The romantic pursuits of a 51-year-old woman that saw her travel 3,000 miles from her home in Mexico for a date in Peru took a nightmarish turn after her dismembered body washed up on a beach.
Blanca Arellano told her family at the end of July that she would be taking a trip to Lima, where she planned to finally meet Juan Pablo Jesús Villafuerte, the man she’d been in an online courtship with for several months, in person.
Her family said that Arellano was planning to visit the beach city of Huacho, where her 37-year-old Peruvian boyfriend lived, and that remained to be the story they believed until they stopped hearing from her on 7 November.
In that final call with her niece, Karla Arellano, the 51-year-old hadn’t raised any red flags that would give her relative any cause for concern. She told her that the online relationship had proved to be standing the tests of an in-person one and that she had even developed feelings of love for the man she had previously only known behind the screen of her laptop, according to authorities.
Weeks went by before Arellano’s dream vacation to meet her so-called “love” was be revealed to be a terrifying scheme, one that left the Mexican woman’s family frantically searching for her - only to have their own worst nightmare confirmed.
If it hadn’t been for the efforts of the 51-year-old’s social media savvy niece, the case perhaps wouldn’t have gained the initial notoriety she managed to capture, as her posts about her missing aunt racked up hundreds of likes, retweets and comments.
“I never thought I would be in this situation, but today I’m asking for your support to spread this post and find one of the most loved and important people of my life. My aunt Blanca Olivia Arellano Gutiérrez disappeared on Monday November 07 in Peru. We fear for her life,” the 12 November post read.
Jamás creí estar en esta situación, hoy pido apoyo y difusión para localizar a una de las personas más amadas e importantes de mi vida. Mi tía Blanca Olivia Arellano Gutiérrez desapareció el día Lunes 07 de Noviembre en Peru, ella de origen Mexicano, tememos por su vida+ pic.twitter.com/4aHRuv0zAW
— Karla Arellano (@itskararellano) November 12, 2022
The younger Ms Arellano said in the posts that she’d begun to have misgivings about the medical student her aunt had met in an online gambling forum after a conversation with him in November revealed that the pair had fallen out and his ex-lover, he claimed, had said she was travelling back to Mexico.
“I decided to communicate with Juan P since he was the only contact she had in that country and that is where our fear was triggered,” she wrote in a follow-up post to her Twitter thread on her aunt’s disappearance.
“Is she ok?” asked the desperate niece, emphasising in her series of posts how Villafuerte was the only person in the country who her aunt knew.
The medical student responded by saying that he’d stopped talking to Arellano several days before and that she’d told him that she was catching a plane back to Mexico after deciding, he claimed, “I couldn’t offer the life she wanted”.
The niece noted in her posts how this behaviour was extremely uncharacteristic of her aunt, as she “WOULD NOT DISAPPEAR JUST LIKE THAT EVER AND LESS WITHOUT WARNING.”
“Juan P is the only contact we have and he is the last person to see my Aunt Blanca alive, until now he has not wanted to cooperate with information that could facilitate his search and today,” she added in one of the follow-up posts.
For his part, Villafuerte told the younger Ms Arellano that he had done his “role” but from here on out, he could no longer assist the family in locating their missing relative, claiming that he didn’t “know anything else from here and I’m saying this with sadness”.
“Take care and I hope she gets safe back home,” the 37-year-old said in his last text exchange with the family.
“Ella se aburrió a los 15 días de estar en Peru” El argumenta que el Domingo mi tía decidió regresar a Mexico, estaban en Huacho y ella por sus medios salió hacia Lima para posterior salir a Mexico pero no ha sucedido eso pic.twitter.com/spGgBLhFyX
— Karla Arellano (@itskararellano) November 12, 2022
Soon after, Peruvian authorities launched an investigation into the missing Mexican woman after her niece’s posts began gaining more traction online.
On 10 November, the grisly discovery of a severed finger with a silver ring still attached confirmed the worst for Arellano’s family.
Though the identifying fingertips had been removed, according to investigators, the family was able to match it to their missing relative with the silver ring, which they knew Arellano to wear.
In the days that followed, more unsavoury discoveries began washing up on the same beach in Huacho, including a faceless head, an arm and then finally a torso with all the internal organs seemingly intentionally excised from the chamber.
An arrest warrant was issued for Villafuerte on 17 November, and he was taken in as the main suspect in Arellano’s homicide investigation.
“Juan Pablo Villafuerte was arrested on charges of human organs trafficking,” said Peru’s general attorney in a news conference on Monday, according to Latin Noticias.
In a terrifying revelation that only came to light days after the 37-year-old medical student’s arrest, Villafuerte had allegedly begun posting videos on TikTok shortly after Arellano’s disappearance that appeared to show him dissecting human organs, including a pancreas and a brain, El Popular reported.
While searching the suspected murder’s home, investigators then also found evidence of blood spattering throughout his apartment, including in the bathroom, the laundry room, and on the mattress and cleaning supplies, El Pais reported.
“We have no words to express what we are experiencing,” her niece tweeted on Wednesday. “My aunt was a kind, warm person, full of light, intelligent, dedicated, loving and that is how she should be remembered.”