A U.S. Customs and Border Protection employee was arrested Thursday in a federal complaint alleging he kidnapped his wife in Orange County nearly five years ago and killed her.
Eddy Reyes, 35, was detained on Thursday and scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in Santa Ana on May 3, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Investigators this week executed search warrants at 20983 E. Covina Blvd., #E, in Covina, and 835 S. Park Vine St. in Orange.
According to an affidavit filed Monday by Santa Ana Police Department Detective Farshid Hashempour, who is part of an FBI task force, Reyes is suspected of using cellphones, Facebook and a rental car to kidnap and kill his wife, Claudia Reyes.
The victim “was last seen alive by co-workers on the night of Friday, May 6, 2016, when she left her job at an El Pollo Loco in Garden Grove and got into a rented SUV driven by her husband, Eddy Reyes,” Hashempour wrote in the affidavit.
“Since that time no one, including Claudia’s child, parents, co-workers or friends, has heard from her or learned what happened to her.”
One of the victim’s co-workers told investigators she heard her speaking to Reyes on the phone and that they were arguing, Hashempour said. Reyes “was later heard apologizing,” he added.
“Reyes persuaded Claudia he would take her out dancing that night over Claudia’s objection that her clothes were packed for a move,” Hashempour wrote.
“When she left work that night, Claudia told a co-worker that Reyes was waiting outside and that she did not want to go out dancing because they had to move to their new apartment in Anaheim and her clothes were already packed. The family was scheduled to move to a new apartment two days later, on Sunday, May 8.”
The couple did not go out dancing, but instead went to the home of Reyes’ mother, Maria Orellana, who had been babysitting their 4-year-old son. The boy’s mother had tried to get other babysitters.
“Maria Orellana hated Claudia, and once told her that she and Reyes could kill Claudia and take her child,” Hashempour said. “It was that night, or early the following morning, that Claudia was killed.
“While Claudia and her son were seen on surveillance video leaving the couple’s apartment building the morning of May 6 as she left for work, she was never seen again on the video, including the following afternoon when records show her phone, along with Reyes’ phone, went from Maria Orellana’s home to the couple’s apartment.”
Investigators found a “drop of (the victim’s) blood in the SUV Reyes had rented, and the scent of a dead body in the back seat and rear storage area of the SUV,” was “detected by a cadaver dog,” Hashempour said.
The victim emigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador with Reyes’ help, Hashempour said. The two met in 2011 when Reyes and his half-brother, Pablo Orellana, visited the country to see Orellana’s girlfriend, who was related to Claudia, Hashempour said.
Reyes was 25 at the time and his future wife was 16, the detective said. Reyes made several more trips to El Salvador to visit with the victim and have sex with her, Hashempour said.
The victim was impregnated when she was still 16 and the two subsequently got married in El Salvador and emigrated to the U.S. in 2014.
“Reyes physically and mentally abused Claudia,” Hashempour said. “In one instance, Reyes paid a stranger $300 to steal Claudia’s cellphone from her while she waited at a bus stop after work.
“Reyes told a co-worker, whom he also asked to steal the phone, that the phone had incriminating evidence about him that could ruin his career. Reyes later asked the man who stole the phone, a sign-twirler for a business near Claudia’s work, to plant cocaine on Claudia. Prior to her disappearance, Reyes made several threats to kill Claudia rather than let her be with another man.”
On May 7, 2016, when the victim was expected at work, a co-worker received a text message from her phone instructing her to tell their boss that she was calling in sick, Hashempour said.
That seemed strange to the co-worker since they usually just messaged the supervisor directly, the detective said.
The victim’s mother in El Salvador also received text messages from her phone saying she had been “sleeping around,” and that she met someone new and did not love her son or Reyes anymore and intended to move to New York with the new lover who was characterized as an “American with blue eyes,” according to Hashempour.
“Repeated pleas from her mother for Claudia to respond were never answered,” the detective said.
The victim was seen as “devoted to, and over-protective of, her son and would never leave him,” Hashempour said.
Four days after his wife failed to show up for work, Reyes filed a missing persons report with Santa Ana police.
“However, when an investigator called Reyes to get more information about his missing wife, Reyes would not cooperate and told the investigator he would not talk to her, without his lawyer,” Hashempour said.
Later, when investigators spoke with him at his attorney’s office, Reyes said the last time he saw his wife was the night of May 7, 2016, when he dropped her off at a McDonald’s restaurant in Santa Ana, where she planned to meet friends and go out for the evening, Hashempour said.
When his wife did not return or call the next morning, which was Mother’s Day, Reyes said he went on a planned camping trip with his mother, son and his half-brother in the rented SUV, Hashempour said.