Man Convicted for Beheading Child’s Mother with Samurai Sword

A California resident, Jose Rafael “Rafa” Solano Landaeta, 33, has been found guilty of the murder of his child’s mother, Karina Castro, 27. The gruesome incident, which took place in broad daylight on a city street in September 2022, involved the use of a samurai sword. Despite Solano’s claims that the act was in self-defense, the jury delivered a guilty verdict on Monday, as reported by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.

The horrifying event unfolded on the corner of Laurel Street and Magnolia Avenue in San Carlos, a suburb approximately 25 miles south of San Francisco. Solano has consistently admitted to his actions, but maintained that he acted out of fear for his own life. He claimed that Castro had brandished a knife, prompting him to retaliate with the sword.

In a jailhouse interview earlier this year, Solano told a reporter from a San Francisco-based ABC affiliate that Castro had approached him with a knife in hand. He insisted that his use of the sword was a reaction to this perceived threat. However, evidence presented during the trial painted a picture of escalating tension between Solano and Castro in the days leading up to the attack.

The relationship between Solano and Castro, who shared two children, was described as “toxic” by a defense attorney. Castro had accused Solano of being a pedophile and a rapist in private social media messages. Solano responded with a series of ninja emojis, complete with swords on their backs.

Witnesses reported seeing the pair engaged in a heated argument on the street prior to the violent incident. Castro’s two children, one of whom is Solano’s daughter, were present but were later moved upstairs. At some point, Solano returned to his car, retrieved the samurai sword, and launched his attack.

Prosecutor Josh Stauffer described the crime as “vicious” and “cruel,” dismissing any suggestion that Solano was suffering from a mental health condition at the time. The prosecution argued that Solano had premeditated the attack, having left work early under the pretense of illness, retrieved the sword from his home, and revealed his intentions to a friend before confronting Castro.

Solano initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but was found competent to stand trial. He later changed his plea to a simple “not guilty,” maintaining that he acted in self-defense. His defense attorney, Robert Cummings, argued that Solano’s schizophrenia diagnosis made him genuinely fear for his life due to the messages he received from Castro. However, no evidence was presented to support the claim that Castro had attempted to stab Solano first.

Medical professionals who testified during the trial found no link between Solano’s mental health issues and the brutal killing. Solano now faces a sentence of 26 years to life in prison. The verdict, while a form of justice, offers little solace to Castro’s grieving family.