The night before 24-year-old bookstore employee Valerie Reyes went missing, she told her mother during a distressed phone conversation that “someone is going to murder me”.
Valerie said: “I’m scared. I’m paranoid. I’m getting anxiety attacks.”
Her mother tried to calm her down and extract more information. She asked if there was someone at her house — a basement apartment in the suburban New York suburb of New Rochelle.
But she didn’t get the answers she was looking for. She might never get them now.
Valerie went missing last Tuesday, the morning after that phone call. She was last seen on CCTV in Manhattan before falling off the radar completely.
On Tuesday morning, a week after she vanished, Valerie’s body was discovered on the shoulder of a highway over the state line in neighbouring Connecticut.
She had been murdered, bound by her hands and feet and twisted to fit inside a bright orange suitcase.
Speaking to reporters after the grisly discovery, Valerie’s mother Norma said she is filled with questions that need answers.
At the top of the list: “Who made her feel this way?”
“I asked about her ex-boyfriend. And she said, ‘No’,” Norma said, referring to her daughter’s former partner who it’s believed she separated from on January 24.
“We don’t even understand,” Norma said. “The only thing that’s weird is she was frightened for her life and then somebody ends up taking her life.”
Valerie was fully clothed when she was found. An autopsy was carried out on Wednesday night but the cause of death has not been disclosed by the coroner.
Police believe she was killed elsewhere and dumped in Greenwich, 24km from her home in New Rochelle.
Several items were missing from Valerie’s apartment, police said. Those items included an iPhone, an iPad, her wallet, several items of clothing and bedsheets.
Greenwich Police Captain Robert Berry issued a statement earlier today relaying the community’s “heartfelt condolences”.
In the days after the Barnes & Noble employee went missing, friends and family members shared her picture on social media and pleaded for locals to keep an eye out for her or get in touch if they spotted her.
Among them was a man who identified himself as Valerie’s boyfriend. On January 30, he wrote the following message on Twitter: “My girlfriend Valerie is now officially reported as a missing person nationwide by the authorities. Please contact me if there is ANY kind of information.”
He later tweeted the broken heart emoji and told those who offered support that he was “finding it difficult to come to terms with everything going on”.
Valerie’s family hired a private investigator the day after she went missing, according to the Westchester Journal.
The newspaper reports she was spotted by CCTV cameras at an ATM in Manhattan at 2am last Wednesday. Her bank card was also used later that morning at another ATM, but there was no surveillance footage of the second withdrawal.
A candlelight vigil was organised on behalf of the Reyes family on Thursday night. Hundreds of people gathered at Glen Island Park, a 150-acre island connected to New Rochelle.
Valerie’s father issued a statement after her body was found.
“At this unimaginably difficult time we are asking for love, support, and respect to our family for the loss of my beautiful daughter Valerie Reyes who is now resting in heaven,” he said.
The hunt for her killer carries on.
firstname.lastname@example.org | @ro_smith