California man convicted in beheading, a crime that staggered witnesses and first responders

Two people opening statements by the prosecution in the trial of Jose Rafael Solano Landaeta.
Defense attorney Robert Cummings and co-counsel Daniel Blanchette, right, listen to opening statements by the prosecution in the trial of Jose Rafael Solano Landaeta in a Redwood City courtroom earlier this month. Landaeta was convicted of murder in the beheading of Karina Castro.
(Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group/TNS)
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A jury on Monday found a Northern California man guilty of a murder so shocking that officials offered support to witnesses to the crime and deputies who responded to the scene.

Using a samurai sword, Jose Rafael “Rafa” Solano Landaeta beheaded the mother of his child in the middle of a San Mateo County street. He was found guilty of first-degree murder with the use of a sword, according to the county district attorney’s office.

Solano was arrested on Sept. 8, 2022, after police found San Carlos resident Karina Castro, 27, dead in the street outside her home, authorities told The Times.


Many people watched the murder unfold, San Mateo County Dist. Atty. Steve Wagstaffe said at the time.

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Nov. 20, 2023

Sheriff’s Lt. Eamonn Allen said shortly after the slaying: “I do know that the deputies that first arrived ... were a little beset by the scene.”

Redwood City resident Solano, now 34, and Castro had a child together, and Castro had another daughter. The children were 1 and 7 at the time of their mother’s death.

Castro had a restraining order against Solano at the time of her death, according to prosecutors.

Solano’s family reportedly has said he has mental health issues for which he takes medication. As The Times reported shortly after the killing, Solano’s trial was put on pause so he could undergo a mental competency exam. He was found competent, and the trial continued.

ABC News reported Solano argued he killed Castro in self-defense.


Solano is due to appear in court Tuesday for the jury to consider special enhancements for the charges. He faces up to 26 years to life in prison.