Heartbroken friends, family gather for vigil, call for ‘justice for Val’
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — The fog rolled in on a chilling sunset as rosary beads passed through the wrinkled hands of two family matriarchs.
“Santa Maria, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte,” the women prayed, as a crowd of about 200 people joined in to mourn the loss of Valerie Reyes.
They gathered in distraught silence at a vigil at Glen Island Park along Long Island Sound on Thursday night. Each person there, no matter how well they knew 24-year-old Reyes, were touched by a ripple of grief caused by her horrific slaying.
“We love you,” said her mother, Norma Sanchez, weeping and overcome by the weight of the unbearable trauma.
A young woman was found bound at her hands and feet, stuffed into a suitcase and tossed into a wooded area off Glenville Road in Greenwich on Tuesday morning. By Thursday morning, police had identified the victim as Reyes.
She had been reported missing from New Rochelle on Jan. 29 after she didn’t show up for a shift at the Eastchester Barnes & Noble, where she worked for two-and-a-half years.
“Whoever did this is going to pay,” Sanchez said. “My daughter didn’t deserve whatever you did to her. You will get what you deserve.”
Up until Thursday morning, Reyes’ family were holding to hope that the young woman would return.
“We thought she’d come back,” said a cousin of Reyes’ who declined to give her name. “We never expected this to happen.”
Reyes’ friend, Jackie, said that she wanted the woman’s family to know that their daughter didn’t deserve to be taken from them.
“I am sorry people are so cruel,” she said. “She is in a better place now. She is looking down upon us watching over us. And she is in peace.”
The prayer leader at the vigil told the crowd, “We are sad, but we have hope that she will live in eternity in the house of the Lord.”
The crowd, illuminated by candles and assembled near an old stone castle, chanted “Justice for Val.” At the end of the vigil, the crowd released white balloons into the night sky.
“She was a beautiful young girl,” said Jackie. “May she rest in peace.”