HARTFORD, Conn. — A woman found dead and bound in a suitcase in a wooded area of Connecticut was identified Thursday as a 24-year-old New York resident who worked at a bookstore and aspired to be a tattoo artist, according to police and co-workers.
Greenwich, Connecticut, police identified the woman as Valerie Reyes, of New Rochelle, New York, who was last seen Jan. 29 and was reported missing the next day after she did not show up for work.
Highway workers found the body Tuesday morning in a wooded section of Greenwich, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from New Rochelle. Officials said Reyes' hands and feet were bound. Police are investigating her death as a homicide.
No arrests have been announced.
The chief medical examiner's office has completed an autopsy but has not yet released the cause and manner of Reyes' death. Her family was notified of the positive identification Wednesday night, police said.
"They are obviously devastated by the loss of Valerie and our heartfelt condolences go out to them," Greenwich police Capt. Robert Berry said in a statement. "The Greenwich Police Department is dedicated to identifying those responsible for the death of Valerie and ensuring justice for her and her family."
Also Thursday, Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei announced that a town public works employee who allegedly took photos of the body and crime scene has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. He declined to name the worker.
"The victim was a daughter, a sister and a cousin of a family who is suffering a tremendous loss at this time," Tesei said. "This thoughtless and insensitive behavior by an employee is inexcusable. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Ms. Reyes' family."
Sal Reyes, who identified himself as the victim's father in a Facebook posting, said a vigil was planned late Thursday afternoon at Glen Island Park in New Rochelle.
"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 wrote in the posting.
Greenwich police are working with New Rochelle authorities and other law enforcement agencies and have received numerous tips about the case.
New York City police on Jan. 31 asked the public for help in finding Valerie Reyes, and said in a Twitter post that she was last seen wearing a green coat, black jeans and black shoes. Police also said she suffered from anxiety and depression.
Reyes worked at a Barnes & Noble store in Eastchester, New York, since it opened 2 ½ years ago, according to the bookstore chain.
"The entire Barnes & Noble community is grieving the loss of our beloved employee Valerie Reyes," Barnes & Noble said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to her family, friends, and coworkers during this difficult time."
Reyes was passionate about art and enjoyed drawing and painting, according to Lauren Bradford, who said she worked with Reyes at the bookstore for about 10 months before Bradford left the job to go to college a few months ago. Reyes had plans to train to become a tattoo artist, Bradford said.
"Horrified. Absolutely horrified," said Bradford, 19. "I'm just like totally shocked. She was a confidant. She really encouraged me and my aspirations. She had a really bright future. She was really excited about her art and her goals."AlertMe