Colombia Transfixed By Murder Of Young DJ While American Suspect Captured Fleeing To Turkey
A young woman who worked as a nightclub DJ was found dead, inside a suitcase, and stuffed in the trash. A pudgy, 30-something American man was captured in Panamá, on his way to Istanbul, and sent back to Colombia to face charges for the macabre crime, and now all of Colombia is transfixed by the developing case.
A judge ruled on Thursday that American citizen John Poulos will be standing trial for the murder of Colombian DJ Valentina Trespalacios. Poulos, who allegedly murdered Trespalacios and stuffed her body in a suitcase before dumping it, was captured by authorities while attempting to flee Colombia.
As the investigation of the death of Colombian DJ Valentina Trespalacios continues, friends of Trespalacios and the ex-wife of murder suspect John Poulos have come forward to discuss the relationship between Palacios and Poulos as well as his attitude towards women in his other relationships. Witnesses indicate that neither Poulos nor Trespalacios were bilingual, and that Poulos was jealous and insecure. On the other hand, Trespalacios apparently had another local suitor.
Feminicide and domestic violence are not unheard of in Colombia, but the murder of Trespalacios, a 23-year-old up-and-coming DJ, quickly gained notoriety due to the exceptional circumstances. The only suspect is John Poulos, an American citizen apparently on the run from his own divorce proceedings in the US. Poulos attempted to flee after allegedly committing the crime, but he was caught and arrested at Panama’s Tocumen International Airport where he hoped to board a plane to Istanbul, Turkey.
Make-up artist and close friend of Trespalacios, Victoria Jiménez Escobar testified that the DJ and the Gringo had met on Tinder, and had only become a couple in January 2022. She described the relationship between Trespalacios and Poulos as “complicated,” recalling controlling behavior from Poulos where he kept insisting that Trespalacios post content confirming their relationship publicly on social media despite Trespalacios’ refusal to do so.
“At the end of the year, around October, when I did her makeup for Halloween, this man was very insistently asking her, by text, why she didn’t upload to an Instagram or post a photo with him on Instagram, which he wanted to have security and wanted her to show that the relationship with him was official ,” she said.
Witness and another of Trespalacios’ close personal friends, Silvana Núñez also testified that Trespalacios had been seeing someone else other than Poulos, believed to be a cryptocurrency investor named Santiago Luna. She also testified that Poulos “seemed normal” in his relationship with Trespalacios.
The public attention over Trespalacios’ death has complicated the defense for Poulos: Colombian daily El Tiempo reported that his first lawyer, Martín Riascos, resigned from his position due to alleged threats being levied against him for defending Poulos.
Núñez also complained about threats being taken against her due to her testimony against Poulos that involved her taking $1,000 (4,629,635 pesos) from him. She said that Poulos was sending the money to Trespalacios on the DJ’s request and that Núñez only took the money because Trespalacios was traveling and unable to accept the transaction herself.
She says her public testimony has caused her to receive death threats: “I have received many messages threatening me, that they are going to wait for me outside my job, that they are going to hit me,” she said.
While Poulos was apparently pathologically jealous of Trespalacios, he was actually married back in the United States, and this episode wasn’t the first of his relationship problems. Finance Colombia reached out to Poulos’ actual wife in the US, who is in the middle of divorce proceedings in Wisconsin against Poulos, who she accuses of absconding with the marital assets, leaving her and their children destitute.
Ashley Poulos responded to Finance Colombia through her attorney with a written statement:
There has been a lot of misinformation surrounding John and his family here in the United States and I feel it is necessary that the correct information is reported.
John and I were married in 2009 and have three amazing children. Our oldest battled cancer at the age of four. The relationship between John and I was abusive, which led me to file for divorce in 2021. Shortly before I filed for divorce, John transferred our entire marital estate to an offshore trust leaving the family with nothing. Shortly after establishing the trust, John left the United States living in several European Countries including Cyprus, Turkey and Ukraine.
Most recently, I was made aware that he was vacationing in Columbia while working and establishing a residence in Texas. John abandoned his children and has not seen them in person since he left Wisconsin in January, 2021. His actions have led to a horrific divorce process which is still on-going.
John has represented himself as a “sovereign citizen” throughout the divorce process incurring no legal fees himself but causing me to incur thousands of dollars in attorney and guardian ad litem fees. Despite being ordered to pay child support, he has refused to do so.
Just yesterday, the judge in our pending divorce case issued a bench warrant for his arrest. While I knew that John was in Columbia (sic) for the past few months, through social media posts, I was not aware of this double life he was leading.
I am deeply saddened for the family of Valentina Trespalacios and for all those involved in this tragedy. I further request that the privacy of myself and my children are respected as we navigate this process.
I will make no further comment.
Poulos is now facing a trial for the murder of Palacios after two days of deliberation where the prosecutor and Trespalacios’ family presented their case for prosecuting him, while Poulos’ attorney claims that he had nothing to do with the killing.
Poulos will remain detained due to being a flight risk and a danger to the community. He has pleaded “not guilty” to charges of femicide and attempting to conceal evidence, which could get him up to 40 years in prison in Colombia if convicted.
“This court has found that two of the three principles apply, which is the danger to the community and also the risk of flight,” said the judge, before remanding Poulos to Bogotás notorious La Picota prison.