DA Vance: Man Sentenced to 22 Years-to-Life For Fatally Stabbing Ex-Girlfriend on New Year’s Eve


April 24, 2018

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the sentencing of JONNATHAN PENA-CASTILLO, 27, to 22 years-to-life in prison for fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend in front of her home in Inwood on December 31, 2012. On March 27, 2018, a New York State Supreme Court jury found the defendant guilty of the sole charge in the indictment against him: Murder in the Second Degree.

“This case serves as a painful reminder that domestic violence does not just happen in the home; it can happen just as easily in the middle of the street in broad daylight,” said District Attorney Vance. “While many New Yorkers were preparing to ring in the new year, Edith Rojas fell victim to a horrific attack as her ex-boyfriend stalked, ambushed, and stabbed her to death. Ms. Rojas was murdered so close to her family’s home that they could hear her agonizing screams from their fifth-floor apartment, and her younger brother – who begged and pleaded for the defendant to stop – was standing just feet away when he watched his sister die. I would like to thank my office’s prosecutors for ensuring that the defendant faces a sentence worthy of such an awful crime, and I continue to encourage all victims of domestic violence to report crimes to our hotline at (212) 335-4308.”

As proven at trial, PENA-CASTILLO and the victim, 19-year-old Edith Rojas, dated for approximately one year and separated about four months before the incident. The defendant then sent numerous, unwanted text messages to Ms. Rojas in the weeks leading up to the incident.

At approximately 3:45 p.m. on December 31, 2012, PENA-CASTILLO followed Ms. Rojas and her then-15-year-old brother home from an Inwood laundromat. The defendant harassed them during the walk to their family’s apartment building on Thayer Street and Ms. Rojas, who grew increasingly concerned, called 911 from her cell phone. Once outside of the apartment building, Ms. Rojas handed the phone to her brother just as the defendant brandished a knife, lunged at her, and stabbed her nine times—including eight times in the back. Minutes later, paramedics arrived at the scene and transported Ms. Rojas to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, where she succumbed to multiple stab wounds with injuries to her lungs, aorta, and liver.

PENA-CASTILLO stabbed himself with the murder weapon, then fled to Fort Tryon Park, where he stabbed himself again and collapsed. Soon thereafter, NYPD officers found the defendant on the ground, and he was placed under arrest.

Assistant D.A.s Robert Ferrari, Chief of Trial Bureau 40, and Siobhan Carty, also of Trial Bureau 40, handled the prosecution of this case under the supervision of Executive Assistant D.A. John Irwin, Chief of the Trial Division. Supervising Rackets Investigator Elena Lui, Senior Rackets Investigators Francis Connelly and Michael Cruz, and Trial Preparation Assistants Julia Imperatore and Heidi Sandomir also provided valuable assistance with the case.

District Attorney Vance thanked the following members of the NYPD for assisting with the case: Detective Isaac Ng-Montalvo of the 34th Precinct Detective Unit; Detective; Sergeant Vincent Dima of the 114th Precinct; and Detective Dennis Frey of Manhattan South Narcotics.

Defendant Information:

JONNATHAN PENA-CASTILLO, D.O.B. 2/4/1991

Paterson, NJ

Convicted:

  • Murder in the Second Degree, a class A felony, one count

Sentenced:

  • 22 years-to-life in prison