Man gets 25 to life for murdering Delano landlord

John Albay Galafate appears in court in Bakersfield, Calif., Wednesday, March 15, 2017. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for murdering his Delano landlord John Espinoza. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

A man has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for murdering his Delano landlord.

John Espinoza, 88, was killed in September 2013. His body was found in the trunk of his car, which was pulled from the Friant Canal east of Delano.

"To have somebody who did so many favors for you over and over and over again, and then to stuff them in a car and dump them in there without a second thought and have him drown, it's unthinkable, no human being should behave that way," Nick Lackie, Deputy Kern County District Attorney said.

John Albay Galafate was arrested the following summer and found guilty of murder last month.

Galafate rented a home owned by Espinoza on Dover Place. Espinoza had difficulty collecting rent money and had gone to meet Galafate with plans for evicting his tenant, according to investigators.

Espinoza's car was found in the canal after a passing motorist spotted vehicle lights illuminating inside the canal.

"He [Galafate] made a statement in court that he [Espinoza] was like a second father," Rita Verde, the victim's niece said. "My uncle ironically enough cut his hair when he was a young boy, he was 12 years old and my uncle would cut his hair and cut his hair for free, and so he said he thought of my uncle as a second father, well who treats their father, who would treat their father like that?"

Espinoza died of drowning with other contributing factors of ligature strangulation and multiple blunt force trauma, according to the coroner's office.

Both the district attorney and the victim's family said justice was served through this sentencing.

"This is the type of case that really caused me to get into this line of work," Lackie said. "It's of course a tragedy when anyone is murdered, but when there is so someone who touched the community like John Espinoza did in such a positive way, and made such positive impact on everybody he met, it's really gratifying to get justice for them."

"There's a bit of closure in that we feel that justice is served, and now we feel we can move toward healing," Verde said. "We can now celebrate his life and concentrate on the good things that he did, not on the way he died, but on the good things that he did for the community, for his family."

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