A man charged with beheading his ex-girlfriend in California now claims he did it out of self-defense

Karina Castro posing her dad.
A young Karina Castro posing with her father, Martin Castro.Courtesy of Martin Castro
  • Jose Raphael Solano Landaeta, charged with Karina Castro's murder, said he acted out of self-defense.

  • Prosecutors say Landaeta beheaded Castro with a samurai sword in September.

  • A domestic violence expert said a self-defense claim aligns with typical abuser characteristics.

A man charged with decapitating his ex-girlfriend claims he did it out of self-defense.

Police have said Jose Raphael Solano Landaeta, 33, brutally killed 27-year-old Karina Castro right outside her house in San Carlos, California in September.

Landaeta, 33 and who goes by Rafa Solano, beheaded Castro with a samurai sword, prosecutors allege. He is currently being held on homicide charges.

Her father Martin Castro previously told Insider that Karina had been "screaming and running around the car, begging for help." He said he found blood splatters all over her car.

In an interview recounted by Dan Noyes of ABC7 on Thursday, Landaeta admitted to the murder and said he did it because he was practicing self-defense.

"She emerged from the driver's side of that Volkswagen with the knife in hand and kind of marched towards him with this knife," Noyes said Landaeta told him. "And he claimed that he swung that sword in self-defense."

Noyes reported that he wasn't able to bring a camera or a pen and paper into the San Mateo County Jail, where Landaeta is being held and the interview took place.

Karina's father told Insider that he finds Landaeta's argument unconvincing.

A group of three people standing in a line, with Karina Castro from the far left wearing a tank top and jeans, a person in a white bear costume in the middle, and a small child wearing all pink at the end on the right.
Karina Castro on the far left.Courtesy of Martin Castro.

"He claimed self-defense against a girl who was a quarter of his size," Martin Castro said. "She was like 5'5" or 5'6" and maybe 120 at the time. And this guy's 6'2", 6'3" whatever, 300 plus pounds."

Castro said he thinks Landaeta is grasping at straws out of fear and desperation.

"He's grabbing at any string he can to keep himself out of as much trouble as he can," he told Insider. "He's been trying to make it out that he's not the monster that he really is and that there was some sort of reason for him doing what he did."

San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told Noyes that the evidence so far doesn't seem to match up with a self-defense claim.

Days after the incident in September, Landaeta's attorney Robert Cummings petitioned the court for a mental examination, saying he "is sadly a soul that is riddled with schizophrenia," Fox affiliate KTVU reported. But a judge later ruled that Landaeta is competent enough to stand trial.

Cummings, who represents Landaeta, said he wasn't present when Noyes interviewed him in the jail and he's in the process of getting a psychiatric evaluation for him.

"There's a whole lot more to this story and what's going on inside his head. Somebody going in there and talking to him off the cuff, there are many layers they're not going to see," Cummings told Insider.

The self-defense claim was a "defense mechanism that he's putting up to cover up a whole lot more that's going on inside of him," Cummings said.

It's unclear whether Landaeta will end up in prison or a mental health facility, Cummings said, but the latter is preferable to the former.

"It's a life he's taken and a life he's gonna lose, regardless of the outcome," Cummings said.

"The inner workings of his mind are something far more than what he portrayed to Dan Noyes. It doesn't make any of this less gruesome or less horrible but it is kind of a question of where does he belong in the system."

In the years Castro's known Landaeta, he's never indicated that he was scared of Karina, Castro said.

He said the opposite was true. Castro told Insider that Landaeta often "manhandled" Karina. He said neighbors once saw him throw her against a wall in the midst of a heated argument.

The coroner's office told Castro that Karina had been "about 90 to 95% decapitated," but still had "some skin and tissue holding her head on."

"Thankfully she died immediately," Castro said.

Neighbors also witnessed the horrific incident.

Chapel Thorborne told ABC7 affiliate KGO-TV that he saw Karina's "head was underneath the car and she was laying in [the] back of the car, just severed, and then they covered her up."

When Castro arrived on the scene and took possession of her car, he said he found a pink pocketknife inside the door panel of the car.

"I think she was trying to get to her knife," Castro said. "She was trying to get something to help because he was coming at her with a sword."

In a previous interview, Castro told Insider he always had a bad feeling about Landaeta and tried to convince her to leave him. But every time he told her how he felt, Karina dismissed him, he said.

Karina in April last year had taken out a restraining order against Landaeta, KGO-TV reported. But the two had continued interacting afterward.

There is no data on how common it is for men accused of violence against women to employ a self-defense claim, according to domestic violence expert Tracy Tamborra, who is a professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven.

When reported to the police, a domestic violence case gets simplified down and classified as an assault or aggravated assault, Tamborra said. That means the case is not specified as an incident of domestic violence. After the case is documented, there's no data kept on how the perpetrator responds to the charges, she said.

But Landaeta's claim of self-defense might be in line with an abuser's normal behavior.

"His desire to use self-defense does play into what we know about perpetrator psychology," Tamborra said. "It is definitely one of the patterns of abuse in which they downplay their role in the abusive relationship and they shift blame."

Read the original article on Insider