Wisconsin man accused of killing Colombian DJ girlfriend, stuffing body in suitcase and disposing corpse in dumpster
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — A Wisconsin man is accused of killing his Colombian DJ girlfriend, stuffing her body in a suitcase and dumping the body in a dumpster in a gruesome murder that sparked outrage in the South American country and emotional reactions in the internet triggered .
John Poulos, originally from Franklin, appeared in court in Bogotá on Tuesday, January 31. There, the 35-year-old American citizen is charged with the murder of 23-year-old Valentina Trespalacios.
In 2022, Poulos developed a romantic relationship with Trespalacios, an aspiring DJ in Colombia.
Police allege that Poulos killed Trespalacios on January 22 at an Airbnb where the two were staying in Bogotá. Authorities cite surveillance evidence showing the two enter the room together and days later Poulos exits the room alone rolling a suitcase. Poulos is said to have then taken that suitcase containing Trespalacios’ body and dumped it in a dumpster, where her body was later discovered.
Poulos was then arrested in Panama on January 24 with a plane ticket to Istanbul, Turkey.
La Policía Nacional inform que Interpol Panamá is investigating the presence of National Poulos John Nelson, following the Republic of Colombia’s warning of the murder of DJ Valentina Trespalacios. pic.twitter.com/fDkaE65gRj
— National Police (@ProtegeryServir) January 25, 2023
Colombian authorities then took Poulos into custody on January 26.
A disposition de #Fiscalia quedó el ciudadano estadounidense John Nelson Poulos, quien fue capturado por su presunta participación en el homicidio de la joven Valentina Trespalacios, ocurrido el reciente fin de semana en #Bogotá. pic.twitter.com/JwC5PBSRby
— Fiscalía Colombia (@FiscaliaCol) January 26, 2023
Initial court appearances for Poulos, who has maintained his innocence, were difficult due to problems with his legal representation.
“I would like to draw the attention of the court to the fact that this has happened on many occasions since my arrest […] in Bogota I asked for a lawyer and many important events had happened without the presence of a lawyer,” Poulos told the court in a hearing on Tuesday.
During the hearing, the attorney who originally represented Poulos, Martin Riascos, dropped the case, citing death threats from the community.
In addition, the court is also tasked with finding a new interpreter, as Poulos does not speak or understand fluent Spanish.
“I’ve been told I have these rights to have a translator, which hasn’t been granted,” Poulos said. “I have not been treated well in that regard and I hope this court will make the changes so that I can achieve the best possible outcome in this case.”
Poulos will return to court in Bogotá on Wednesday while the judge works to accommodate the need for new representation and a new interpreter.
A Wisconsin native, John Nelson Poulos lived in Franklin with a wife and three children before court records show the two divorced in 2021.
CBS 58 spoke to a relative of Poulos’ ex-wife, who said she was devastated by what happened to her ex-husband and had no further comment.
One of the Poulos’ children was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The family asked then-House Speaker Paul Ryan for help to expedite FDA approval of a life-saving chemotherapy regimen.
6-year-old Jackson Poulos from Wisconsin is a fighter who has beaten a very rare form of cancer. He’s got a clear scan now and I’m glad to have him as mine #SOTU Guest. https://t.co/0eO7j8xQlLpic.twitter.com/nZ1hvCc4wt
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) January 31, 2018
According to a statement from spokesman Ryan’s office at the time, the office was able to obtain approval for the treatment. In 2018, Poulos’ child completed treatment and received a clear scan. The family were then invited to the State of the Union as guests of Speaker Ryan.
The family also received support from the community.
A now-deleted page on the Victory of the Lamb (a Franklin church) website mentions an event for a Poulos Family Benefit to help with the boy’s childhood cancer.