NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A 44-year-old man is accused of killing and dismembering another man who was living with the suspect's ex-girlfriend in an apartment where detectives found evidence of blood spatters, a big pool of blood and a struggle, authorities in a New Orleans suburb said Tuesday.
The woman, about 52, had accused Viusqui Perez-Espinosa of raping her, and he had been held on that charge since mid-November, said Michael Glaser, the police chief in Kenner, about 10 miles west of New Orleans, .
While Perez-Espinosa was locked up, he was also a suspect in a presumed homicide -- but before charging him police needed proof that Ivis Alexis Portales-Lara, 27, had been killed, Glaser, said in a phone interview.
The proof came Jan. 12, he said, when he learned that Portales-Lara's DNA matched that from a severed arm found by a fisherman on Dec. 29 in a canal in St. John the Baptist Parish, another 20 miles west.
Glaser said he got a warrant to arrest Perez-Espinoza on charges of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.
Jealousy seems a likely motive, Glaser said.
Glaser said Perez-Espinosa knew the woman needed help with the rent after he broke up with her and left her for another.
"He kind of recruited" Portales-Lara, a co-worker at a scaffolding company, to take the spare bedroom, Glaser said at a news conference livestreamed to cellphones by WWL-TV. But then Perez-Espinosa returned, after the new woman kicked him out, and his ex said he could sleep on her sofa for a few days, Glaser said.
He said the ex was at work when Portales-Lara was killed and dismembered, and believed Perez-Espinosa's story that he had simply moved out.
Both men were immigrants — Perez-Espinosa from Cuba and Portales-Lara from Honduras — and investigators don't know either man's immigration status, Glaser said.
Lt. Brian McGregor, a police spokesman, did not know whether Perez-Espinosa had a lawyer who could comment. Bond has not been set on the murder charge, Glaser said. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office website shows that bond of $150,000 has been set on a charge of second-degree rape.
Portales-Lara's relatives said they hadn't been able to reach him since Nov. 11.
Glaser said Perez-Espinosa told an officer who went to the apartment on Nov. 13 that Portales-Lara had moved out. The apartment had been cleaned up, Glaser said.
Portales-Lara's ex-wife reported him missing on Nov. 14, after he failed to pick up his son for weekend visitation, Glaser said. She said she'd talked with his employers, and he hadn't been to work.
On Nov. 15, a scaffolding company employee reported that not only was Portales-Lara not at work, but "he'd been hearing rumors that the victim has been killed and dismembered," Glaser said.
Detectives went to the apartment Nov. 15 to interview Perez-Espinosa, Glaser said. One officer saw what appeared to be blood spatters. Glaser said Perez-Espinosa denied any knowledge, but agreed to go to the police station for questioning.
While he was there, police got a warrant to search the apartment. The woman showed up at the apartment and then went to the police station, where she told detectives that Perez-Espinosa had raped her the night of Nov. 11, Glaser said.
Investigators found "positive presumptive tests for blood throughout the floor, the bathroom, in what would have been the bedroom of the victim," Glaser said during the news conference. Removing wall moldings revealed actual pools of blood, he said.
Tests showed it was Portales-Lara's.
A fisherman called the St. John the Baptist Sheriff's Office on Dec. 29, saying he had found an arm in a canal in Reserve.
Sheriff Mike Tregre said deputies searched the immediate area but found nothing more until Jan. 12 — the same day the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office crime lab identified the arm — when a work crew's airboat apparently tore open a bag about a mile from the original site.
After the crew reported seeing a body part, deputies found more in other trash bags — everything but the head and left arm, Glaser said.
"We went back Saturday with 30 to 40 deputies and officers, cadaver dogs and underwater sonar, looking for the missing body pieces," he said.