Five-year-old Giovanna Larae Hernandez had no way of knowing what kind of mood her mother was going to be in when she woke up on January 5, 2017, and asked for breakfast. According to a statement released by the Hays County District Attorney’s office, the response she got was straight out of a horror film.
Krystle Concepcion Villanueva, 24, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole last week after admitting to beheading her daughter and stabbing her father-in-law in the back and head. Let that sink in for a minute.
Villanueva was living with her daughter, the child’s father — Refugio Hernandez, Jr. — and his parents — Eustorgio and Nancy Arellano — at the time the incident took place.
The child’s grandfather was the first to call 911, telling operators that Villanueva had attacked him from behind without warning before he was able to get out of the house.
While authorities were en route to surround the home, Villanueva also called 911, stating she killed her daughter because “she asked for cereal,” and then stabbed her father-in-law.
Upon arriving at the scene, Arellano alerted SWAT team members and crisis negotiators that his five-year-old granddaughter was still inside the home, injured or possibly dead. Once inside, the squad found Villanueva standing in the front room, naked and freshly showered. The child, located in a bedroom, had been stabbed to death and decapitated.
Villanueva was restrained and taken into custody by Hays County Sheriff’s officers. Blood testing, taken at a hospital shortly afterward, showed the presence of alcohol and marijuana still in her system.
“I’ve been in this line of work for over 43 years — 11 years as a homicide detective,” Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler said in a statement. “This is one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen and been a part of. … It’s very sad.”
Despite admitting to killing her daughter and stabbing her father-in-law (while under the influence), Villanueva’s defense team pleaded with jurors to return a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. According to the release, at the time of the attacks, Villanueva said she was under the delusional belief that her daughter and her father-in-law were clones. She claimed she had to kill them to bring her real family members back.
Though the defense was able to prove that Villanueva had undergone treatment for mental problems previously, the prosecution argued that all such treatments coincided with prior drug abuse, adding that that marijuana use can exacerbate existing psychiatric conditions and interfere with treatment. Additionally, they argued, the symptoms described at trial had never been observed before or after her arrest. The jury denied their request, returning a verdict of guilty on both counts.
Judge Bill Henry, who presided over the case, sentenced the defendant to life without parole for the capital murder of a child under ten, and 20 years in prison for the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against Mr. Arellano.
“A case like this leaves an unforgettable mark on everyone involved, especially the child’s family.” said Hays County Criminal District Attorney Wes Mau. “Every law enforcement member who worked on this case will forever be traumatized by what Ms. Villanueva did to her innocent daughter.”