Man charged with murdering woman he invited on holiday in viral tweet 'wanted to marry her'
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A man who has been accused of murdering the woman he invited on holiday without previously meeting her had plans to marry her.
John Poulos, a 35-year-old American citizen, is facing a possible sentence of at least 35 years from Colombian prosecutors for allegedly killing his girlfriend, 21-year-old DJ Valentina Trespalacios, whose body was found dumped in January.
The case has received renewed interest this week after one of Poulos’ tweets from December, around a month before his girlfriend’s murder, resurfaced. The divorced father-of-three responded to a viral Twitter challenge which asked users to share their ‘craziest first date story’. Poulos responded on December 17, 2022 with a selfie showing himself with Trespalacios along with a tweet reading: “Invited a Colombian woman on vacation without meeting her first - now we’re getting married.”
The pair had been a couple for almost a year and Poulos, who is originally from Wisconsin, travelled to the Colombian city of Bogotá on 19 January to help Trespalacios move into an apartment the next day, which he claimed to have rented for his future bride.
Two days later, on 22 January, prosecutors allege Poulos killed his girlfriend before putting her body in a luggage bag which he transported to a rented Volkswagen car using a supermarket trolley. He was reportedly captured on surveillance footage putting the bag, which contained Trespalacios’ body, into the car.
He drove to the south side of Bogotá, where he abandoned the suitcase, which had his girlfriend’s body inside in a dumpster. A homeless man searching for recyclables discovered Trespalacios’ body the same day.
Autopsy reports confirm the cause of death being strangulation and blunt force trauma.
Trespalacios’ mother, Laura Hidalgo, spoke to local media outside the morgue in Bogotá, claiming that Poulos travelled to Colombia to marry her daughter.
“He never showed himself as a bad person… My Valentina was a very smiling and happy young woman. She lived in the world of the rumba (party) scene,” she said per CNN’s report days after the killing. “He lived in the United States and came to marry her, they were going to share a life together and do the paperwork for that,” she added.
If Poulos is sentenced for femicide, Colombian criminal law allows for up to 50 years in prison.
The term ‘femicide’ refers to the intentional killing of women because they are women. UN Women states that current and former partners ‘are by far the most likely perpetrators of femicide’.
Poulos was arraigned in a Colombian court on Friday, 14 April. The trial began on Monday, 17 April and the attorney’s general office requested a 50-year sentence.