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April 20, 2019

Westchester woman found dead in suitcase remembered at funeral Mass as being ‘full of joy’

February 13, 2019
Friends and family of homicide victim Valeria Reyes attend her burial at Greenwood Union Cemetery in Rye, Westchester County, on Wednesday. (Tyler Sizemore / AP)

Morning light streamed through the stained glass windows of St. Gabriel’s Church in New Rochelle on Wednesday as the casket of Valeria Reyes, shrouded in white, was wheeled up the mosaic tile-covered aisle of the chapel.

The sacred setting was far more peaceful than the Connecticut woods where Reyes’ bound body was found stuffed in a red suitcase, her mouth crudely covered with packing tape, her ex-boyfriend accused of the grisly crime.

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Friends and family of Valeria Reyes grieve during her burial at Greenwood Union Cemetery in Rye, Westchester County, on Wednesday.
Friends and family of Valeria Reyes grieve during her burial at Greenwood Union Cemetery in Rye, Westchester County, on Wednesday. (Tyler Sizemore / AP)

Anguished mourners gathered at the stately, snow-covered Westchester County church to remember the way Reyes, 24, lived, not dwell on the way she died. Friends and family recalled a young woman full of promise and hope who had a remarkable ability to lift everyone around her.

“Valeria went through the pain and suffering of the experience of death to get into that stage, that level of eternity,” said the Rev. Benjamin Palacios. “ Now she is with Jesus. Now she is in the kingdom of heaven. That was necessary to go through. But she was prepared. She was a holy girl. She was a great human being. She was always happy.”

Reyes’ parents, Norma and Salvador, looked on, seemingly comforted by Palacios’ retrospection.

The priest said Reyes was “full of joy, full of hope,” and mourners nodded in agreement.

“That love, that joy and that happiness, we can transmit to others,” Palacios said ”And that was exactly what Valeria did. She was able to give love, to give hope, joy.”

Reyes’ funeral came a day after an ex-boyfriend, Javier da Silva, was arraigned and charged with kidnapping resulting in death, making him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

Federal immigration officials said Wednesday that he is a citizen of Portugal and is in the U.S. illegally.

Javier da Silvas and Valeria Reyes on Instagram last February.
Javier da Silvas and Valeria Reyes on Instagram last February. (Obtained by the New York Daily News)

Da Silva, 24, was busted at 9 p.m. on Monday in Queens after investigators linked him with a $1,000 cash withdrawal from an ATM using a credit card stolen from Reyes, according to police. Authorities charged him with kidnapping Reyes from her home about a year after the victim broke off her relationship with him. Reyes’ family said da Silva had been manipulative and overpossessive.

Investigators were able to match an old pencil sketch left in Reyes’ apartment to a social media account photo of da Silva as they hunted her killer, the complaint said.

Da Silva’s Instagram account still featured a photo of him and Reyes from last year at a CVS in Mount Vernon, Westchester County.

According to a federal complaint, da Silva said he was at his former flame’s New Rochelle home on Jan. 29 when she “fell to the ground and hit her head” after the two had sex. Da Silva, rather than seek help for Reyes, admitted to covering her mouth with packing tape, binding her limbs and jamming her body into the suitcase for disposal.

Reyes’ parents and her current boyfriend reported her missing Jan. 30, setting off a search that ended with the discovery of the suitcase on Feb. 5.

St. Gabriel's Church during Reyes' funeral on Wednesday.
St. Gabriel’s Church during Reyes’ funeral on Wednesday. (Trevor Boyer / New York Daily News)

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