Things That Matter

Venezuelan Charged With Murdering 24-Year-Old Valerie Reyes Who Was Found Dead In A Suitcase

The death of 24-year-old Valerie Reyes is not only tragic but also riddled with confusion and senselessness. It’s been two weeks since Reyes’s family and friends had reported her missing. A week later police confirmed that Reyes had been found in a suitcase, dead on the side of the road near Greenwich, Connecticut. Police began a search for her killer. Now they have a suspect behind bars — but the story about how all of this transpired is far from over.

Police have charged 24-year-old Javier Da Silva, who dated Valerie Reyes a year ago, in connection with her death and disappearance.

CREDIT: Credit: Instagram / @igotavisual

Da Silva told police that Reyes died after they met up for one last fling, the New York Post reports. Da Silva said that the young woman died as a result of falling on the floor and cracking her head open. The man from Queens did admit that in a panic after her fall, he covered her mouth with packing tape, and tied up her arms and legs, then forced her body into a red suitcase. The NY Post reports that police were able to find Da Silva through an ATM surveillance camera that showed him taking out $1,000 from Reyes’s bank account on Jan. 30.

Family and friends began to question Reyes’ whereabouts on Jan. 29 when she didn’t show up for her shift at her job. What is also strange about this story is that Reyes had told her mother that she was afraid someone was going to kill her. She never elaborated on who she was talking about.

“She was going on about how frightened she was in that apartment,” her mother, Norma Sanchez, told the New York Times. “She was hearing about all these murders of women. ‘I just can’t get it out of my head,'” her daughter said to her and added “‘I feel like somebody’s going to murder me.'”

While her friends and family hadn’t heard from her since Jan. 28, on Jan. 30, two different surveillance cameras that showed Reyes was in Manhattan around 2 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Investigators also said that the sheets, iPad, and iPhone were missing from Reyes’s apartment.

Da Silva — who holds dual citizenships from Venezuela and Portugal — is charged with federal kidnapping resulting in death. Da Silva also told the judge that he didn’t want the Venezuelan embassy to be informed of his arrest, but rather announce it to Portugal.

“Not Venezuela, Portugal,” Da Silva said.

“He failed to leave the United States within the required time frame,” ICE spokeswoman Rachael Yong Yow told Greenwich Time. And added that immigration authorities “‘will aim to take custody of Da Silva for immediate removal when he is released from criminal custody,’ if and when he released from jail.”

“Our heart is broken for the unfortunate and tragic loss of Valerie Reyes,” Reyes’s mother told the Greenwich Time.

CREDIT: Twitter/@tsizemorepix

“It was a blessing that they caught him so fast,” Reyes’s mother told Greenwich Time. “I’m hoping he gets life in prison — rot in there!”

She also said that she still has lots of questions surrounding her daughter’s death. She even knew her daughter and Da Silva had dated after they met on a dating website. She said that he was “never aggressive, but very persistent, the type not to take no for an answer. Weird.”

People have donated more than $31,000 to the family of Reyes via GoFundme.

“We want to show our love, support, and condolences to the Reyes family. Besides showing emotional support, we are asking friends and family to share and help them out with costs to lay her to rest,” reads the GoFundMe page. “All donations big or small are appreciated and helpful. Let’s keep the Reyes family in our prayers during this difficult time.”

READ: 5 Unsolved Murders That Have Left Families Shattered As They Search For Answers

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More Information Has Come Out About the Man Who Senselessly Shot a Young Woman While She Was Walking Her Dog

Things That Matter

More Information Has Come Out About the Man Who Senselessly Shot a Young Woman While She Was Walking Her Dog

Photo via bella_joy_gardens/Instagram

On June 10th, 2020, a senseless crime was committed. 21-year-old Isabella Thallas was shot and killed while she was out walking her dog with her boyfriend, 26-year-old Darian Simon. Simon, who was shot as well, survived.

Almost immediately after Thallas lost her life, the police were informed of the murderer: 36-year-old Michael Close, who lived in the same building as the couple.

Michael Close had shot the couple from his window with an AK-47. Thallas died almost instantly.

Close was quickly arrested and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, and possession of a high-capacity magazine during a crime.

But questions piled up as to why Close committed this crime in the first place. Why did he target the couple? Was the murder pre-meditated? How did this unstable man get his hands on an AK-47?

As the police put the pieces together, the motive was shocking. According to Close, he shot and killed Thallas because her dog defecated in the alley behind his unit.

The story he gave police lined up with Darian Simon’s version of events as well. Simon says that he and Thallas were walking their dog together behind their building. Simon commanded the dog to “poop” when he heard Close yelling at him from the window above them.

“Are you going to train that f—ing dog or just yell at it?” Close allegedly yelled out the window at them. When Simon bent down to pick up the dog’s feces, that’s when Close open-fired out the window. Simon was able to run away with wounds to his lower body. Thallas lost her life.

According to Close’s girlfriend, the man had been mentally unwell for a long time.

He had been diagnosed with depression as well as a personality disorder but refused to seek help. He frequently abused drugs and alcohol after being sober for three years.

The murder of Thallas was a culmination of a tumultuous night where he had been drinking and arguing with his girlfriend for hours. Thallas just happened to be the person who was at the receiving-end of his outburst. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

And recently, some more disturbing information has come to light about Thallas’s murder.

According to Denver Police, the gun that Close used to murder Thallas was taken from his friend, police officer Sgt. Dan Politica.

The close friendship between a police officer and an unhinged murder is, understandably, drawing questions from the Denver community.

The Denver Police Department confirmed that Close and Politica were “close friends”. Thalla’s mother, Anna Thallas, appears to have even more information on the friendship.

“They’re best friends. Life-long best friends for over 20 years. They grew up together,” she told 9News Denver.

Anna Thallas is angry and frustrated that the Denver police aren’t conducting an internal investigation.

The DPD argues that Sgt. Politica did nothing wrong. Thallas points to his failure to report the rifle missing until after her daughter was missing as a massive red flag. It is also worth noting that Politica has a history of violence and disciplinary actions by the DPD.

According to phone records, Close texted Sgt. Politica before the murder complaining about a dog in his neighborhood. After he murdered Thallas, he left Politica a voicemail saying he “really f—-d up bad.”

“That man should be stripped of his uniform,” Anna Thallas said. “Had that officer acted in his capacity and the oath that he took to serve and protect and was a responsible gun owner, Isabella might still be alive. My daughter might still be here.”

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COVID-19 Deaths Among Young Latinos Are Skyrocketing And It’s Having Major Impacts On Our Community

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COVID-19 Deaths Among Young Latinos Are Skyrocketing And It’s Having Major Impacts On Our Community

JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

In what seems like a never ending saga and yet a blink of an eye at the same time, 2020 has been a devastating year for so many. The Coronavirus pandemic has snaked its way through the lives of Latinos across the country, leaving illness, sorrow, pain, and death in its wake.

Few communities have been as impacted by the pandemic as the Latino community. As of Dec. 23, Covid-19 had killed more than 54,000 Latinos, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Tracking Project, which acknowledges that its numbers are incomplete.

So many of our tíos and primos, even our own mothers and fathers, work in jobs that are considered essential and they’re bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s toll on workers.

Meanwhile, the virus has destroyed the foundations built by our families through hard work to give us – the younger generation – a better future.

Young Latinos are being hit particularly hard by the latest surge in COVID-19 deaths.

It was obvious from the beginning of the pandemic that those already worse off were going to be most impacted by the virus. And that’s exactly what happened. Covid-19 thrived on many Latinos’ roles as “essential workers” and it exploited the long-standing gaps compared to white Americans in income, education and access to health care.

The virus immediately had an outsized impact on our community, since so many of us suffer from higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and higher rates of obesity while having less savings and lower wealth, as well as limited business capital.

Meanwhile, the virus has worked to undo generations of progress made by our families in making sure that younger Latinos have strong foundations to work toward a better economic standing.

Gabriel Sanchez, of the University of New Mexico Center for Social Policy, told NBC News that “The only state where Latinos are not overrepresented in cases and casualties is in New Mexico, and that is because Native Americans have been hammered.”

An even more shocking truth is that Covid-19 has been more deadly for young Latinos than other racial groups. Latinos have the greatest share of deaths in age groups under 54, according to CDC data, while among whites, the greatest share of deaths has occurred in age groups over 65.

So many young Latinos work in jobs that are now considered essential and can’t stay home.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, young and working-age adults were hit hard. Covid-19 spread like wildfire in many of the fields that os many young Latinos work in: service industries, farm work, meat plant workers, grocery stores, and healthcare. This grim reality is reflected in the data.

Among Americans who are 35 to 44, almost half (48.9 percent) of those who died were Latino, compared to 27.3 percent of Black people and 15.5 percent of whites, according to an analysis of 226,240 deaths using CDC data.

By contrast, in the 65-74 age group, 45.3 percent killed by Covid-19 were white, 24.7 percent were Black and 23.1 percent were Latino.

For many families, the pandemic has turned back the progress made by earlier generations.

Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The pandemic and the death it’s brought along with it, has undone so much of the valuable progress made by our families. Before Covid-19 hit, our community had bounced back from the economic blow of the Great Recession.

In fact, between 2016 and 2019, wealth among Latino and Black families grew faster than that of other groups, though they still had far to go to catch up to white families, whose median family wealth last year was $188,200, compared to $36,100 for Hispanics and $24,100 for Blacks.

Before the pandemic, Latino unemployment was at 4 percent, but then soared to 19 percent in April. It fell back to 8.4 percent in November, but it’s still double the pre-pandemic rate.

Latino businesses were the engine driving small-business growth, and some had been adding jobs until the pandemic hit. Now, more jobs have been lost in several industry sectors with disproportionately higher rates of Latino-owned businesses — such as food services — than in the private sector overall, according to the Urban Institute.

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