John Poulos murder case: Court shows security footage surrounding death of Wisconsin man's Colombian girlfriend
John Poulos -- who used to live in Franklin with a wife and three kids before filing for divorce in 2021 -- is accused of flying to Colombia last month, meeting up with girlfriend Valentina Trespalacios, killing her, hiding her body in a suitcase and disposing of the corpse in a dumpster, then trying to flee overseas.
Poulos was back in court Wednesday after his initial appearances were off to a rocky start. His initial attorney quit due to threats from the community and Poulos called for a new interpreter after concerns previous interpreters were not adequate enough. Poulos does not speak or understand fluent Spanish.
With a new attorney and new interpreter, the court was able to move forward with proceedings.
The Prosecutor's Office in Colombia presented background information on the relationship between Polous and Trespalacios.
The two met on Instagram about 11 months after Polous filed for divorce in Milwaukee County Court. Poulos would send Trespalacios money on a weekly basis through money transfer service MoneyGram, according to prosecutors who interviewed Valentina's friends.
Those friends told police Poulos demonstrated many instances of jealous behavior, like monitoring Valentina's Instagram and taking more extreme steps.
"Mr. Poulos was upset, and in that opportunity, that occasion, told Valentina he had hired private investigator to keep tabs, [to surveillance] her," a court interpreter said on behalf of prosecutors.
The couple argued and fought in December of 2022 but made up.
Poulos allegedly made plans to go to Colombia to live with Trespalacios.
Security camera video shows John Poulos arriving at an apartment in Bogota on Jan. 19 with a blue suitcase that is missing a wheel.
Footage showed how Poulos and Trespalacios met on Jan. 20 and are seen entering the apartment together. No one else besides the couple is seen entering or leaving the room. On Jan. 22, Poulos leaves the room with the blue suitcase, inside of which police say contained the body of Trespalacios. Poulos then took the suitcase to a car in a garage. Security video showed Poulos taking the suitcase to a garage and putting it in a car.
"Take notice of the strength and force he uses to insert the bag into the trunk," the interpreter said, as the security footage was shown to the court which is meeting via video call.
Trespalacios' body was later found in a dumpster that prosecutors say Poulos disposed the corpse in.
The medical examiner in Colombia determined the death to be the result of asphyxia by strangulation, with evidence of violence, given bruising and blood on the body.
Prosecutors said Poulos is a flight risk and therefore should be held in Colombia for future court proceedings.
"The [fleeing] of John Poulos after disposing of Valentina's body in a garbage container is an evident sign that he intends to evade justice of not wanting to face the victim's family and Colombian society," the interpreter said.
An attorney for the Trespalacios family also spoke at the hearing, urging the judge to keep Poulos in Colombia for fear of a flight risk. The attorney said Poulos' intended final destination when he bought a ticket from Panama to Istanbul, Turkey was Montenegro, which the attorney said does not have an extradition agreement with Colombia.
Poulos lived in Franklin with a wife and three children before filing for divorce in 2021. An attorney for Poulos' estranged wife, Ashely, sent a statement in which Ashley says their relationship was "abusive" and "abandoned" the family. Ashley Poulos describes the divorce process as "horrific" and was unaware of the double life John was living.
John and I were married in 2009 and have three amazing children. Our oldest battled cancer at the age of four. The relationship between John and I was abusive, which led me to file for divorce in 2021. Shortly before I filed for divorce, John transferred our entire marital estate to an offshore trust leaving the family with nothing. Shortly after establishing the trust, John left the United States living in several European Countries including Cyprus, Turkey and Ukraine. Most recently, I was made aware that he was vacationing in Columbia while working and establishing a residence in Texas. John abandoned his children and has not seen them in person since he left Wisconsin in January 2021. His actions have led to a horrific divorce process which is still ongoing. John has represented himself as a “sovereign citizen” throughout the divorce process incurring no legal fees himself but causing me to incur thousands of dollars in attorney and guardian ad litem fees. Despite being ordered to pay child support, he has refused to do so. Just yesterday, the judge in our pending divorce case issued a bench warrant for his arrest. While I knew that John was in Columbia for the past few months, through social media posts, I was not aware of this double life he was leading. I am deeply saddened for the family of Valentina Trespalacios and for all those involved in this tragedy. I further request that the privacy of myself and my children are respected as we navigate this process.