A jury has reached a verdict of guilty in the high-profile murder trial of Jose Rafael Solano Landaeta, a man charged with the gruesome beheading of the mother of his child, Karina Castro, in San Carlos, California. The chilling incident occurred in broad daylight on September 8, 2022, in the presence of multiple bystanders. Solano, 34, of Hayward, faced charges of first-degree murder and an additional allegation of using a sword in the slaying.
The jury’s decision was announced in a somber Redwood City courtroom, provoking emotional reactions from Castro’s family and friends. Following the primary verdict, jurors were asked to deliberate on various aggravating factors, including the brutality and premeditation of the crime, which could impact Solano’s eventual prison sentence. Presently, he is likely to face a prison term of 26 years to life.
The jury deliberated for approximately five hours before reaching their verdict, bringing closure to a case that captivated the community. Castro’s family expressed relief, with her mother, Laura Engman, stating that Solano received “what he deserved.” Martin Castro Jr., Karina’s father, acknowledged the gravity of the situation but expressed satisfaction with the outcome.
The murder trial garnered significant attention due to Solano’s unusual defense strategy, which centered on his mental illness. Eyewitnesses recounted the shocking attack on Laurel Street, where they witnessed Solano brutally assault Castro with a sword, resulting in her death. Solano’s culpability in the murder was not contested, and he even offered a partial confession when he returned to the crime scene, stating, “She was trying to kill me, I’m sorry.”
Prosecutor Josh Stauffer argued that Solano’s motive for the murder stemmed from a deteriorating relationship with Castro, which escalated into threats and insults exchanged via social media and text messages. He dismissed Solano’s imperfect self-defense claims, labeling them as fabrications that contradicted the brutality of the attack.
Stauffer highlighted Solano’s behavior during the trial, where the defendant appeared to manipulate his mental state to dupe the jury. He emphasized that Solano’s claims of not recognizing Castro in a photo and denying the murder were inconsistent with the evidence presented at trial.
In contrast, Solano’s defense team contended that his actions were influenced by diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. Defense attorney Robert Cummings argued that the fatal confrontation unfolded after Castro attacked Solano with a small knife. He asserted that Solano’s mind was clouded by threats previously made by Castro against him and his family, compounded by the claim that Solano had not been consistently taking his psychiatric medications.
Solano’s sentencing is pending, and the jury’s deliberations on aggravating factors will ultimately determine the length of his prison sentence.