Viusqui J. Perez-Espinosa was convicted Monday night (March 26) of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s new lover in Kenner before dismembering the body and dumping the parts in a St. John the Baptist Parish swamp.
Perez, 45, a Cuban national who had worked as a butcher, was convicted as charged of the second-degree murder of Ives Alexis Portales-Lara, 27. A Honduran immigrant who moved to East Jefferson to be near his young daughter, Portales was murdered Nov. 11, 2016, in the Baylor Place apartment he shared with Perez and the woman who was the third leg in their love triangle.
Perez also was convicted of obstruction of justice, for his efforts to conceal his crime. The day after he killed Portales, Perez disarticulated the body, packed the remains in garbage bags, stuffed them in his car’s trunk and drove to St. John the Baptist Parish, where he threw them off the Interstate 10 bridge over the swamps near the Reserve Canal, according to evidence presented during the trial.
“It was the most brutal possible way to die and be disposed of,” Assistant District Attorney Kellie Rish told jurors in opening statements.
“I’ve never seen a case when a victim is cut into pieces and thrown away like trash,” Assistant District Attorney Richard Olivier told jurors in closing argument.
According to evidence presented at trial, Perez and Portales were friends and co-workers at a scaffolding company who romanced the same woman. Perez was sexually involved with the woman for about 18 months before the relationship ended in September 2016. Portales moved in with her in her Baylor Place apartment, and a secret romantic relationship began.
Perez, who worked as a fisherman and boat captain in Cuba and as a butcher in Honduras before he migrated to the United States, pined for her affections and wanted Portales out of the picture, according to trial evidence.
With Portales’ blessing, his ex-girlfriend who also is a native of Cuba, allowed Perez to move in with them on Nov. 8, 2016, three days before the murder. Perez, aware of rumors of Portales’ relationship, offered his rival money to move into his own apartment.
On the morning of Nov. 11, 2016, after Portales left for work, Perez allegedly sexually assaulted his former girlfriend in her bed. Portales was last seen alive that evening.
The Kenner Police Department was notified, marking the start of a missing persons investigation. Officers responding to the complaint visited the Baylor Place apartment and noticed blood on the floor.
Using luminol, Kenner police later found blood on a wall, the ceiling and on furniture. Blood also was found in the trunk of Perez’s car. In the meantime, police booked Perez based on his ex-girlfriend’s assertion that he sexually assaulted her.
Later in November 2016, amid the missing persons investigation, the blood from the apartment was determined to belong to Portales, Dr. Marcela Zozaya, a forensic DNA analyst with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, testified. Dr. Zozaya likened the process to a paternity test, by matching the genetic material she extracted from the blood to that of Portales’ daughter.
On Dec. 29, 2016, a fisherman found a right arm in the Reserve Canal. On Jan. 12, 2017, pipeline workers dredging the canal found the legs and torso, according to the testimony. Portales’ head and left arm have not been found. The St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office joined the investigation.
Through DNA analysis, Dr. Zozaya determined that the body parts belonged to Portales, she testified. Perez was then booked and subsequently charged with Portales’ murder.
Perez’s attorney asserted that Portales attacked Perez thinking that Perez sexually assaulted his girlfriend, an accusation that Perez denied. Testifying on Monday, Perez told jurors that Portales attacked him with a knife, and during the ensuing struggle, Portales cut his own throat and died as a result. The body was too heavy for him to carry to the trunk of his car, he testified. He refused to describe cutting up the body.
After a six-day trial during which more than 1,200 exhibits were presented by the state, the Jefferson Parish jury deliberated 2 ½ hours before delivering its verdicts. Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Perez to a mandatory life sentence in prison on April 26.
Assistant District Attorneys Kellie Rish and Richard Olivier prosecuted the case.