Vigil held for murdered San Carlos mother; legal analyst breaks down potential arguments in case

ByJ.R. Stone and Suzanne Phan via KGO logo
Monday, September 12, 2022
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The community held a vigil for murdered San Carlos mother Karina Castro. A legal analyst breaks down the arguments we could see in the beheading case.

SAN CARLOS, Calif. (KGO) -- The man behind bars in connection to the beheading of a mother in San Carlos last week will face a judge for the first time on Monday at 1:30 p.m. in San Mateo County.

Jose Rafael Solano Landaeta, or Rafa Solano as he goes by, is behind bars right now in connection to the beheading of 27-year-old Karina Castro, the mother of his child.

"I want Rafa to fry in jail, I don't care what happens to him," said Danielle Gannon, Castro's grandmother.

Family members of Castro are angry and heartbroken knowing that the mother of two young girls was beheaded.

"The head was underneath the car and she was laying in the back of the car, just severed and then they covered her up, said Chapel Thorborne who witnessed the aftermath of the killing.

RELATED: Man arrested after beheading young mother in middle of San Carlos street: law enforcement sources

Family members have said Solano suffers from schizophrenia, and that Karina had a restraining order against him. Former prosecutor and legal analyst Steven Clark says there are two arguments that could likely play out in court. The first from the defense.

"As shocking as it may seem, the horrific public nature of this crime plays into a mental health defense theory. They will say that no one would ever commit a crime like this unless they were suffering from a severe mental health disorder," said Clark who added, "The key will also be, what was he going through right at the time of the killing? What was his mental state at that time? Was he in a psychotic episode? Was he on his medication? Was he under the influence of alcohol or drugs? All of that will be very important for the defense to look at."

But the I-Team's Dan Noyes uncovered Snapchat messages between Solano and Castro leading up to the crime that got heated.

In one, Castro threatens to tell the world about his "rape conviction involving a minor."

Solano then calls her a "snitch lip" and warns her.

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Contentious Snapchat messages may shed light on days leading up to San Carlos beheading

It continues as Castro fires back saying, "You want to put a target on my back ur homies gunna know the real u."

She then threatens to expose Solano's "sexual relationship with another man."

Clark says those Snapchat messages could be very important for the prosecutor if used in court.

"I think the Snapchat evidence will be key for the prosecution. The graphic nature of this killing, I think, will play into the prosecution's theory that this was horrible domestic violence, this was a man in a rage, and wanted to show the world what he was going to do," Clark said.

Sadly, Castro's death has hit the community hard.

A vigil was held Saturday night. Dozens gathered, some still remembering the young mom on Sunday.

VIDEO: Community mourns murdered San Carlos mother; family tries to get custody of victim's daughters

Many of them are still in utter shock by the gruesome killing that took place in a quiet San Carlos neighborhood at Laurel and Magnolia on Thursday afternoon.

Lori Zack didn't know Castro, but she still came to show her support.

"As you can see, everyone pulls together, whether you know them or not. You just feel for the family," said Zack.

According to the sheriff's department, Castro was murdered in the middle of the street. She had her head cut off by a sword.

On Thursday, Child Protective Services took custody of Castro's daughters. The 1-year-old and 7-year-old girls were inside the home at the time.

RELATED: Domestic violence in US increased during pandemic lockdown for all genders, research shows

Loved ones are now trying to regain custody of Castro's two young girls.

"I'm trying to be 'strong for Karina mode.' I want to support her, make her proud. I want to get her children back. That's my goal. That's all I'm concentrating on," Gannon said while at the vigil.

"I'm going to be in court. 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," said Marty Castro, father of Karina.

Those who came out, were here to support Castro and her family. They also came to take a stand against domestic violence.

Eric James is Castro's uncle.

TAKE ACTION: Get help with violence, assault and abuse at home

"Talk about domestic abuse or domestic violence. Don't be afraid to rile some feathers," James said. "Get out there and say something. Get out there and help somebody. Give them some information. Lead them to the right places."

Castro's death is now, perhaps, a reason for more people to speak out or take action.

"Stop the violence. Stop the violence," said James.

Castro's family says it's touched by the turnout to the candlelight vigil Saturday night. And they're thankful for the community's support for the family's GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $50,000.

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