The murder trial of Jose Rafael Solano Landaeta, who stands accused of beheading his child’s mother with a sword, has reached the jury in Redwood City, California. The trial has been marked by bizarre courtroom behavior, including Solano’s refusal to appear for closing arguments. However, he later changed course and attended the proceedings. The prosecution argued that Solano killed 27-year-old Karina Castro out of vengeance due to their toxic relationship, while the defense claimed Solano acted in self-defense and cited his mental illness as a contributing factor.
Eyewitnesses testified to witnessing the slaying unfold on a San Carlos street in September 2022. They recounted seeing Solano and Castro argue before Solano retrieved a sword from his car and brutally attacked Castro. The prosecution argued that Solano’s courtroom behavior was an act to manipulate the jury, while court-appointed doctors testified that his claims of mental illness were inconsistent with prevailing diagnoses and symptoms.
The defense’s theory of “imperfect self-defense” centered on the contention that Castro had attacked Solano with a small knife during the fatal confrontation. Defense attorney Robert Cummings argued that Solano’s actions were intensified by his mental illness and being off his psychiatric medications at the time. The prosecution countered that Solano’s killing of Castro was premeditated, citing phone calls and text messages in which he expressed vengeful intentions towards her.
During his own testimony, Solano claimed to have little to no memory of the encounter and denied recognizing a photo of Castro. He later went silent and appeared catatonic, only to become responsive again after the trial session ended. The prosecution called witnesses who testified that Solano had not exhibited symptoms of mental illness prior to the trial and deliberately stopped taking his medication.