Published January 13, 2015
A perfect storm of alcohol, drugs, anger and loneliness ended in tragedy early Sunday when a young man savagely stabbed and slashed to death his ex-girlfriend after a wild, all-night party and then dumped her body in a hotel hallway.
Juan Botello, 20, of Stamford, confessed Sunday to the murder of Layla Banks, 21, of Greenwich, who had ended a romantic relationship with him a week earlier. In an eight-page confession made after he turned himself into police, Botello described dragging the victim from the lobby of the Stamford Sheraton Hotel, where they both had attended a party, to an isolated service hallway where he repeatedly stabbed her in the head and neck in a jealous, alcohol-fueled rage.
The suspect, who police said is cooperating fully, also led police Monday afternoon to the murder weapon, a six-blade folding knife police recovered behind a Stamford liquor store, one of several locations Botello said he believed he may have discarded the weapon.
According to police, Botello and Banks had met a little over a year ago after Botello was released from jail after serving a nine-month sentence for a 2005 stabbing in Stamford. The two were part of the same social group and had many friends in common, but when the relationship turned romantic, and whether the victim or her family were aware of Botello's criminal past, remained unclear Monday. Banks broke off the relationship a week ago.
On Saturday night, the two bumped into each other at a party at the Stamford Sheraton Hotel attended by about 60-100 young people in their late teens and early twenties, most of whom consumed "tremendous" amounts of alcohol and may have been also using drugs, police said.
"This was a hard-partying crowd," Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin said.
In his statement, Botello told police that, after the break-up, he had repeatedly tried to contact Banks by computer and cell phone. The victim, police said, had responded to some of his calls, but had made it clear that she she was not interested in reviving the relationship. Botello told police that when he first saw Banks, who had gone to the party with a female friend, she greeted him and kissed him on the cheek. Botello told police that after he began drinking he confronted Banks, and the two argued. The pair had several confrontations during the night, repeatedly arguing and separating, police said.
Botello told police that he became angry and jealous when he saw Banks interacting with other young men.
"In his own words, he said he had anger management issues exacerbated by alcohol," Conklin said.
When Banks left the party around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Botello told police he followed her downstairs from the third floor of the hotel. When they reached the lobby, he grabbed her by the wrist, dragged her into an isolated service hallway, and stabbed her with the knife he was carrying.
"He was very fond of knives," Conklin said. "He carried knives 24-7," he said.
Botello then fled the hotel through an emergency exit, making his way one mile to the home of friend with whom he had been staying, living in the basement for the past two months. He stole a car from the residence and continued to flee, but then returned to Stamford, turned himself into police and confessed.
Banks' body was discovered in the hallway by hotel employees just after 6 a.m. Sunday.
Juan Diego Botello Garcia is being held on $1.025 million bond and has been assigned a public defender.
Layla Banks was a 2004 graduate of Trinity Catholic High School and was attending Norwalk Community College. She worked as a receptionist at a Greenwich yacht club.
The police described Botello as a "very nomadic individual" who bounced from residence to residence and had been living in the basement of a friend's home for the past two months, and who befriended and became involved with Banks after his release from jail and return to Stamford. Since his arrest, no family members of Botello's have contacted authorities, police said.
In interviews with the Stamford Advocate, friends of the couple painted conflicting pictures of the pair.
Botello's friend Josh Akerson, 18, in whose basement he had been living, described him as "basically a good guy," and called Banks "the most amazing person."
But a friend of Banks, Alison Rossi, told the Advocate that she had urged Banks to end the relationship with Botello.
The role that alcohol played in the horrific assault is also being investigated. Police stressed that most of the people who attended the party had drank excessive amounts of alcohol, that many were under-age and that there was evidence of drug use as well. The four people who were found still in the hotel room after police responded to the murder were so intoxicated, they could not be interviewed, authorities said.
Conklin said other individuals may face charges in relation to the party itself, but that no one else will be charged in relation to the murder.
"There is still alot of work to be done in this investigation," Conklin said.
The victim's mother, Florence Banks, told the Greenwich Times Saturday that her daughter did not like big parties.