John Poulos sentenced to 42 years in prison for the murder of Bogota DJ Valentina Trespalacios

American murder suspect John Poulos appears before a Bogotá district judge. Photo: Fiscalia

In a historic case that gripped the country, American John Poulos was sentenced to 42 years and 8 months in prison for the femicide of DJ Valentina Trespalacios. The judgment, handed down by the criminal judge of the Tenth Circuit of Bogotá, also includes accusations of concealment of evidence.

The conviction follows a high-profile trial that concluded on June 4, 2024. The judge determined that Poulos, 36, was guilty of the heinous murder of Trespalacios, a 23-year-old Colombian DJ, on January 22, 2023. he case attracted media attention due to the brutal nature of the crime and the way Poulos dumped his girlfriend's body in a municipal dumpster.

Poulos had rented an AirBnB apartment in northern Bogotá where he killed Trespalacios by strangulation. He then stuffed her body into a suitcase and disposed of it a few blocks from Bogota International Airport. Hours after the crime, Poulos fled to Panama, but was quickly apprehended by authorities and extradited to Colombia. He has been detained at the La Picota maximum security prison in Bogotá since his arrest.

During the trial, the prosecution presented a compelling case detailing how Poulos methodically planned and carried out the murder. The prosecutor described how Poulos assaulted Trespalacios, leaving visible marks and injuries that indicated a violent struggle rather than accidental death. The judge rejected Poulos' claim that Trespalacios died accidentally during consensual sex, considering it a deliberate attempt to mislead the court.

In addition to femicide, Poulos was convicted of concealing evidence. The prosecution demonstrated that Poulos went to great lengths to conceal his crime, including placing the victim's body in a suitcase and depositing it in a location far from where the crime took place.

The judge emphasized the seriousness of Poulos' actions and denied any possibility of conditional suspension of his sentence or house arrest. He also ordered Poulos' deportation from Colombia at the end of his prison term, ensuring that Poulos would be deported immediately after serving his 512 months.

Poulos and Trespalacios' relationship began in April 2022 after meeting on the dating app Tinder. The romance quickly turned toxic due to Poulos' controlling and jealous behavior. Trespalacios' career as a DJ, which required him to work nights in clubs, exacerbated Poulos's insecurities. The prosecution revealed that Poulos even hired an American private investigator to follow Trespalacios, suspecting that she was in a long-term relationship with a Colombian boyfriend.

Trespalacios' mother testified to the volatile nature of the relationship, recounting multiple incidents of jealousy and control. Poulos attempted to manipulate Trespalacios' younger brother into persuading her not to end their relationship, sending her money and gifts with instructions to convince his sister to stay.

The brutal murder of Valentina Trespalacios has sparked widespread outrage in Colombia, highlighting the country's pervasive problem of femicide. According to the Colombian Observatory of Feminicides, 525 feminicides were recorded in 2023, with at least 271 cases reported that year. This case has provided further momentum for stronger protection and support for women facing domestic violence and gender-based crimes.

During closing arguments in the Bogotá courtroom, the prosecutor painted a poignant picture of Trespalacios' final moments, describing how she fought for her life against Poulos' overwhelming physique. The judge's verdict reflects a strong stance against gender-based violence, with the long prison sentence meaning such crimes will carry serious consequences.

Poulos' American ex-wife also came forward during the trial, describing him as a controlling and violent individual. His testimony added weight to the prosecution's depiction of Poulos as a manipulative and violent man.

The Attorney General's Office found Poulos' behavior to be intimidating, manipulative and harassing throughout his relationship with Trespalacios, saying he ultimately decided how her life ended.

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