by Florine Roche
New York, Feb11 : “A shameful, relentless American epidemic” is how a newspaper editorial described the homicide of 24-year-old Valerie Reyes of New Rochelle, New York in the 1st week of February this year. The body of Reyes who went missing on January 29, 2019 was found in a suitcase with her hands and feet bound, on the side of a road in Greenwich six days after her mysterious disappearance. The Greenwich police have termed the incident as ‘isolated’ one with a view to reassuring the public as her death has sent shockwaves across Greenwich and neighbouring areas. Reyes death has once again brought to the fore the equally brutal but unsolved murder of a young and exuberant Martha Moxely in 1975, who was just 15 at the time of her murder. Her death was also deemed as an anomaly then and even after 43 years, Moxely’s murder remains unresolved giving credence to the widely held belief that those involved in her murder had powerful political connections (Kennedys) and hence got away with the heinous murder.
Reyes murder therefore, cannot be dismissed just as another isolated incident so as to give a false feeling to the people that they are safe and everything is fine. So far, the authorities have not released any fresh information about the murder and subsequent investigation as the police say they are looking into all possible angles to the grisly murder. Though the officials conducted an autopsy after identifying her body, the cause of her death is not yet disclosed. It is said that due to the circumstances of the murder and pending further investigation the results will be on public domain only after six to eight weeks.
Reyes’s brutal murder, disturbing as it is, is a chilling reminder of the violence women are subjugated to the world over and also the fact that in most cases it is the women who are the potential targets of homicide committed in many parts of the world. However, what makes her case unique is the fact that she was made to feel that her death is imminent and she feared for her life, if the conversation she had with her mother the night before her disappearance, is anything to go by. Reyes who worked at Barnes and Noble, a Bookstore in Eastchester, in New York, was staying alone in an apartment and had given a distress call to her mother the night before her disappearance saying “someone is out to murder me”. She failed to report for work the next day of the conversation with her mother and one of her friends on Twitter even said she had last seen Reyes near the New Rochelle train station. Detectives who were working on her disappearance even showed a photo from a surveillance video to her mother on January 30, 2019 and the woman was none other than Valerie Reyes.
Reyes had failed to respond to text messages and calls to her mobile went directly to her voice mail indicating that the mobile was switched off. The police had launched a massive search following a missing complaint and they even found evidence of spotting her in and around New York City days before her death. Finally, after a week her body was found on the roadside about 14 miles from her apartment in Greenwich in a suitcase with wrists and ankles tied.
The family and friends of Valerie Reyes were stunned by the news about the untimely and unnatural death of the young woman who was full of life and the one who pursued her goal with zealous passion and determination. After her body was identified her family and friends even held a candlelight vigil for Reyes at Glen Island Park in New Rochelle and hundreds of people came to pay their respects and to offer prayers.
Family and friends of Valerie Reyes started a fundraising campaign “GoFundMe” page to help the family with funeral costs. The had expected to raise$20,000/- but people responded to the tragic incident by donating generously and within a day they had raised $ 15,000/- to the cause. The fundraising page read “we want to show our love and support to the Reyes family in addition to showing emotional solidarity”.
Reyes, who was working as a clerk in a bookstore for the last two years, comes from a family of Mexican origin. Her murder has sent shockwaves among the family, friends andamong those who knew the close-knit family closely. Friends identify her as a hard-working woman, quiet but friendly with no history of drug abuse or any risky behaviour and that is what makes her ghastly murder so frightening and worrisome.
Her mother Norma Sanchez is devastated and is yet to accept the fact that her daughter is no more even though the police authorities identified the body as that of Valerie Reyes. Sanchez to whom Valerie had called on the previous day of her disappearance expressing apprehensions of her homicide, put forth two distinctive viewpoints thus confounding the incident. Sanchez was quoted as saying “Valeri was hearing about all these murders of women that were widely reported and she could not get it out of her mind. She was anxious and paranoid”. She also added “there was no one, in particular, threatening her, but she could not shake her fear off”.
Norma Sanchez also revealed that her daughter was troubled after breaking up with her boyfriend. At the same time, she had stated that her daughter was not anxious about the broken relationship, thus indicating a plausible other angles to the sordid saga. By saying she has also indicated that her ex-boyfriend may not be involved in the gruesome murder of Reyes, though it is too early to come to any conclusions at this stage.
However, the available statistics tell-tale that violence against women is common in the US and statistics nearly half of the female homicide incidents in the country are committed by men who happen to be intimate partners of the victims. But in this case the authorities have not made any headway and it is believed that it is a matter of time the police solve the mystery and bring to book the culprits to reassure the public especially women about their safety.
Murder, killings and violence have become staple diet of the masses on a daily basis as most television channel shows aired involve killing or incidents of violence. As such there is the possibility of the masses becoming immune to brutal acts of violence which has almost become an epidemic. Though the general public empathised with Valerie Reyes murder the public needs to be sensitized against such violence against women. It is weird that and unfathomable even to think that Valerie harboured fears for her own life, then she disappeared and within no time she was found murdered and her body was found stuffed in a suitcase. We can only hope Valerie Reyes’ murder does not end up as another unresolved mystery dragging on for half a century like the murder mystery of 15-year old Martha Moxely who was murdered in Greenwich in 1975.
What a ghastly act! Hope the perpetrators are brought to justice .