Man sentenced to prison for beheading ex-girlfriend with samurai sword

The murderer claimed mental illness to deflect responsibility.

Jose “Rafa” Solano Landaeta, a man who used a samurai sword to kill his ex-girlfriend Karina Castro, has been sentenced to serve 25 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The sentencing took place in San Mateo County Superior Court, where Judge Lisa Novak stated that she wished she could impose a more severe sentence but was limited by California law.


The big picture: During the trial, witnesses testified to seeing Castro running for her life while Landaeta chased her with the sword. Castro’s two young daughters were inside their apartment at the time.

  • Castro’s family members, including her grandmother, emotionally pleaded for the maximum punishment, describing Landaeta as a monster and the worst kind of evil.
  • Landaeta’s defense attorney claimed that he was a paranoid schizophrenic and attacked Castro because she threatened him over social media.
  • The judge rejected Landaeta’s claims of mental illness, stating that it had nothing to do with his execution of Castro and that he tried to deflect responsibility.
  • Novak ordered Landaeta to report to prison immediately. 

What they’re saying: Novak said in court that the trial was by far the most difficult she has ever presided over because of how horrific it was. 

  • “I want to be very clear, untreated mental illness had nothing to do with your execution of Karina,” Novak said. “You tried every avenue imaginable… trying to deflect your own responsibility and somehow assign responsibility on the fact that you have suffered from mental illness. It’s simply not rooted in fact at all.”
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