Victor Pena, a man with a history of causing problems on Boston transit, is accused of kidnapping Olivia Ambrose, the Toast, Inc. project manager who vanished after a night out with friends and was later found alive after several days of searches.
Police confirmed in a news conference that they had located the victim alive in suspect Victor Pena’s Walford Way apartment in Charlestown. “The officers made entry and apprehended the suspect. We were able to transport the victim to a local area hospital where she is under evaluation,” the Boston police commissioner, William Gross, said in the press conference. “Today is a good day. Ms. Ambrose was found alive. It’s obvious from the video surveillance that she did not go along willingly.”
However, authorities were cryptic about a lot of the details involving the Ambrose abduction, and they said they haven’t determined a motive.
A picture was emerging of Pena, however, as a man with a troubled history with women, including a restraining order and incidents involving transit police due to bizarre behavior. On Facebook, where he has multiple accounts (at least 10 repetitively similar pages filled with selfies), Pena also goes by the name of Victor Manuel Peña Muñiz.
He says he is from Newark, New Jersey. Some of the Facebook accounts’ only “friends” are his other Facebook accounts. He called himself the “king of Puerto Rico” in Spanish on one of the Facebook pages. Another Facebook description’s translation read, “I am a very romantic man very caring and very hot. I like to have a great time with beautiful young girls 18 to 35 years old.”
Ambrose, who is called “Liviy,” disappeared on Saturday, January 19, 2019, and wasn’t found until January 22. A Facebook page devoted to finding her had reported that Olivia “Liviy” Ambrose was last seen “leaving Hennessy’s Bar on Saturday January 19th around 11pm. The bar is located on Union Street near Faneuil Hall, Haymarket and Govenment Center.” MassLive.com reports that Olivia was out with friends, including members of a volleyball team she played on.
“UPDATE: 23-year-old Olivia Ambrose has been located and transported to an area hospital for evaluation purposes,” Boston police confirmed on the afternoon of January 22, 2019 to the relief of Ambrose’s loved ones, who had staged a determined search effort to find her. “Thank you to everybody who aided, helped and assisted in the investigation and search.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Victor Pena Was Previously Accused of Incidents on Trains & Was Homeless, Reports Allege
News that Victor Pena was the suspect’s name first broke on the social media account of local journalist Kathy Curran. She reported that he is 38 and has been homeless. “Sources tell us the man in @bostonpolice custody in connection with the disappearance of Olivia Ambrose is 38 year old Victor Pena. He was living in Charlestown. He was homeless at one time and is known to Boston and @MBTATransitPD #wcvb,” Curran wrote on Twitter.
According to a lengthier post that Curran put on Facebook, she has learned the following information about Victor Pena:
“Sources tell us the man in Boston Police custody in connection with the disappearance of Olivia Ambrose is 38 year old Victor Pena. He was living in Charlestown. We’ve also learned Olivia Ambrose’s cell phone was key in this investigation. Police were able to get an updated location from that phone today. Pena is known to Boston and Transit Police. Sources tell us in 2009 one woman told police Pena was stalking her on the T.”
She alleged that he has a past history of misbehavior around women, alleging: “Two other women also complained about his behavior. He wasn’t criminally charged. We’re still digging into his background but found he was charged with violating restraining orders in 2008 & 2014. Those charges were dismissed. In 2004 he was charged with assault. After he completed pre-trial probation that charge was also dismissed. We’ve learned he has a minor criminal past in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.”
A neighbor told the Boston Globe that the suspect previously was seen staring at her teenage daughter and “making noises from his residence.”
“I just ran home because I didn’t know what he was going to do,” the teen told The Globe. Another neighbor alleged to the newspaper that the suspect once tried to “catcall” her.
Pena’s former girlfriend sought a restraining order against him, telling NBC Boston that “he harassed me and pushed me one time in my arm.”
According to the Boston Globe, in 2009, a woman described an alleged incident on a train, saying that Pena – who is on social security disability – was “staring suggestively at her,” and then followed her. He told police he did not speak English and wasn’t arrested. A friend told police that Pena “was known to follow young girls, and had mental health issues,” the Globe reported, adding that there was another incident the following week whereby a transit officer saw Pena “at State Street Station pacing around and looking back and forth” and sitting next to young girls. The newspaper reported that he was asked to leave and it’s not clear whether he has a criminal record.
2. Police Say Victor Pena Was ‘Clutching’ & Guiding Olivia Ambrose Down the Street
Surveillance video was crucial to cracking the case, authorities said. They were able to track Pena’s movements with Olivia throughout different areas of the city on video, Gross revealed.
The police commissioner said that authorities determined that the victim was walking on Congress Street when she was approached by two males. One of them was identified as Victor Pena. The other’s name was not released.
“Twice, Pena was observed engaging Ms. Ambrose on Congress Street” and was even guiding her and holding on to her, Gross alleged. Pena and Ambrose were then picked up on camera at Bunker Hill Community College. They were then seen near Bunker Hill Mall on camera and eventually seen headed towards Bunker Hill housing development. Authorities said that Ambrose was standing inside the apartment when they entered it.
“The suspect was twice seen engaging Ms. Ambrose… actually clutching her, guiding her along… That was Mr. Pena only who had his arms around the victim,” Gross alleged in the news conference. Authorities said they did not break down the door. Police were cryptic about many details as reporters peppered them with questions, seeking more specifics.
“We want to know who that other suspect is… could be a witness,” Gross said. He said police aren’t sure what the motive is, and they want to figure out whether Victor Pena was in the bar that night. “We’re going to look to see if there are any other victims abducted in this same way.”
Asked about Ambrose’s condition, Gross said: “She appears to be in good health. But as to state of mind, I cannot attest to what state of mind.” He said that authorities were still investigating “exactly how she was being held” and whether violent threats were used to keep her there.
According to MassLive, Olivia, an University of Edinburgh graduate, is employed at Toast, Inc. Olivia’s LinkedIn profile says she is a project coordinator at Toast.
In her LinkedIn introduction, she wrote, “Whilst at university I studied a degree in Spanish, which led to me becoming fluent in the language, gaining excellent analytical skills, and developing excellent time management and organisational abilities.”
She added: “Over the years I have honed my technical and communication skills through both personal, academic, and professional endeavours. I have also been independent from a young age – moving from the US to the UK on my own when I was 18, and then again two years later as I moved to Spain for a year. Through these experiences I have learned to be flexible and can adapt to new environments and situations quickly. Moreover, I thrive in changing environments where there is always the element of surprise.”
She also wrote: “I love to travel and immerse myself within different cultures and countries, which my international background would suggest, and I would love to combine my passion for seeing and understanding different parts of the world into my career.”
She describes Toast as a “an all-in-one point of sale and restaurant management system. Built specifically for restaurants on an affordable cloud-based platform.”
While in college, Olivia had a series of internships and other experiences. For example, she wrote that she “worked with a team during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to provide smooth front of house operation of catering services. In addition to this I maintained very high standards of customer service and product quality at all times and demonstrated a positive, helpful and welcoming attitude to all customers.” She was also a summer intern for EBSCO Information Services, for MITRE, and was a teen night assistant.
She received an MA (honors) in Spanish at her university.
3. Police Previously Released Photos of a Person of Interest in the Case & They Now Say Pena Is That Man
Only minutes before Ambrose was found, Boston police released photos they said were of a person of interest in Olivia’s disappearance. Ambrose left a tavern with a man whose name hasn’t been released. However, police now say that man isn’t connected to Ambrose’s disappearance, and he’s not the man in the photos. The person of interest was the man who approached Olivia on the street – police now say that was Victor Pena. And Pena’s status has changed from person of interest to man under arrest.
Here’s the second photo:
Journalist Michele McPhee also released these photos on Twitter, although they were not included in the batch distributed by authorities.
“The Boston Police Department is seeking the public’s help to identify the male in the photos above in connection to the investigation into missing person Olivia Ambrose who was last seen in the area of 25 Union Street in Downtown Boston on Saturday, January 19, 2019,” police wrote before Ambrose was found.
“Investigators have reviewed surveillance video and marked a timeline of events and locations in the areas of both Downtown Boston and Charlestown in hopes of better understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding Olivia Ambrose’s disappearance.”
Police provided this detailed timeline:
“11:04 PM: Ms. Ambrose is seen leaving a bar located at 25 Union Street (Hennessy’s) with a white male who has since been determined to not be involved in her disappearance.
11:42 PM: Approximately 40 minutes later, two unknown males are observed inviting Ms. Ambrose to walk with them in the area of Congress Street and State Street. One of the males appears to walk ahead while the second male places his arm around Ms. Ambrose and directs her towards the State Street MBTA Station.
12:01 AM: Approximately 20 minutes later, additional video shows Ms. Ambrose being accompanied by that same male, still with his arm around her, exiting the Bunker Hill Community MBTA Station in Charlestown. The other male party is no longer observed in any surveillance video moving forward.
12:13 AM: Approximately 10 minutes later, Ms. Ambrose and the unknown male are observed again in the area of Green Street walking together towards Bartlett Street. A short time later, phone records indicate Ms. Ambrose’s phone was in the general area of the Bunker Hill Housing Development.”
The Facebook page devoted to finding Olivia says that Ambrose was last seen around 11:04 p.m. on January 19, 2019 “with unidentified white male. Wearing a white/beige/grey coat with a red corduroy dress and doc martins.”
The Boston Police Department previously issued a missing person’s alert in Ambrose’s case. It provides a quick summation of information that is similar to the Facebook page, saying, “The Boston Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in efforts to locate Olivia Ambrose who was last seen in the area of 25 Union Street, Boston at about 10:00 p.m. on January 19, 2019. Ambrose is described as a 24-year-old white female, about 5’2”, with blue eyes and curly brown hair. She was last seen wearing a red corduroy dress under a long white and grey coat. Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Olivia Ambrose is advised to contact 911 or District A-1 (Downtown) Detectives at (617) 343-4248.”
4. Video Showed the Suspect Being Detained & He Filled His Multiple Facebook Pages With Redundant Selfies
The suspect’s detention was captured on video, which you can watch above. On Facebook, Victor Pena mostly posted selfies and comments in Spanish. The posts are rambling in nature and sometimes filled with religious references. “Greeting my people here omega the strong,” he wrote with one shirtless photo.
The photos on his multiple pages often show him staring into the camera. Some photos show birds, cruise ships, and casinos.
The translation of one Facebook status he wrote says, “Greetings my people from Victor Manuel Peña may god bless all of me here I am giving the best life thanks to me God for giving me life I am very grateful with my God there is no bigger thing than having God in his Heart. The Lord gave me many things that I never imagined to have today I sleep happy as very rich I enjoy the greatness that the Lord gave us as I like all this here. I send greeting from Atlantic City, a beautiful city where there is a Beautiful landscape. Until then my friend and keep having fun so that God will like you all. There is nothing more beautiful than having the heart pure and true.”
Here’s an example of how repetitive some of the photos are on one of his many pages.
In another post, he wrote, “Greetings my people. May God bless you all. I hope you are having a good time in your house.” He captioned another photo, “Here all my people greetings from Puerto Rico Green Island.” Another Facebook post showed him in a bar. He wrote, “Thanks to my God. I always have a great time for you to see here. He teaches you who I am a VIP person.”
Yet another post read, “Thanks to my God. I am a person who as well i give the luxuries that many would like to have. As well i drink all the drink that I want to take as they see it all this is mine for the envious.”
Olivia Ambrose is from Wenham and most recently was living in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Jamaica Plain is a neighborhood in Boston. The Facebook page for the band Kilroe shared a series of photos showing Olivia Ambrose when she went missing.
“Hi everyone. There is a missing girl, Olivia ‘Liviy’ Ambrose, last seen leaving our show around 11pm this past Saturday night at Hennessy’s,” the page says.
On Facebook, where she went by Liviy Ambrose, Ambrose mostly posted photos showing her with friends and family. “She is a little ray of sunshine. She’s a great kid,” Olivia’s mother, Heather Ambrose, said to WHDH.com. “She’s always in touch. We talk all the time. She’s a happy girl.”
MassLive reports that Ambrose has a twin sister named Francesa who, along with a friend named Kate Collins, told the publication they had seen Olivia around 10 p.m. as they all danced inside the bar.
“We were all dancing in front of the stage, nothing out of the ordinary,” said Collins to MassLive, which added that “Olivia then walked outside with a man who had been escorted out of the bar by a bouncer,” which was confirmed by surveillance video.
Francesca told NECN that her sister met a man in the bar: “At some point, she went to the bathroom, met the guy, and were talking for awhile, and eventually left together.”
That’s the last time anyone’s heard from her. Their mother told NECN: “She was supposed to meet with her workmates on Sunday — they had a tentative arrangement — and then she had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and she hasn’t show up for any of those.”
However, Francesca Ambrose, who goes by the name Franny, wrote on Facebook on January 21: “Hi everyone. As an update please focus on liviy and not the man in the photos. The police have contacted the man in the photo (he has been identified) and the police are doing their thing.” However, as noted above, police now say that man doesn’t appear to be connected to the disappearance.
5. Ambrose’s Family Said It Was Not Like Her to Disappear
Olivia’s family members have told local journalists that it makes no sense that Olivia would just disappear. According to CBS Boston, her family members say she left the bar without saying goodbye and had been dancing with the man she left with that night.
“The guy who she was with was the one who got kicked out of the bar and that she left with at about 11:04 p.m.,” her sister told the television station, which added that Olivia and the man were captured by a surveillance camera “walking across Union Street.” Again, though, that man is not connected to Olivia’s disappearance, and Pena is not that man.
Journalist Jennifer Eagan wrote on Twitter on January 21, 2019, “Family and friends are searching for 23 year old Olivia Ambrose today. She was last seen leaving Hennessy’s in Faneuil Hall Saturday night around 11p. Her sister, mom and dad say it is very unlike Olivia to not be in touch with them.”
Co-workers also shared in the concern.
“Anything at all. Even if they don’t think it is relevant, it might be. We just want to have her get in touch with us or somebody get in touch with us. We just want to hear from her and have her home,” Ambrose’s mother told WCVB-TV of the outreach goals.