at the time of the killing. He will likely be deported after serving his prison sentence.
‘Someone is going to murder me’
Federal court records indicate that Da Silva and Reyes, the oldest of four children in a tight-knit family, met in January 2018 on a dating website. They dated for about three months before Reyes ended the tumultuous relationship.
Friends and family told authorities Da Silva sought a relationship more serious than the young woman was ready for.
After the breakup, Da Silva attempted to keep in contact with Reyes, but she stopped responding to his messages. He was reportedly “destroyed” for several months.
Read prosecutors’ sentencing memo in Javier Da Silva’s case below.
The former couple’s last known communication was in September 2018, according to a sentencing memo from prosecutors. At that time, Reyes told a friend that Da Silva had reached out to her claiming he had accidentally used her debit card information for a purchase.
Da Silva wanted to reimburse her for the charge.
“I don’t wanna talk to him at all, or have anything to do with him,” Reyes texted her friend.
To keep Da Silva at a distance, she used the friend’s online account to accept the reimbursement.
There was no further contact between the two, but on Jan. 24, 2019, Da Silva texted a woman with whom he had a romantic relationship and claimed he’d found his ex “in (his) bed with the guy next door in New Rochelle.” New Rochelle was where Reyes lived.
Days later, Reyes was gone.
Sanchez told The New York Times that Reyes was last seen by her family on Jan. 27, a Sunday.
“We just went about our day, having fun,” Sanchez told the Times. “She went to work on Monday, and she was her normal self, according to co-workers.”
Reyes worked at a Barnes & Noble in Eastchester but aspired to become a tattoo artist like her brother, her family has said.
“She was very scared, very frightened,” Sanchez told the Westchester paper. “She didn’t mention anything or no one specific. She just said, ‘I’m scared. I’m paranoid, Mommy.’”
Reyes’ anxiety was so severe she had trouble speaking at first, her mother said.
“I’m afraid someone is going to murder me,” Reyes told Sanchez.
Sanchez said she talked to her daughter for a while and that Reyes promised she would calm down before they hung up. A while later, Reyes texted her mother, saying she’d gotten something to eat.
“She said, ‘I’m feeling better, Momma,’” Sanchez told the Times.
It was the last time Sanchez heard from her daughter. Court documents indicate that Reyes texted back and forth with a friend that night, telling the friend around 11:35 p.m. that she was going to bed.
Reyes’ loved ones, including her new boyfriend, grew concerned when she failed to show up for work the next day. They reported her missing Jan. 30.
Six days later, on Feb. 5, workers on Glenville Road near Stillman Lane in Greenwich found a red suitcase tossed down an embankment alongside the road. When they unzipped the bag, they got a nasty surprise.
Reyes was found barefoot, wearing an unbuttoned shirt and jeans, according to a criminal complaint. Her legs were bound at the feet and the knees, and her hands were bound behind her back with twine and packing tape.
Packing tape also covered her mouth and chin, and she was in the early stages of decomposition, meaning she’d been there a while.
“There were obvious signs of head trauma, including bruising around the face and a large (bruise) to (her) forehead,” the complaint states.
The beating did not kill her, Reyes’ autopsy determined. She died of “homicidal asphyxia,” according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington.
Her father and brother were tasked with identifying her remains.
A drained bank account and a rented SUV
FBI Special Agent Daniel McKenna wrote in the complaint that Reyes’ bank records proved vital to solving the case. The records showed that the slain woman’s debit card was used around 5 a.m. Jan. 29 to withdraw $1,000 from her account.
ATM footage from the outside of the bank showed a man in a black Honda CR-V go into the bank vestibule to withdraw the cash. New Rochelle city cameras captured the path of the vehicle — and recorded the license plate number — after the man left.
The license plate was registered to a CR-V rented by Da Silva, according to the complaint.
Read the criminal complaint against Javier Da Silva below.
Court records allege that surveillance footage from Da Silva’s Queens apartment complex shows him leaving around 10:50 p.m. Another surveillance camera captured him retrieving the rental vehicle five minutes later from a garage near his home.
In the footage, he wears clothing similar to what the man at the bank was wearing.
Da Silva next plugged the name of a New Rochelle church into his cellphone’s Google Maps app. The church is located about a mile from Reyes’ apartment.
Just after midnight on Jan. 29, his phone’s location data placed him within 200 feet of Reyes’ unit, the documents state.
“At this time, he turned off the location data on his cellular phone,” prosecutors wrote in their presentencing memo.
The phone records indicated Da Silva had not contacted Reyes before arriving at her apartment.
Sometime after he arrived, Reyes suffered a violent beating.
“Afterwards, Da Silva bound and gagged Reyes, placed tape around her mouth and eventually placed her body inside a suitcase,” the memo alleges. “Reyes was still alive when she was bound and gagged. Da Silva removed Reyes from her apartment in the suitcase and placed her in his rental vehicle.”
Phone data from Reyes’ phone indicated that Da Silva had placed it on airplane mode around 3 a.m. that morning. He also accessed her iCloud account and viewed her photos and other documents she kept there.
Shortly before showing up at the bank, Da Silva used Reyes’ phone — and her thumbprint — to access her account balance, prosecutors wrote.
After his trip to the bank, Da Silva appeared to head toward Connecticut. Around 6:30 a.m., it began “pinging” cell towers in Harrison, about 8 miles from New Rochelle. It kept pinging cell towers along the way as he drove toward his destination.
Shortly before 7:30 a.m., his cellphone was in Greenwich, where Reyes’ body would later be found.
Cellphone records show his return trip to New York. By shortly after 9 a.m., he was back in Queens County, court documents state.
The cameras at his apartment complex recorded his return at 9:43 a.m.
“At this juncture, Da Silva was wearing a different outfit than when he initially left his residence the evening before, and (was) carrying a duffel bag,” the sentencing memo reads. He left a few minutes later without the bag.
Lies in the aftermath of murder
The day Reyes’ family reported her missing, Da Silva again used the slain woman’s debit card to withdraw $1,000, this time from an ATM in Midtown Manhattan. Over the next three days, he continued to withdraw cash.
He ultimately took a total of $5,350 from his missing ex-girlfriend.
Da Silva attempted to cover his tracks, authorities said. Crime scene investigators found little blood in Reyes’ basement apartment, and there were no overt signs of a struggle.
He also rented the same Honda CR-V about 16 hours after Reyes’ body was found in Connecticut. Location data from his phone showed he drove to a car wash in the Bronx, then returned the vehicle to the rental garage.
Though little evidence of the murder was found in Reyes’ apartment, Da Silva had left ample evidence behind on Reyes’ body.
“Traces of Da Silva’s DNA were located on a genital swab and on a breast swab from Reyes,” court documents state. “Da Silva’s DNA also appeared in Reyes’ fingernail clippings and on the handle of the suitcase in which Reyes was found.”
On Feb. 7, two days after his ex-girlfriend was found murdered, Da Silva traded her iPad for a new monitor and laptop, authorities said. He told his roommate that he’d “found” the equipment.
Da Silva was arrested Feb. 11 for larceny. When investigators searched his apartment, they found his wallet, which held Reyes’ debit card and driver’s license.
The Venezuelan, who also has citizenship in Portugal, initially told detectives he’d found Reyes’ debit card on a sidewalk while “bar-hopping” in New York’s East Village. He claimed he had not been to New Rochelle or Connecticut since the year before.
He also claimed he’d not seen Reyes since early 2018.
Da Silva ultimately admitted driving the rental SUV to New Rochelle on Jan. 28 but claimed he’d “blacked out from alcohol consumption and could not remember any other details.”
After being shown a photo of Reyes’ decomposing body, he admitted being present when she died but claimed she had died accidentally during sex, according to prosecutors. He said he tied her up with the twine and tape to make her body fit into the suitcase.
“He also said that he taped Reyes’ mouth so she would not be able to scream,” court documents allege.
Reyes’ autopsy proved false Da Silva’s claims of how she died. According to the report, she died of asphyxia, “not from a bruise, an abrasion or a contusion.”
Da Silva was charged Feb. 12 with kidnapping Reyes. Nearly a year later, he pleaded guilty.
During his plea allocution in February 2020, he admitted that he’d beaten Reyes before binding her and placing her, still alive, in the suitcase.
‘We all lost her smile’
Prosecutors wrote to the judge that Da Silva’s proposed 30-year sentence “would be sufficient but not greater than necessary” to serve the purposes of punishment.
“Da Silva kidnapped and murdered an innocent young woman with her entire life ahead of her,” they wrote. “And he did so in an incredibly cruel fashion, forcing Reyes to take her last breaths while hogtied inside of a suitcase that he then dumped in the woods off the side of the road.
“Da Silva then emptied Reyes’ bank account, sold her electronics and went about living his life as if nothing happened, even as Reyes’ family and law enforcement desperately searched for any clues of her whereabouts.”
Reyes’ friends and family offered victim impact statements to the court. Naomi De Jesus wrote that she’s had a hard time accepting the murder of one of her best friends.
De Jesus described Reyes as a creative and adventurous young woman who could make even simple things fun.
“She was so unique in her own way,” De Jesus wrote. “She did things different from everyone else.”
She described the huge impact Reyes had on everyone she knew, including her younger brothers.
“She adored and loved them so much. They meant everything to her,” De Jesus wrote. “She couldn’t even imagine not being around for her brothers.”
The thought of Reyes’ mother having to raise the boys without her “terrified” Reyes, her friend indicated.
“A thought that now haunts me since she was killed,” De Jesus wrote.
Leslie Martinez, a co-worker at Barnes & Noble, wrote that words cannot express the pain of losing Reyes.
“Valerie had so much more life to live,” Martinez wrote. “She had dreams and goals of one day opening her own tattoo shop. She was so talented and loved art.”
She wrote that a “beautiful soul” was taken too soon.
“I lost a friend, but her family lost a sister, a daughter,” Martinez’s letter states. “We all lost her smile.”
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