EXCLUSIVE: Man admits to beheading San Carlos mother of 2 with samurai sword in Sept.

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Friday, February 3, 2023
EXCLUSIVE: Man admits to beheading San Carlos woman with samurai sword
An ABC7 I-Team exclusive interview from the San Mateo County Jail: Rafa Solano admits to killing a mother of two with a samurai sword in September.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- In an ABC7 I-Team exclusive interview from the San Mateo County Jail, a man admitted to killing a mother of two with a samurai sword, during a brutal daylight attack on a San Carlos street in September.

In a strange twist to this case, Rafa Solano now claims it was self-defense.

We should warn you, this is a disturbing story.

Solano's attorney questioned whether he is competent to stand trial, but after the judge ruled last week that he is, ABC7's Dan Noyes decided to try and speak with him face to face.

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

A man has been arrested in the violent beheading of a woman in San Carlos on Thursday, sources say.

As news broke in September about 27-year-old Karina Castro brutally attacked on a San Carlos Street, the authorities were short on details.

"We can confirm a stabbing instrument was used in the commission of the crime. That weapon is still outstanding," said Lt. Eamonn Allen with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department in Sept.

Now, we have the complete picture, straight from the defendant.

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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.

ABC7 News I-Team reporter Dan Noyes met 33-year-old Rafa Solano on the third floor, east wing of the San Mateo County Jail. They don't allow cameras or even a pen and paper, so Noyes recounted the interview as soon as he got out.

Dan Noyes: "And I saw Solano coming toward me, he was much taller than I thought and kind of powerfully built, kind of stocky. I explained that I was from Channel 7, that I wanted to talk to him about what happened, about his case. At no point was anything off the table. When he started talking about Karina Castro, and about their time together and about their daughter, one large tear formed and just trickled down his cheek."

Solano told Noyes he saw his interview with Castro's father and grandmother, and that he wasn't happy with how they described his mental state. He told me he's been living with schizophrenia since his teen years.

"He is a diagnosed schizophrenic on meds. 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," said Danielle Gannon, Castro's grandmother.

Solano also said that he was not happy that Castro had begun seeing another man.

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

In the day before the murder, Snapchat messages between the young woman and suspect got very contentious, with her threatening to tell the world about a rape conviction involving a minor.

They argued in the hours before the killing over Snapchat messages.

She threatened to blast him on social media for his statutory rape conviction 10 years ago.

Solano calls her "snitch lip" and warns her "F*** around and find out."

But there's more.

Noyes: "He insists that Karina Castro told him that she had hired people from East Palo Alto to carry out a hit on him, his mother and his brother."

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

Dozens of people turned out Saturday night in San Mateo County to remember 27-year-old Karina Castro, a mother brutally killed in a sword attack by the father of her child.

He says that he went to her apartment that day to try to de-escalate the situation. We asked him about the sword.

Noyes: "That's a samurai sword? Right?"

Solano: "Yeah, it's a samurai sword. It was a decorative sword that my father had."

Noyes: "Well, it is sharp, right?"

Solano: "Yes, it has a sharp edge to it."

Solano said Castro came down from her apartment and retrieved a knife from her car.

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Noyes: "He says she emerged from the driver's side of that Volkswagen with the knife in hand and kind of marched towards him with this knife. And he claimed that he swung that sword in self-defense."

The district attorney was surprised Solano talked and he discounted this new version of events.

"We don't think that that accords with the evidence that we've been able to collect in this case so far," said Steve Wagstaffe, San Mateo County district attorney.

Noyes: "Is there any indication that she had a knife?"

Wagstaffe: "No, you know, this 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."

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Solano says he hopes he'll get a lighter sentence because of his mental health issues, or he'll be able to serve whatever his sentence winds up being in a mental hospital.

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

Wagstaffe also cleared up some of the initial confusion over the injuries to Castro. He said he considers this a beheading, based on what happened that day.

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