A 27-year-old Texas woman has been sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole for the 2017 stabbing and decapitation death of her 5-year-old daughter.
Krystle Villanueva was convicted Thursday of capital murder of a child under 10 and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the Jan. 5, 2017, killing of her child, Giovanna Larae Hernandez, and attack on her father-in-law.
Jurors rejected an insanity defense put forth by defense attorneys who said Villanueva believed “her daughter and her father-in-law had been replaced by clones and had to be killed to bring back her real family members,” the Hays County District Attorney’s office said in a release.
Villanueva’s father-in-law, Eustorgio Arellano, initially called police to the defendant’s home in Kyle, Texas, about 20 miles southwest of the state capital of Austin, because she stabbed him in the back and head without warning. He then fled the trailer.
SWAT officers and crisis negotiators were dispatched to the residence when authorities learned from Arellano that Giovanna Hernandez was still in the home.
Villanueva called emergency services from inside the trailer and told the dispatcher she had killed her daughter because “she asked for cereal,” the District Attorney’s office release said. She also admitted to stabbing Arellano.
When SWAT officers entered the home, they found Villanueva in the front room recently showered and completely nude.
They took her into custody and found Giovanna Hernandez in a bedroom beheaded with multiple stab wounds.
Villanueva was later found to have alcohol and marijuana in her system.
Evidence was presented that Villanueva had been previously treated for mental health problems, but prosecutors argued that her treatment had coincided with prior drug abuse. A defense medical expert testified under cross-examination that drug abuse can exacerbate existing mental conditions and interfere with treatment. Prosecutors said Villanueva hadn’t exhibited her behavior before the murder or since.
“A case like this leaves an unforgettable mark on everyone involved, especially the child’s family,” Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau said. “Every law enforcement member who worked on this case will forever be traumatized by what Ms. Villanueva did to her innocent daughter. I commend all the investigators and officers who endured this horror with calm professionalism so that justice could be done.”
Besides life in prison on the murder charge, Judicial District Judge Bill Henry sentenced Villanueva to 20 years for the attack on Arellano.
- Krystle Villanueva, left, was convicted on March 5, 2020, of killing her 5-year-old daughter, Giovanna Hernandez, right.: Screen grab