Woman's unknowing selfie with her accused murderer
Stopping at a CVS pharmacy in Mount Vernon, New York, on February 8 last year, Valerie Reyes unknowingly took a selfie with the man who has now admitted to disposing of her body.
The newly uncovered photo shows 24-year-old Ms Reyes posing with her ex-boyfriend Javier Da Silva Rojas, who has since been arrested for her kidnap.
Right up until the night before she went missing, Ms Reyes told her mother she wasn't scared of her ex-boyfriend, but insisted someone was targeting her.
PARANOIA OR PREMONITION?
The night before the 24-year-old book shop employee went missing, she told her mother, Norma Sanchez, during a distressed phone call that "someone is going to murder me".
Ms Reyes said: "I'm scared. I'm paranoid. I'm getting anxiety attacks."
Her mother tried to calm her down, as Ms Reyes had been suffering from depression and panic attacks in recent times.
Her mother asked if there was someone at her house - a basement apartment in the suburban New York suburb of New Rochelle. But Ms Reyes never specified who she thought was after her.
"Mummy I'm just having panic attacks, you know I fear for my life," Ms Sanchez quoted her daughter as saying.
"I feel like someone could come in the apartment and harm me."
She went missing the very next day.
Ms Reyes disappeared on January 29. She lived in the same apartment building as her dad. Family members told police they hadn't heard from her since January 28.
She was reported missing after she failed to show up to work at a Barnes and Noble book store in Eastchester, New York.
It was reported that Ms Reyes was last seen alive on CCTV in Manhattan before falling off the radar completely. However, her iPhone, iPad, clothes and bedsheets were also missing.
In the days after she disappeared, friends and family took to social media asking for help in locating her.
Posts shared photos and descriptions of what she last wore.
Among them was Justin Orda, a man who identified himself as her current boyfriend.
On January 30, he wrote the following message on Twitter: "My girlfriend Valerie is now officially reported as a missing person nationwide by the authorities. Please contact me if there is ANY kind of information."
A GRISLY DISCOVERY
A week after she vanished, Ms Reyes' body was discovered on the morning of February 12 at 8:23am.
A worker spotted a bright orange suitcase on the shoulder of a highway over the state line in neighbouring Connecticut.
"The victim was found at the scene inside a suitcase with her hands and feet bound," Greenwich police confirmed.
The discovery in a secluded area of town unsettled one of Connecticut's most affluent communities.
Equally unsettling was the fact that the highway worker who found the suitcase took unauthorised pictures of Ms Reyes' body and the crime scene.
"That's someone's wife, daughter, sister," said Peter Tesei, a local politician in Greenwich who also serves as police commissioner.
"To have done something like that shows a disregard for the descendants and their loved ones. It really is unconscionable."
Speaking to reporters after the grisly discovery, Reyes' mother Norma said she was filled with questions.
"Who made her feel this way? I asked about her ex-boyfriend. And she said, 'No'," said Ms Sanchez, referring to her daughter's former partner.
It's believed Ms Reyes separated from her ex on January 24 last year.
"We don't even understand," said her grief-stricken mother.
"The only thing that's weird is she was frightened for her life and then somebody ends up taking her life."
Ms Reyes's father said in a statement: "At this unimaginably difficult time we are asking for love, support, and respect to our family for the loss of my beautiful daughter Valerie Reyes, who is now resting in heaven."
Ms Reyes was fully clothed when she was found.
An autopsy was carried out but the cause of death has not been disclosed by the coroner.
Queens resident Javier Da Silva Rojas, 24, was busted by police on Monday after trying to use Reyes' ATM card to withdraw $1000 from her bank account.
Police believe he bound her hands and feet, taped her mouth and stuffed her body into a suitcase before dumping the baggage off the highway where she was found.
While he admitted to hiding the corpse, Ms Reyes' ex claimed she died accidentally while they were having sex on January 29.
During the alleged hook-up, Mr Rojas said she fell on the floor and cracked her head open.
He fronted New York State's White Plains federal court on Tuesday, charged with kidnapping resulting in death, but not with murder.
Greenwich police credited the arrest to an extensive, multi-agency investigation.
"This entire investigation has been a herculean effort from the very beginning, from the initial officers on scene to all the work of all the detectives chasing down numerous leads," said Greenwich Police Capt. Robert Berry in an afternoon press briefing on Tuesday.
"Multiple crime scenes had been examined, hundreds of hours of surveillance footage had been reviewed, and numerous interviews of potential witnesses had been conducted," the department wrote on Twitter.
"Additionally, social media footprints and records from a variety of sources have been analysed."
News of the arrest came on the day Ms Reyes was mourned by weeping family and friends at a packed New Rochelle wake.
A few hundred people held candles in her honour while praying and singing in Spanish.
Loved ones also set up a GoFundMe Page to assist the family with funeral costs.
"She didn't deserve this. She didn't deserve what they did to her," said Ms Reyes' grandfather José Sanchez, 73. "We want justice."
Sanchez and Reyes' grandmother Graciela Sanchez flew in from Mexico for the traditional funeral at St. Gabriel's Church in New Rochelle, which included a mariachi band.
Ms Reyes' mother broke down in tears as she anointed her daughter's emerald-green casket with holy water during a burial at Greenwood Union Cemetery late Wednesday.
For Mr Rojas, a murder charge isn't his only worry.
During his brief court appearance on Tuesday, he was asked whether he wanted the governments of the nations in which he holds dual-citizenship - Venezuela and Portugal - to be informed of his legal troubles.
"Not Venezuela, Portugal," he replied.
As of Tuesday, Mr Rojas was only charged with his ex-girlfriend's kidnapping. But Greenwich cops had previously said he'd "admitted a role in the death" under questioning.
According to local TV station CBS 2-NY, Mr Rojas was living in the US illegally after overstaying a visa. Following the arrest, he was held without bail.
Greenwich police also wouldn't address his immigration status, though the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that they were looking into it.
"Now that we are aware of him, we will take steps needed to confirm his alienage and issue a detainer as needed," an ICE official said.
The precise charges are still pending, but police have assured the victim's family that there will be justice.
"We are confident that the pursuit of justice for Valerie will be successful and we continue to work with the family to provide closure to this tragedy."
- This story originally appeared on The New York Post and is republished with permission