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Man who allegedly admits beheading mother of his child in middle of street with samurai sword now claims self-defense

Rafa Solano (L) and Karina Castro (R)

Rafa Solano, on the left, admittedly beheaded Karina Castro, on the right, with a samurai sword in September 2022. He claims the killing was in self-defense. Images via screengrab/KGO-TV.

A California man who allegedly admittedly beheaded the mother of his child on a city street with a samurai sword in September 2022 now says he did so in self-defense, but local prosecutors are suspicious of the claim.

Jose Rafael “Rafa” Solano Landaeta, 33, stands accused of murder and is being held without bail, according to jail records reviewed by Law&Crime. The charge stems from the shocking daytime slaughter of 27-year-old Karina Castro on the corner of Laurel Street and Magnolia Avenue in the medium-sized suburb of San Carlos, which is located roughly 45 minutes south of San Francisco.

“The head was underneath the car and she was laying in the back of the car – just severed,” neighbor Chapel Thorborne told San Francisco ABC affiliate KGO-TV last year. “And they covered her up.”

Solano shed a single tear when recounting his version of events with KGO reporter Dan Noyes during a jailhouse interview earlier this month. The defendant, who has one daughter with the deceased mother of two, first described the weapon he used to kill her. The reporter says he quickly debriefed his colleagues with his best recollection of the interview because San Mateo County Jail officials did not allow any recording devices, including pen and paper.

“That’s a samurai sword?” the reporter asked. “Right?”

“Yeah, it’s a samurai sword,” the defendant replied. “It was a decorative sword that my father had.”

“Well, it is sharp, right?” Noyes pressed.

“Yes, it has a sharp edge to it,” Solano reportedly confirmed.

The defendant said he feared for his life because Castro grabbed a weapon of her own on the day of the killing.

“He says she emerged from the driver’s side of [her] Volkswagen with the knife in hand and kind of marched towards him with this knife,” Noyes said. “And he claimed that he swung that sword in self-defense.”

The gruesome, Sept. 8, 2022, incident occurred the day after a lengthy Snapchat argument the day before where Castro threatened to expose Solano’s alleged criminal record involving statutory rape, KGO previously reported.

In those messages, the defendant called Castro a “snitch lip” and said: “F— around and find out.”

“U wanna put a target on my back, ur homies gunna kno the real u,” Castro wrote back – threatening to reveal Solano had a sexual relationship with another man. “Dude, go head try and take my a– out.”

During his recent jailhouse interview, the defendant also reportedly insisted that Castro told him she “hired people from East Palo Alto to carry out a hit on him, his mother and his brother,” Noyes said.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe took issue with the defendant’s narrative.

“We don’t think that that accords with the evidence that we’ve been able to collect in this case so far,” the prosecutor alleged – in reference to the claim that the victim brandished a knife. “[T]his is a case that didn’t occur in a closed room somewhere. It occurred out on the street in San Carlos, with lots of people walking by, and lots of people who witnessed this, what occurred. We haven’t had any reports of her being armed with a knife or anybody even seeing a knife, much less using a knife.”

Solano said he opened up with the local TV station in a bid to raise awareness of his mental health issues – in hopes of ultimately receiving a reduced sentence or psychiatric stay in lieu of prison for admittedly beheading Castro, KGO reports.

“I understand what he wants,” Wagstaffe said. “The state prison is full of people who wish they had a lighter sentence.”

The defendant also said he had seen interviews with two different relatives of the deceased and did not appreciate the way his mental health issues had been described on-air by them, KGO reported.

“He is a diagnosed schizophrenic on meds,” Danielle Gannon, Castro’s grandmother previously told the TV station. “And he would use that as an excuse for his behavior. He drank excessively and you’re not supposed to do that on those kinds of medications.”

The deceased woman’s parents are currently trying to obtain custody of their daughter’s two girls, ages 7 and 1.

“I’m going to be in court,” the victim’s father, Marty Castro told KGO last year. “I’m going to be in every office everything I can possibly do. I will spend my life to get them back if I can.”

Karina Castro obtained a restraining order against her killer the April before she was killed, law enforcement “sources” reportedly told KGO, but Solano maintained contact in violation of that order.

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