Florida businessman appears in court accused of kidnapping his estranged wife in Spain

A Florida businessman has appeared in court in connection with the disappearance of his estranged wife from an apartment in Madrid, Spain.

David Knezevich, 36, of Fort Lauderdale, pleaded not guilty to one federal charge of kidnapping during his arraignment on Tuesday.

His wife, Ana Knezevich Henao, was last seen on February 2, 2024. When she vanished, the couple had been married for 13 year but were separated and planned to divorce, a friend told federal investigators.

He was arrested in early May at Miami International Airport after flying in from his native Serbia. Before Knezevich was arrested, his attorney told CNN that his client “has never been to Spain“ but evidence suggests otherwise.

Henao, 40, a Colombian-American, was touch with her family and friends in January 2024, when she arrived in Spain.

Security footage showed her entering her building at 2.20pm on February 2, capturing her last known whereabouts.

Hours later, at around 9.30pm, security footage captured a man, wearing a helmet and holding a can of spray paint, entering her building. The man then proceeded to spray a security camera lens, somewhat obscuring it.

Knezevich was arrested by US Marshals at Miami International Airport in May 2024 (FBI handout)
Knezevich was arrested by US Marshals at Miami International Airport in May 2024 (FBI handout)

Still, the camera was able to pick up the man then fastening a piece of duct tape to the entrance door lock. Then, the man looked directly at the camera, revealing that he has “physical characteristics that resemble those of [David] Knezevich,” prosecutors said.

An hour later, around 10.30pm, the man was seen again, this time leaving the building with “appears to be a suitcase,” according to the court filing.

Aside from the partially-obscured security footage, documentation puts the defendant in Madrid at the time of his wife’s disappearance, according to the criminal complaint.

Customs and Border Patrol records revealed that Knezevich flew from Miami to Istanbul, Turkey. Three days later, he rented a Peugeot 308 in Serbia, which he proceeded to drive over 7,677 km (4,770 mi) between January 29 through March 15, the complaint states.

The rental agency informed investigators that the windows of the car were tinted and the license plates had been changed when Knezevich returned the vehicle. Around the same time, someone in Spain had filed a complaint about stolen license plates. Spanish authorities tracked the stolen plates, finding that they had been present on Henao’s street in Madrid, the complaint states.

Video captured the stolen plates attached to a Peugeot 308. It also revealed that the stolen plates had passed through two toll booths on the night of February 2 into the morning of February 3 — including one toll booth in a town just outside of Madrid.

On February 3, two of the victim’s friends received unusual texts from her, explaining that she was running off for a few days with a man she had just met.

Federal investigators noted that the defendant had asked a woman he met on a dating app to help him translate a message into “perfect Colombian.”

A missing persons poster for Henao, plastered on a streetlight in Madrid, Spain (Manu Fernandez)
A missing persons poster for Henao, plastered on a streetlight in Madrid, Spain (Manu Fernandez)

That message was sent to one of Henao’s friends, seemingly explaining her disappearance. The friend later shared the message with CNN.

“I met someone wonderful!! He has a summer house about 2h from Madrid. We are going there now and I will spend a few days there. Signal is spotty. I’ll call you when I get back,” the WhatsApp message read. “Yesterday after therapy I needed a walk and he approached me on the street! Amazing connection. Like I never had before.”

That friend told CNN that she had spoken with Henao just hours before receiving the message, and she did not mention the “amazing connection” with a stranger.

Friends also told the Associated Press in February that it would have been out of character for Henao to have run off with a stranger, adding that the text didn’t sound like it was written in her voice. This wasn’t the only impersonation attempt, the complaint states.

One of Knezevich’s employees told investigators that in April, her boss had asked her to open a new bank account while pretending to be his wife. Knezevich even gave the employee his missing wife’s social security number in preparation for the call, the complaint says. The employee rejected the proposal, which prompted the defendant to allegedly threaten to withhold pay.

The pair’s separation was “contentious” due to financial disputes over millions of dollars in assets, the complaint also noted.

Spain’s National Police has conducted searches for Henao and is investigating her disappearance as a possible murder.