Wisconsin man accused of killing Colombian DJ girlfriend, stuffing body in suitcase and disposing corpse in dumpster

NOW: Wisconsin man accused of killing Colombian DJ girlfriend, stuffing body in suitcase and disposing corpse in dumpster

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Wisconsin man is accused of killing his Colombian DJ girlfriend, stuffing her body in a suitcase and disposing of the corpse in a dumpster in a gruesome murder that has sparked outrage in the South American country and emotional reactions online.

John Poulos, originally of Franklin, appeared in court in Bogotá Tuesday, Jan. 31. There, the 35-year-old American citizen is facing homicide charges in the death of 23-year-old Valentina Trespalacios.

In 2022, Poulos developed a romantic relationship with Trespalacios, an up-and-coming DJ in Colombia.

Police allege Poulos killed Trespalacios on Jan. 22 in an Airbnb the two were staying at in Bogotá. Authorities cite surveillance evidence that shows the two entering the room together and days later Poulos leaving the room alone, rolling a suitcase. Poulos then is alleged to have taken that suitcase containing the body of Trespalacios and disposing it in a dumpster where her body was later discovered.

Poulos was then arrested in Panama on Jan. 24 with a ticket to fly to Istanbul, Turkey.

Colombian authorities then took Poulos into custody on Jan. 26.

The initial court appearances for Poulos, who is maintaining his innocence, have been rocky due to issues with his legal representation.

"I want to make the court aware that on many occasions from the moment that I was captured […] in Bogota, I asked for an attorney and many key events had transpired without an attorney present," Poulos told the court in a hearing Tuesday.

During the hearing, the attorney originally representing Poulos, Martin Riascos, quit the case citing death threats from the community.

On top of that, the court is also tasked with finding a new interpreter as Poulos does not speak or understand fluent Spanish.

"I have been told that I have these rights to have a translator that has not been granted," Poulos said. "I have not been treated well in this regard, and I hope that this court makes the changes so that I'm able to give myself the best possible outcome for this case."

Poulos will return to court in Bogotá on Wednesday as the judge works to accommodate the need new representation and a new interpreter.

Wisconsin ties

John Nelson Poulos is a native of Wisconsin and lived in Franklin with a wife and three kids before court records show the two filed for divorce in 2021.

CBS 58 spoke with a relative of Poulos' estranged wife who said she was overwhelmed with what transpired with her estranged husband and has no further comment.

One of the Poulos' children developed a rare form of cancer. The family sought help from then-House Speaker Paul Ryan to fast-track FDA approval for a life-saving chemotherapy treatment.

According to a release from Speaker Ryan's office at the time, the office was able to secure the approval of the treatment. In 2018, Poulos' child finished the treatment and received a clear scan. The family was then invited to the State of the Union as Speaker Ryan's guests.

The family also received support from the community.

A now-deleted page on the Victory of the Lamb (a church in Franklin) website, mentions an event for a Poulos Family Benefit to help with the boy's childhood cancer.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated John Poulos and his wife were divorced. It has been updated to reflect they are still married with the divorce filed in 2021 but still open.

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