What We Know About Art Dealer Brent Sikkema’s Murder

Brazilian prosecutors are seeking the arrest of Daniel Sikkema, ex-husband of the New York art dealer Brent Sikkema, who was murdered at his residence in Rio de Janeiro in the early hours of January 14. Thirty-year-old suspect Alejandro Triana Prevez confessed to the crime, which Prevez’s lawyer claims was a contract killing in which Daniel Sikkema manipulated his client.

Believed from the start to involve theft, the murder was widely speculated about in the press as a crime of passion, fueled by some of the early testimonies about Brent Sikkema’s ties to the city’s party scene. But the evidence so far suggests a different hypothesis as new allegations about Prevez’s past ties to both Brent and Sikkema emerge.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Daniel Sikkema, who remains in New York City. His lawyer, Fabiana Marques, told Hyperallergic that “there is no direct contact between Daniel and Alejandro, contrary to what the media and police have suggested” and that her client is innocent. “Alejandro’s strategy of accusing someone of being the mastermind behind the crime, especially while being flanked by his attorneys, clearly aims at securing a more lenient sentence,” Marques said.

Here’s what we know so far about the ongoing case.

Trevez was identified after a security camera captured a man parked outside Brent Sikkema’s residence. (video courtesy Empresa de Segurança Gabriel)

On January 18, Alejandro Triana Prevez, of Cuban origin, was stopped at a gas station in the state of Minas Gerais carrying over $40,000 in dollars and reais and arrested in connection with Sikkema’s murder. Prevez, who was believed to have been fleeing the country, had been caught on security camera footage staking out the gallerist’s residence on the night of the crime, entering the home around 3:42am and leaving 14 minutes later while removing a pair of gloves. Prevez originally told the police that he had gotten drunk and couldn’t remember what happened, but eventually confessed to the murder in a second hearing on January 31, according to a copy of the testimony included in a police report reviewed by Hyperallergic.

In the detailed dossier, Prevez described the way in which he stabbed Sikkema with a knife taken from the kitchen, covered the body with a blanket and pillows, and washed his hands and the weapon before exiting.

One of Prevez’s lawyers, Gregorio Andrade, told Hyperallergic in an audio message that although Prevez confessed to carrying out the crime, the defense questions the investigation procedure. Andrade described Daniel Sikkema as “a great danger,” suggesting that he planned the crime and that there may have been other perpetrators involved that police have so far failed to uncover.

Prevez originally denied knowing either Brent or Daniel. But according to testimonies, including that of Brent’s lawyer, Simone Nunes, who discovered the body and called the police, the Sikemmas had employed Prevez as a bodyguard in Cuba, where they had lived during the pandemic and where Brent owed two residences. The homes later became the center of disputes between the ex-partners.

Brent and Daniel Sikemma married in 2013 and separated in 2019. According to evidence recovered from Brent Sikemma’s laptop, and to witness testimonies, the Sikemmas fought over alleged undisclosed income that Brent believed Daniel to be earning from the residencies in Cuba, an additional sum to be paid by Brent to Daniel, and the care of their 13-year-old adopted son, Lucas. A further point of contention, expressed in Brent’s emails to his lawyers, was the fact that Daniel’s cousin had taken up residence in and refused to leave one of the homes, which had been purchased in her name in order to sidestep Cuban laws that prohibit anyone from owning more than two properties.

As confirmed by Brent’s lawyer, Nunes in a call with Hyperallergic, Brent’s will and subsequent changes to it had been kept secret, meaning that Daniel Sikkema did not know that his ex-partner had disinherited him.

B Sikkema
Brent Sikkema (photo courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Company)

Prevez moved from Cuba to Brazil in 2017, working odd jobs including as a deliveryman for the online retailer Mercado Livre. Calls from his mobile phone show him resuming contact with Daniel Sikemma in 2023. The device that police believe was used to arrange the calls between Prevez and Daniel was first activated in August and used at 4am on January 14, minutes after Brent was murdered. The call lasted eight minutes; the phone’s chip was then deactivated.

In his confession, Prevez alleged that Daniel Sikemma promised to pay him $200,000 and sent him sporadic sums via Western Union to finance his stay in Rio. (Police confirmed the existence of transfer receipts.) Prevez also testified that Daniel had sent him a key to Brent Sikemma’s residence and safe from New York by DHL in August 2023 and that he then traveled to Rio to commit the murder, but changed his mind. His phone contained pictures that he’d taken at Sikkema’s Rio home in August, including a selfie in the kitchen and a picture of the safe in the bedroom. The police identified a DHL receipt, posted by Pedro Luis Mainer in Queens, New York, from an account whose registered recovery email and phone number are those of Daniel Sikkema. 

Marques, Daniel’s lawyer, emphasized in a message to Hyperallergic that “to our knowledge, Daniel was not previously summoned to provide any clarifications during the investigation.” He was allegedly informed about the arrest warrant via media reports. “In such circumstances, he should have been given the opportunity to be heard and clarify the facts first,” Marques said.

It remains to be determined whether Daniel Sikkema will surrender to the police or give testimony. Meanwhile, Brazilian judge Tula Correa de Mello, the head of the third criminal court in Rio de Janeiro, has issued a warrant for his arrest to be sent to Interpol.

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