Trial of Wisconsin man accused of killing Colombian girlfriend, disposing of body in suitcase begins

NOW: Trial of Wisconsin man accused of killing Colombian girlfriend, disposing of body in suitcase begins

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A trial in Colombia centering around the alleged murder of a DJ at the hands of her boyfriend, a divorced father of three from Franklin, Wisconsin is now underway.

John Poulos is charged with femicide, a charge many Latin American countries use when women are murdered, for allegedly killing his Colombian girlfriend Valentia Trespalacios, in January.

After several delays, the trial began on Monday, Dec. 4. in Bogotá, Colombia. The first witness called to the stand by prosecutors was Trespalacios' mother, Laura Hildalgo. During her testimony, Hildalgo described her daughter's health as fragile, saying that due to recent surgery, Trespalacios would not have been able to defend herself against Poulos when he allegedly strangled her to death. She also described the couple's relationship to the court.

"He was always very jealous," she said in Spanish. "I don't know why he couldn't trust her. She was a good girl. She was transparent with him in this relationship, and this man hired a private investigator on her."

Hildalgo said Poulos initially came off as a good guy, but she said this facade quickly faded.

"He wanted to control her every movement. What she was doing, who she was with," she said about Poulos and her daughter.

"This man humiliated her a lot. He would get outraged with her. He beat her without compassion. He had no compassion for my daughter, and I don't want them to have compassion for him."

Surveillance video shows the couple entering a Bogotá apartment together on Jan. 20. Poulos leaves alone two days after, rolling a suitcase he eventually put into the trunk of a car. That suitcase is said to have held the body of Trespalacios.

In court on Monday, prosecutors showed a video Trespalacios sent her mother earlier in the day, on Jan. 20, saying she and Poulos were headed to that apartment.

"My daughter Alejandra Trespalacios was in the car with John Poulos," Hildalgo said.

Several other witnesses testified on Monday, including an employee of a rental car company who Poulos spoke with the day he allegedly disposed of the body as Poulos returned the car he was renting. The witness described Poulos as "sweaty" and "in a rush." Another witness testified to having found Trespalacios' phone in the trash at the Bogotá airport.

Poulos does not speak or understand Spanish and has an interpreter for the trial. He has maintained his innocence since being arrested and charged. If found guilty, he could spend up to 50 years in a Colombian prison.

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