Miami-Dade County

Arrest Made in 2001 Cold Case Murder in Miami-Dade

The body of Rebeca Pena was found inside of a suitcase and floating along a canal

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The ex-boyfriend of a South Florida woman whose body was found inside a suitcase in a Miami canal in 2001 has been arrested in connection with her murder nearly 20 years later, authorities said Tuesday.

According to an arrest affidavit, 45-year-old Berkley Curtis Jr. is facing charges for the April 2001 murder of Rebeca Pena.

Pena's body was discovered inside a suitcase which was found floating along the Biscayne River Canal near Northwest 153rd Street, underneath Interstate 95. Inside the suitcase, authorities say they also discovered a pair of Weider 25-pound weight plates.

Pena was last seen as an extra on the set of the 2001 Muhammad Ali biopic, near Northwest 55th Street and Northwest 12th Avenue, in Miami the day before her body was discovered.

Investigators said at the time, Pena had complained to friends and family about her ex-boyfriend, Curtis, "stalking" her, and even filed a protection order against him in Broward County.

When speaking with Pena's boyfriend at the time, investigators discovered Curtis had followed Pena and her boyfriend home hours before her disappearance, and even got into an argument with Pena outside her Miramar apartment.

According to the affidavit, investigators later discovered the same type of Weider weight plates found inside the suitcase Pena's body was in when speaking with Curtis's father at his Miami home.

One of the biggest breaks in the case came when police interviewed Curtis's girlfriend at the time.

Investigators say when they first spoke a month after Pena's death, Curtis's girlfriend said she and him went to bed early the night of Pena's murder and that Curtis had left to the grocery store earlier in the evening for just a couple of minutes.

Twelve years later, investigators spoke to Curtis's girlfriend again, who admitted he had actually been gone for hours.

According to the affidavit, the lack of an alibi for Curtis, coupled with a forensic scientist identifying the weighted plates found at his home and inside the suitcase as identical, was enough probable cause to arrest Curtis for Pena's murder. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's office will prosecute the case.

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