A Hayward man who was convicted in November in the 2022 slaying of ex-girlfriend Karina Castro was sentenced Tuesday morning to 25 years to life in prison, the maximum allowable under California law.
Jose “Rafa” Solano Landaeta, 34, received his sentence Tuesday, but the judge said she wished it could be harsher. As KRON4 reports, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Lisa Novak told the court during the hearing that 25 years to life was the maximum allowable under the law, despite the seriousness of Landaeta's crime.
"This is by far the most difficult trial I’ve ever presided over because of the horror of the crime you committed in butchering Karina Castro," Novak said in court, per NBC Bay Area. "I have no discretion, so it is a sentence based on the verdict of the jury. What the community needs to understand is that this incredible act of violence is not related to untreated mental illness."
Landaeta, who reportedly suffers from schizophrenia, was convicted two months ago in the September 2022 killing of 27-year-old Karina Castro. Castro was his estranged ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, and he killed her, in front of multiple witnesses, in the driveway of her San Carlos home using a samurai sword, nearly fully decapitating her in the process.
A San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputy Damian Machuca testified at the trial that while he was working at the grisly crime scene, Landaeta returned there with his mother and confessed to the killing.
Landaeta's attorney, as KRON4 reported, argued that Castro had leveled death threats against Landaeta on social media the night before the killing, and his mental illness then compelled him to attack her. The defense also argued that Castro had a knife of her own, and that Landaeta killed her in self-defense.
In the hours before she was killed, Castro went on Instagram Live to say that she feared for her life.
Witnesses testified to seeing Landaeta go to his car, pull out the sword, and "stomp-walk" toward Castro before killing her.
Machuca testified that Landaeta said, on the day of the crime, "She was trying to kill me. I'm sorry."
The victim's father, Martin Castro told reporters following the November verdict, per KRON4, "While I’m glad he’s going to be in prison for as long as possible, my daughter is still gone. My daughter was my life. I just want her back."
Martin Castro reportedly wanted Landaeta to receive a life sentence, but he told reporters outside the courtroom Tuesday, per NBC Bay Area, that the sentence was a result of California's laws and the weapon used in this case.
"It's not enough. California is insane as far as that goes," Mr. Castro reportedly said. "I don't understand. If he used a gun, he could get life without parole. He butchered her ... and they're giving him a light sentence because he didn't use a gun."
This post has been updated with comments from the judge and Mr. Castro.