A Jefferson Parish jury on Tuesday night (Jan. 31) found Viusqui Perez-Espinosa guilty of killing his rival for the affections of a woman in Kenner. After killing Ives Alexis Portales-Lara, Perez disarticulated the body and dumped the parts in a St. John the Baptist swamp in 2016.
Perez, 50, a native of Cuba and a former butcher, was convicted as charged of second-degree murder, jurors unanimously decided during almost four hours of deliberations.
However, in its April 2020 Ramos vs. Louisiana decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that non-unanimous jury verdicts are unconstitutional. As a result, Louisiana’s 5th Circuit Court of Appeal in September 2020 ordered that Perez would be retried for the second-degree murder.
Perez also was convicted in his 2018 trial of obstruction of justice for disposing Portales’ remains and cleaning the crime scene to cover up his crime. That jury was unanimous on that count. He is serving a 40-year sentence for that crime.
Perez and Portales were friends and co-workers who were romantically involved with the same woman, albeit at different times. Perez was first involved with the woman before their 18-month relationship ended in September 2016. Portales’ secret relationship with her began soon after he moved into the Baylor Place apartment with her.
Perez wanted to rekindle the relationship and wanted Portales out of the picture. Three days before the murder, Perez moved in with Portales and the woman. He offered Portales money to move out. Portales declined.
On the morning of Nov. 11, 2016, Perez sexually assaulted the woman after Portales left for work. Portales was last seen alive that afternoon when he returned to the apartment from his job.
The Kenner Police Department opened a missing persons investigation soon after. When questioned, Perez repeatedly denied knowing of Portales’ whereabouts. An officer noticed blood on the sofa, leading police to obtain a search warrant. Perez, meanwhile, was arrested on suspicion of raping the woman.
Using chemicals and a special light, Kenner police found evidence of a large amount of blood on the floor that had been recently cleaned. The police also found evidence of blood spatter on the walls, a plant and on the sofa, and on a jacket in the trunk of Perez’s car.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office’s Crime Lab used DNA analysis to determine that the blood in the apartment and on the jacket belonged to Portales. Analysts accomplished this by matching his genetic material recovered from his personal items in the apartment to that of his daughter.
The investigation expanded to include the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office in late December 2016, when dismembered human remains were discovered in the Reserve Canal off Interstate 10.
A Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office DNA analyst then confirmed the body parts belonged to Portales. Perez was then booked with his murder.
Police recovered numerous text messages Perez sent to others in which he used derogatory terms to describe Portales and his anger over his rival continuing to live in the apartment.
Testifying Tuesday, Perez denied sexually assaulting the woman. He told jurors that on the evening of Nov. 11, 2016, Portales attacked him with a knife. During the struggle that followed, Perez alleged, the knife cut Portales’ neck, and he bled to death.
Pressed by a prosecutor during cross-examination to describe what he did to the body, Perez cried and in Spanish called her a “torturer” and “a Nazi.” For that, Perez was held in contempt of court and was sentenced to six months in jail.
Although Perez described a violent struggle, a neighbor in the adjacent apartment described only hearing the vent hood motor whirring above Perez’s stovetop for several hours. The neighbor then noted the smell of bleach emanating from next door.
The jury returned with his guilty verdict just before 11 p.m., ending the 7-day-long trial. Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Perez on Feb. 9.
Assistant District Attorneys Kellie Rish and Richard Olivier prosecuted the case.