Wisconsin man accused of killing South American girlfriend, putting the body in suitcase
John Poulos being held in Colombia on homicide charges
He’s being held in a Colombia prison until his case goes to trial.
On Jan. 22, Colombian authorities say John Poulos, of Franklin, killed 23-year-old Valentina Trespalacios. The two reportedly met on a dating app.
The details of the killing are gruesome.
Investigators claim Poulos beat and strangled the woman, and then disposed of her body in a suitcase and then tossed it in the trash.
They showed video surveillance evidence in a Colombian court Wednesday which they say shows Poulos entering and leaving the woman’s apartment with allegedly the same blue suitcase a city garbage worker discovered in a trash bin.
Prosecutors say Poulos was obsessed with Trespalacios and hired a private investigator to follow her.
WISN 12 News has learned Poulos was in the middle of a divorce with the mother of their three children. Poulos grew up in Franklin, but his estranged wife told WISN 12 News after she filed for divorce in 2021, he split.
Ashley Poulos told WISN 12 News in a statement Wednesday, “John abandoned his children and has not seen them in person since he left Wisconsin in January 2021.”
She also told WISN 12 News over the phone she wasn’t entirely shocked by the South American homicide allegations.
“Based on his past behavior and controlling nature, I can’t say that I would have been completely shocked because we all knew that he was the kind of person that’s very controlling, abusive” Poulos told WISN 12 News’ Hillary Mintz.
In 2018, after the couple’s son beat a rare form of cancer, then-Speaker Paul Ryan invited them to attend the State of the Union Address at the Capitol.
Ryan’s spokesperson confirmed they were guests, but did not comment on the investigation to WISN 12 News.
Poulos is facing about 50 years in a Colombian prison if found guilty. He denied any involvement in the woman’s killing.
On Thursday, Poulos returned to the courtroom with a new attorney and translator. His attorneys are fighting for his release and lesser charges.
His attorney arguing Poulos was in love with the victim and did not kill her.
“The defendant did not come to Bogota to murder someone, he came to be with someone he loved,” Poulos’ attorney said.
Poulos is now navigating a language barrier and local laws of the land, something international legal experts tell WISN 12 News can be tricky.
“Wherever you are, whatever country, that’s the prevailing law that you have to deal with. I think when people travel, they think they will take their American laws with them and that’s just not true,” international human rights attorney Kim Motley told WISN 12 News.
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