Valentina Trespalacios, a trailblazing DJ whose career was about to take off, was found dead on Sunday (Jan. 22). Her boyfriend, John Poulos, was arrested and charged with the alleged murder at Panama’s Tocumen International Airport, the Panamanian National Police said, according to CNN.
Her body was found in a blue suitcase in a garbage container on the outskirts of Bogota, the news network reported.
Poulos denied the charges during a hearing in Bogota, according to CNN, and his defense is arguing that due process was not respected. Another hearing is set for Jan. 31.
A DJ deeply engaged in the world of guaracha, a Colombian dance genre, Trespalacios emerged at 23 as one of the country’s promising DJs.
“We are shocked by the violent death of Valentina. She was a dreamer, a skilled DJ and potential producer who was working on several projects, including an album,” David Sarria, creator of Black & White, one of Colombia’s most memorable electronic festivals, tells Billboard.
Poulos, a 35-year-old U.S. citizen, fled Colombia but was detained Jan. 24 as he was about to board a flight to Turkey. The National Police of Panama shared video on Twitter of him being escorted by law enforcement, noting in a subsequent tweet that he was trying to head to Istanbul.
His arrest followed a swift investigation by the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office, which collected evidence against him — including Trespalacios’ cell phone, which was recovered at Bogota’s El Dorado Airport, according to Colombia’s El Tiempo — and obtained his extradition to Colombia. He has been charged with aggravated murder and obstruction, modification and disappearance of evidence, according to the paper.
CNN reports that per Colombia’s Institute of Legal Medicine, Trespalacios died from mechanical suffocation, and that it appeared her body had been subjected to force before she died. El Tiempo also reported that her autopsy report showed signs of strangulation, and that her head, chest and other body parts had experienced blows.
The murder of Trespalacios has shocked the country and the music industry. She debuted in 2019 in the local electronic music scene, winning a prize at the Colombia Dance Awards, which has recognized the best DJs in the country for 12 years.
“She was one of the most explosive rising stars in Colombia’s clubs,” Pablo Silva, the awards’ creator, tells Billboard. “In 2019 she took home the Breakthrough DJ of the Year trophy and never stopped.”
Trespalacios made her way in tech house, and had been doing guaracha, the dance genre from Colombia that combines tribal house, cumbia and Latin. The genre is a phenomenon in the country’s youth parties.
Though she was young, Trespalacios had the opportunity to perform with some of her idols, such as Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Steve Aoki, Erik Morillo and Markus Schullz.
Trespalacios was laid to rest on Jan. 26.